People First HR Services

A hunting you will go …be sure to go quietly

Colleen Coates

You have decided it’s time to make a move from your current employer, but want to ensure your job search is kept a secret. Confidential job search is becoming even increasingly more difficult in the age of social media when privacy is scarce. If you don’t want your current employer to find out that you are looking for a new job, there are steps you can take to keep your search confidential. While you are better off to search for a job while you already have one, this can be a very stressful time. There are several questions that come to mind. Should you tell your boss? What about references? How much notice do I have to give? How you handle your departure from your current employer can be as important to your career as how you perform in the next one. Remember, it is not a crime to search for a new job, but how you conduct that search and the terms under which you leave will speak volumes about your professionalism and integrity. Here are some suggestions for stealth job hunting:

— Keep it confidential. It is usually prudent not to let anyone at your current place of employment know you’re searching for a new job. You need to be careful about not discussing your intentions in social-media circles or office email. Announcing to everyone that you are planning to leave can have a significant impact on the work environment and may give the organization cause to speed up your departure sooner than you had planned.

— Network carefully. If there is a colleague you trust, consider sharing the news. Divulging your search to someone you trust can help to make contacts. You can also casually mention your search to people not associated with your organization — so long as you do it carefully. When you speak with potential employers or contacts, you can say something like, “ABC Company is a great place to work but I like to keep aware of new opportunities in my field.”

— Tell your boss. No boss likes to find out from someone else that one of her direct reports is looking for a new job. You should therefore tell your manager as soon as you are comfortable doing so — knowing that regardless of how good your relationship is, some things may change as a result of this disclosure. The right boss may make it easier for you to look for the right new job, and eventually may refer you to some attractive opportunities. All that said, if you know your manager will have a negative reaction, and is unlikely to support you, it’s best to wait until after you have an offer to inform her — and be sure to have the offer in hand before you put in your resignation.

— Interview on your own time. Most employers will want to interview you during normal business hours. Don’t sneak off for fake meetings or feign being sick. Fit the interviews into your schedule without impacting your current employer. If necessary, take vacation or personal time.

— Contact information: Do not use your work phone number for job hunting. Instead, put your cell phone number and/or home phone number on your resumé. Make sure you have voicemail set up, because nothing is more frustrating to the recruiter than being unable to leave a message for a potential candidate — and can be cause to drop you off the short list.

— Your resumé: Be careful where you post your resumé online. If you don’t want your current employer to accidentally find your resumé when searching for candidates, post on job sites where you can keep your employer and contact information confidential. Don’t wait for your job search activities to be the catalyst to signing up for a LinkedIn account. It is prudent to get an account and build your network long before you decide to search for a new job.

— Reference choices: Most employers will want to speak to someone at your current place of employment. If your boss is not aware of your job search, it will be helpful to identify someone else in the organization that can provide a positive reference — preferably someone in a position of authority. Failing that, past employers will have to suffice unless there is someone else connected to your organization who can speak to your current role.

— Forget the counter-offer. Some employers will make a counter-offer when you disclose you are leaving. Be cautious when contemplating these offers. In my experience, these are usually vague promises about more money or more responsibility that the supervisor typically has no control over. In most cases when people accept the counter-offer, they end up leaving shortly thereafter. Once you’ve accepted an offer, it is usually best to continue with that decision.

— Leave on good terms. Typical notice is still two weeks. However some people, especially those in senior positions or who are in the midst of a big project, will need to give more. Chances are your new employer will highly respect you for not leaving your current job overnight. One month is usually enough once you have made up your mind to leave even for the most senior position. Being realistic, once a person has decided to leave, they immediately begin to think of their new job, making it increasingly unproductive to stay in their current role. Finally, no matter how bad things are, don’t just walk out the door. Leaving on bad terms can be dangerous and parting ill will can stay with you forever.

As an undercover job seeker, your best bet is to reach out to your trusted network of friends and colleagues letting them know you are seeking your next opportunity and why. Choose those who will keep your job search confidential and even act as a catalyst in obtaining that next job. After all, it is a well known fact that around 70 per cent of job opportunities are filled before even being posted, so staying connected in your field needs to be critical part of your career strategy.


Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a Practice Leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 1, 2012 H2