How to Look for Work Without Alerting Your Boss

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Job hunting takes time. A lot of time. So trying to plan your next move while working full time is, to put it mildly, a challenge. It’s complicated by the need for discretion: When you’re looking for a new job you don’t want to jeopardize your current one by having your boss find out about your search.

It’s a difficult situation to be in, but one many people will have to face at some point in their career, especially today, when most everyone has social media profiles that share the goings-on of their lives with the world. In fact, social media is a key job-searching tool nowadays—publishing a blog or using Twitter can be effective ways to get the attention of recruiters. The problem is, it’s easy for your boss to check out your social media presence if they get an inkling that you’re looking.

One way to avoid getting your employer’s unwanted attention is by always keeping your profiles up to date. Constantly tweak them and always be networking, long before you start your search, suggests Paul Millard, managing partner of The Millard Group, a Middletown, Conn., technology search firm.

Also, think about how you’ll work with recruiters well in advance. Proactively seek out recruiters who specialize in jobs with titles similar to yours, and don’t waste time with those who can’t target the right jobs. A wide fishing expedition, Millard points out, is more likely to get the attention of your boss.

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Also, be sure the recruiter knows you’re conducting a confidential search. “Know where your resume is at all times,” Millard says. Recruiters should always ask before they approach a company with your application.

Don’t Search at Work

One way to keep a low profile should be obvious: Don’t look for work at work. “Do your searching and preliminary interviews during non-business hours only,” says Millard. “If you get called by a company or recruiter, it’s perfectly fine to say ‘now is not the best time, but I’m very interested in the position.’” Always schedule calls before the day starts or after work. Also, don’t use your company email account during your job search, either.

Of course, there’s one exception to the not-on-company-time rule: When you’re looking for opportunities at your current employer. John Reed, senior executive director for staffing company Robert Half Technology, says it’s almost always worth exploring your options within your present company. “Often, people find that they just need to get the discussion rolling to get a promotion at their job,” he says. “But no one is going to begrudge you taking a new opportunity if it betters your situation.”

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6 Responses to “How to Look for Work Without Alerting Your Boss”

  1. Fred Bosick

    I start a new job in September. My boss had no clue I was working on leaving. It helped that I worked in another building. But, besides no raises, I was getting no feedback nor growth opportunities. I was a cog in the machine.

    Seemingly unknown to him, so is he.

  2. Be careful about posting your current projects on social media. Some may be proprietary or classified. Competitors could take ideas and deliver a product before your company does.

  3. Charlie Chan

    So many recruiters are clueless when it comes to helping job hunters conduct a private job search. These clueless recruiters will leave a voice mail like “I have a job you might like, call me for details”. They have no idea that the job hunter is getting a hundred other voice mails just like that everyday. They don’t understand that the job hunter cannot spend all day on the phone.

    That’s the downside of there being no qualifications to be a recruiter. They can be smart or they can be dumb. Good luck finding a smart recruiter, as they are rare.

  4. Like most job search related articles this is pretty naive. I remember quite awhile back when I was doing a job search at a new job where I didn’t like the work and the manager. I was told when I left that they knew I was looking because a recruiter (that I had talked to) called my manager and told them I was looking so the recruiter could get the opportunity to replace me.

    My manager was professional enough to be disgusted by this and to not have anything to do with that recruiter but it was a real eye-opener. I’ve been doing this long enough to know now that there are a lot of really nasty recruiters out there, so be careful.

  5. DavidPL

    On a job about 35+ years ago, my boss found I was preparing a resume. He ended up getting me a nice raise. If you are dissatisfied with how you are being treated at work, talk to your boss. Do enough squeaking, to let your boss know how you feel, but not so much they want you to go.

  6. This article ignores the biggest problem … getting away for the on-site interviews. This is particularly difficult in software development and other tech-intensive positions for which 4-6 hour interviews are the norm. There’s just no way to fit that into your day without raising eyebrows.

    I’d also strongly recommend NOT giving out your cell phone number to recruiters, for the simple reason that they won’t be able to call you at work. Recruiters are oblivious to the fact that people work in open environments with their co-workers right there next to them — not even a cubicle wall for “privacy” when taking a call.