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How to Conduct a “Stealth” Job Search

5 Nov, 2018

How to Conduct a “Stealth” Job Search

Looking for a new job after you are laid off or have quit, is straightforward, and you are free to let anyone and everyone know that you are on the market.

Ideally, though, most of us would much prefer to be evaluating new opportunities while securely employed, with the paychecks flowing in and no need to rush. Unfortunately, this much more comfortable scenario does carry with it the issue of potential dangers when or if your employer should find out you are looking.

A recent article on the Business Insider site states, “Top tech companies like Netflix and LinkedIn say they have no problem with employees interviewing for other jobs — in fact, they might want to help.” However, with four decades of observing company behaviors through the eyes of my executive resume service clientele, I would say that such an attitude is likely the exception rather than the rule.

So, what do you do if you are ready to move on and up, but fear or know that letting your current employer become aware of this will be the death knell for your job?

If you do not have experience as an undercover agent or possess Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, there are still a number of things you can do to minimize the risk in this situation:

1. Secure your communications channels.

DO NOT use your work email address when you submit your resume, apply for positions online, or correspond with employers and recruiters. Having a personal email address (that is dignified and appropriate) is absolutely imperative for electronic job search communications.

The same applies to job search-related phone contact. Try to use your cell phone exclusively during business hours and avoid your work line. When speaking to a prospective employer or recruiter, make sure that you are either behind a closed door in the office or conference room, or step outside to your car or a nearby fast food location to have phone interviews.

2. Schedule your interviews outside of business hours, wherever possible.

You can work an interview into a long lunch hour on occasion, but repeated extended lunches will arouse suspicion. Early morning and evening, before and after work are the best times. Avoid taking off too much time for “personal business”—How many teeth cleanings does it take before people suspect something?

3. Act as you normally would at work.

Participate in work-based social activities, be proactive and show interest in ongoing projects, and show you are engaged and productive.

4. Dress as you always have.

Don’t show up in a suit and tie when your normal attire is business casual.

5. Turn off activity broadcasts on LinkedIn.

Announcing your activities to the world is not a good stealth strategy.

6. Don’t talk about your intentions or unhappiness at work on social media.

Mum’s the word on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

7. Be ready with an answer if your employer or coworker should notice and ask why you’ve updated your LinkedIn profile.

While you probably do need to update the profile, be sure not to position yourself as “on the market” in doing so.

If asked, try using one or a combination of these replies, starting with “I routinely update my profile and build my network to:

  • “Show my position as a representative of the company and expert in my field.”
  • “For the purpose of business development, to build our sales prospect pipeline, and to generate leads.”
  • “As part of my ongoing efforts to expand my network (and thus our company’s visibility).
  • “To present a strong image for potential customers who may want to verify my qualifications and credentials.”
  • “To enhance the company’s competitive position and public image.”

8. Finally, and probably most important, TRUST NO ONE.

Don’t let anyone at work or even remotely related to your workplace in on the secret, even well-intentioned co-workers you would consider your friends. Secrets are very hard to keep!

Copyrighted — Laurie Smith. May not be used or reproduced without express permission.

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