How to Hide Your Job Search From Your Boss

The security of your job is paramount until you guarantee a new job offer.

You’ve decided to look for greener pastures, but until you find those you want to stay in your current position.

That reality requires job seekers who are employed to walk a tight line between publicizing their desire for new employment and hiding their intentions. There is also the basic fact that job search takes time and compels changes in your behavior that might signal your departure to your current boss.

Should you be worried enough to conduct a clandestine search? Absolutely, said recruiters and career coaches who spoke to Ladders. The security of your current employment is paramount until you guarantee new employment. If your boss hasn’t explicitly given you his blessing, then he shouldn’t know you’re even looking until the new contract is signed and you’re handing in your two weeks’ notice.

Discretion must be foremost in your mind when looking for a job. Keep your search concealed, and do not let any aspect of it spill into your current job. Several rules of thumb should guide your search and hide your intentions.

Leave no clues as to your search in the office. An overheard phone call, a resume left in the printer, a suit jacket conspicuously hanging on your chair when you regularly wear jeans to work, all are clear signs that you’re trying to find a new position.

“Wearing a suit to work on the day you had a ‘dentist appointment’ was a sure tipoff,” said Marilyn Santiesteban, Director of Career Services at management consulting firm King & Bishop. “So is using your work e-mail address or phone number on your resume. Stories abound about a cover letter inadvertently left on the office copier or the person who posted interview details on Facebook or tweeted that they hate their job and are actively looking to get out.”

Don’t advertise

Linda Duffy, President of Leadership Habitude, notes that the Web can indeed be a potential minefield for exposing your job search. With so many social-networking sites, including career-minded networks like LinkedIn, there are many ways your superior could discover your search.

“If they tweet or post on Facebook or LinkedIn that they’re looking, it’s fairly easy for a company to find out about it,” Duffy says. “Even if retaliation is illegal, a company can still find more subtle ways to make that person’s work life miserable until they finally quit.

“I would also remind employees that many employers subscribe to resume databases on, CareerBuilder, and other online job-search sites so they can source candidates for their openings. Although employees can make their posting confidential, most don’t or don’t do it well enough to prohibit current employers from finding it. When I was recruiting at various companies, I would always look to see who in my organization had their resume posted so I knew who might be thinking about leaving.”

Not at your desk

Elizabeth Lions, author of Recession Proof Yourself, advises against using your work computer or even the wireless network at work to browse career sites.

“Don’t get caught at your desk looking for your next job,” Lions says. “Many people make this critical error because they had a bad day and decide to look at on the work computer over their lunch. Most companies have filters and ways of watching where you go and what you are doing online. If you get caught, the cat is out of the bag.”

The best advice, said these experts, is to keep the logistics of your search limited to your personal time and your personal equipment (phone, computer, e-mail). You’ll have better luck keeping the status quo intact until you’re ready to change it.

Mind your computer, mind your phone, and always mind the office printer.