The Key to Job Hunting on the Sly

Job hunting can be extremely stressful. Between searching through job vacancy boards to putting together a killer résumé, compiling a winning cover letter, sending applications, following up on applications, scheduling interviews and patiently waiting for feedback. Then there’s the most stressful of all, doing all of this without your current boss noticing.

Nobody wants to get into that awkward position of your boss finding out that you’re on the hunt for better prospects. While in a dream world they would still be professional about it and understand where you’re coming from. But in reality, things can get messy when they find out.

The good news is that no one is ever paying as much attention to you as you are. It’s easy enough to go about looking for a new job discreetly and you should be able to sneak out the office now and then without your boss noticing. Though, we do understand that there are some helicopter managers out there, following your every move. For those who find it difficult to get anything past their boss, here are a few tricks for carrying on with your job applications in secret.

The key to job hunting on the sly

1. Work on your résumé and applications at home

It doesn’t matter how fast you are at switching tabs, working on your résumé while at work is risky business. The same goes for sending through applications. Keep all of that off your work PC or laptop. You never know when a nosy colleague might walk past, or the IT department has to do something on your computer.

Use a Gmail or other personal email address for all your non-work-related communications. If you absolutely must continue job hunting while at work, make sure to set your browser to incognito mode as some companies may track your internet usage.

2. Don’t put your current boss as a reference

When building your résumé, don’t put your current boss or anyone that currently works with you as a reference. While this seems obvious, it’s amazing how many people put their current boss as a reference thinking that they’ll never call them. But most hiring managers really do follow up on references.

Hopefully you have good references at your previous jobs or other reputable references that you can use. If you absolutely have to use someone at your current work, list a trusted colleague and make sure to speak to them about it first. Swearing them to secrecy!

3. No slacking at your current job

The moment you start slacking and not putting in any effort at work, it’ll be the first sign that something is off. Not only is it bad practice to let your performance suffer, but it’s a clear indication to your boss that you’re looking to head out the door. Also, you never want to leave on bad terms. So, keep working hard until the very end.

4. Discreetly reach out to your network connections

This is not the time to be loud and proud about what you’re up to. Only talk to your professional connections that you can trust. Ask them if they can send any leads they come across your way, reminding them to keep your confidences and not to disclose the fact that you're job seeking.

And while you may think it’s okay to mention things on your Facebook page if you aren’t friends with your boss or any colleagues, don’t count on that ‘friends only’ post staying private. You should absolutely not post anything on social media – from ranting about your job to putting out a ‘hire me’ status. No!

5. Set your LinkedIn profile to private

This goes without saying, but make sure to turn off the ‘Notify Your Network’ setting. Also, turn on ‘Let recruiters know you’re open to opportunities’ in your privacy settings – this works without your network seeing it.

6. Sign up with Wanted

We’re an anonymous platform where you simply send us a link to your LinkedIn profile and salary expectation. Then sit back and we’ll contact you with only the best job opportunities that match up to what you want to get paid. We’re taking the ‘hunting’ out of ‘job hunting’. Which, of course, puts you at less risk of your current boss finding out that you’re flirting with the job market.

7. Book the day off for interviews

Rather than sneaking off in your lunch break or making up some ridiculous excuse why you need to leave the office for two hours, book a full day off. Using one of your vacation days is the best way to avoid rousing up any suspicion. Legally, you don’t have to disclose what you’re doing on your days off. Just make sure that you have an iron-clad alibi for those inquisitive colleagues – because they will ask.

If don’t have any vacation days left (understandably so #YOLO), then make sure to schedule your interviews during times that you won’t be missed at work. I.e. not during your weekly Monday morning standup meeting. Earlier or later in the day tend to be easier to explain to your current employer.

As a last resort…call in sick. But we don’t really recommend this as it is extremely risky and will end up causing you more stress on the morning of your interview. We’re not all good liars!

8. Don’t interview from work

Unless you have a private office with a door that can lock, don’t do any phone interviews while at work. Try to schedule on your lunch hour or early or late in the day. Do it in your own time and on your own phone.

9. Don’t overbook yourself

When you get a stream of interview requests coming in it’s easy to get carried away and accept all of them (well done you by the way). Try not to. Live by the principle of quality over quantity. As the interview process can be time-consuming, go for the top opportunities only. The jobs that you know you’ll say yes to. Your time is important and should be spent looking for a job that you really care about. It also means less time out of the office, which is less cause for suspicion.

10. Bring a change of clothes

If you normally rock casual attire to work, don’t suddenly strut in looking all smart and formal. It’s a clear sign that you’ve got something else going on later in the day. And everyone’s first guess will be that it’s an interview! Bring a change of clothes and change elsewhere before you head out to the interview and back to work.

11. Act cool

You got a request for an interview at your dream job! Heck yes! Naturally, you want to tell absolutely everyone around you. Who wouldn’t right, this is amazing news! However, you need to fight the urge. Rather step outside and phone your mom.

Even if you consider your coworkers as besties, don’t put them in the awkward position by telling them that you’re looking for a new job. It could lower the morale in the office and there’s also the risk that they might spill the beans to the wrong person.

Don’t share too much excitement about new job prospects until it’s a done deal. Avoid the sheepish return to work should the job fall through.

Lastly, a few more tips for job hunting

Our last few tips on successful job hunting.

  • Never bad mouth your boss. No matter how awful he/she is, take the high road, demonstrate some class and ensure that you don’t burn any bridges. Keep the rants for your nearest and dearest.
  • Let your prospective employer know that your job search should be kept confidential. Be honest with them about your situation. If they’re the kind of boss that you want to work for, then they should understand.
  • Stay focused at your current job. Continue to perform at or above your current performance level. You want them to be bummed out when you finally hand in that resignation letter, not relieved. 
  • Don’t post your résumé on job boards.
  • If you do get confronted by your supervisor or manager, just be honest. If and when they explicitly ask you about your intentions, don’t lie. Lying never leads to good situations.
  • Be patient. Job hunting takes time and it’s important to not rush into anything. Which makes it so important to keep things cool and happy at your current job as you may still be there a while.

Ideally, your boss won’t know about your job search until you have a confirmed offer and have your resignation letter ready. And remember, just some simple discretion will be fine. This doesn’t have to turn into the next best spy escapade.

Good luck with the job hunt!

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