Caught doing a job search
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How to hide your job search from your employer

19 Dec 2016

The job search can be gruelling at the best of times, but it gets that bit harder when you have to keep it a secret from your current employer. Alex Shteingardt of Hays has some advice.

Most of us will experience a point when our existing role simply isn’t offering the development and challenge that we need, and we’ll realise that it’s time to move on and find an opportunity elsewhere. However, once you’ve made your mind up and started to formulate your new job search, it’s vital that you do so discreetly.

Most job-hunters fear that their exit plans will be discovered by their current employer, and this can easily happen without care. More than one red-faced employee has experienced how an indiscreet conversation with a co-worker can all too easily be replayed back to your own boss.

The reality is that the vast majority of workers will search for their next opportunity while still employed, so the trick lies in being careful and carrying out your search in the right way. Remember, there’s very much a ‘right’ way to exit a job, and to ensure that no bridges are burned in the process.

Here are nine tips to help you keep your job search quiet:


Your jobseeking plans are yours and yours only, so keep them confidential. Even if you trust your colleagues, it simply isn’t worth the risk. Remember, people generally aren’t intentionally malicious, but water-cooler gossip is rife in organisations and something could very easily slip out in the course of conversation.

Don’t make your plans known until you’ve signed your contract, got your start date, given in your notice and followed due process. Certainly don’t allow your boss to find out you’re leaving after the rest of your team has.

Similarly, when writing your cover letter and speaking to your recruiter, be very clear that your job search is being carried out in confidence, so that they are clear and can respect your wishes.

Check contact details

Double check the contact details that you have provided on your CV. Use a professionally named personal account rather than your work email address.

Job hunt in your own time

Discreetly and quickly scanning a job advert, email round-up or recruiter message on your lunch break is one thing, but don’t search for new jobs while at work. It’s unprofessional and will certainly make it clear that you are looking elsewhere. Ditto, don’t use your work equipment to update your CV, register with recruitment consultancies or receive job alerts.

Keep interviews separate from your work schedule

It’s good practice to organise work interviews in your own time – schedule them for after-work hours or use up annual leave. This is polite to your employer and also removes stress for you as the interviewee.

If you’re deceitful about your movements and use your working hours to attend an interview, you’ll be nervous and worried about being found out – and it may negatively affect your interview performance.

Be mindful of social media

When using social media, keep your activity personal and don’t share any updates or stories that relate to your job search. It sounds obvious, but this is one key area where people slip up and accidentally share something with a contact they’d forgotten was part of their network, or with a colleague of a friend, if privacy settings aren’t sufficiently locked down.

Keep performing at work

A drop in work performance is an obvious red flag that your mind is elsewhere and you are looking to leave. Work hard to maintain your work outputs and delivery, and you’ll be able to maintain your discretion until you are ready to announce your plans.

Update your LinkedIn settings

If you use LinkedIn, check your settings to ensure your network isn’t automatically updated when you add something new to your profile. A flurry of updates and profile additions will naturally arouse the suspicions of your employer, as most people start honing their profile when they are planning a job search.

Never say that you are open to fresh opportunities when updating your profile – use your common sense at all times.

Keep reference details hidden

Keep your reference details back until you’ve received an offer and are ready to progress with a chosen job. This prevents your employer from being contacted too early in the process, before you’ve had a chance to speak with them.

Watch your dress

If you are attending an interview after work, bring in a change of clothes. Don’t suddenly start coming into work dressed up to the nines if you don’t usually – this is a complete giveaway.

Follow these tips and not only will you be able to progress your job search at your own speed, but you’ll also be able to do so without the added pressure of your employer and co-workers anticipating your plans.

By Alex Shteingardt

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

Alex Shteingardt joined Hays Recruitment in 2008 with a sole aim of launching the operations of the leading global recruitment company on the Russian market.

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