9 Ways to Job Hunt Without Getting Caught

Applying for a new job is often a Catch-22: You've got to put yourself out there as a candidate, but you don't want to get caught by your current employer for fear of being prematurely fired. Yes, it's a fine line to walk for career advancement, but you can totally perfect this skill with these nine ways to conduct a stealthy job search.

1. Keep Your Social Media Profiles Current at All Times

If you're active on social media in general, your various profiles are probably up-to-date on the regular. If they're not, and you update them out of the blue, it could raise suspicions, particularly on LinkedIn and if you're connected to coworkers — which you probably are.

Ian Cluroe, director of global brand and marketing for Alexander Mann Solutions, warns against this sudden attention to your social media profiles.

"Keeping your social profiles up-to-date ensures that you don't raise flags when you're the one actively searching, and enables you to be found by sources who may have an opportunity that you're the perfect person for but you would have otherwise known nothing about because your outdated profile made you impossible to find," he says.

2. Don't Send Resumes to Blind Ads Online

If you don't know who the recipient of your resume is, do not send it. I repeat, DO NOT SEND IT. You don't know who is on the other end, and serendipity has a way of biting you in the butt for not being careful.

"A woman once told me that her coworker responded to a blind ad and then was confronted a short while later by someone in the company from Human Resources," reveals certified career coach Cheryl E. Palmer. "The HR professional asked her if she was looking for another job. The woman lied and said no. The HR professional responded, "I got your resume." It turned out that the job that this woman had unwittingly applied for was at her own company."

3. Be Cautious When You're Networking

Of course you have to network when you're searching for a new position — just be smart about it. Be very careful to whom you're telling your plans to switch jobs, because you never know who you're talking to. As a rule, don't go to networking events at a bar where you're going to have a couple drinks and become less inhibited. That's a recipe for certain disaster.

4. Don't Let Your Attire Give It Away

Here's a prime example of amateur tactics that absolutely raise red flags: When your everyday work attire is chinos and a button-down and you all of a sudden show up to work in a suit and tie. The jig will be up immediately, and you're better than that, bro.

"Dressing up more than normal can be a real giveaway that you are interviewing for another position," says Palmer. "To avoid suspicion, put your interview clothes in your car and change in a discreet location before the interview. It's also a good idea to schedule interview appointments during times when your absence won't raise questions. Taking too much time off from work can signal that you are interviewing at other companies."

5. Don't Tell Your Coworkers That You're Looking

I'm sure there are coworkers you trust to keep the secret that you're looking for a new job, but my life motto has fared me well so far — trust no one, and fear everyone. Besides, you don't know what plans they have in mind for their own career advancement. They may view your undercover search as an opportunity to swoop in and take your job right out from under you. And if that happens, you'll kick yourself for being so loose-lipped. Ruthless comes in all shapes, sizes, and smiles.

6. Consider Having an Executive Recruiter on Your Side

If you're afraid of getting caught searching for a job (and you should be), there are ways to ease your anxiety. Hiring an executive recruiter is one such solution, and it won't even cost you. Recruiters are paid by employers, and their fees are usually based on your starting salary. Depending on the type of job you're seeking — like CEO or VP of Somethingorother — working with a recruiter is often the only way to go.

Zach Brown, a senior sourcing recruiter for David Brown International, details a few of the benefits of using a recruiter.

"A skilled recruiter can leverage their network and industry connections to get your resume and portfolio in front of employers in your field that are looking for top talent," he explains. "Going this route will get you exposure with the right companies without having to post your resume everywhere for all to see. Look for an established recruiter that specializes in your career field and has worked with the types of organizations that you are interested in working for."

7. Keep Your Search Quiet, Especially on Social Media

As a professional, you should be mindful of what you're posting to social media, in general — no more drama! – but you should particularly be conscious to keep your job search updates off Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites. Even if you're not connected to your boss or coworkers online, what you post has a mysterious way of popping up in places you don't want it to be seen — security settings, be damned.

8. Don't Use Anyone at Your Current Job as a Reference

If you don't want to raise a red flag that you're looking for a new job, WHY would you use one of your coworkers as a reference? Surely you have three other people with whom you're not currently working who can vouch for you, no?

9. Search for Your New Job on Your Own Time and Equipment

And, finally, don't be sketchy and use company time to search for a position with another company. That's not only dumb, but also disloyal and rude. Use your own computer and other resources on your own time. Get caught and you're likely to get fired on the spot. The only silver lining is that it will seriously speed up your job search. You don't want it to go down like that.

Palmer says, "You should never put your work email or work phone number on your resume. Also, you should use a personal email address that sounds professional — i.e., ralph.smith@[emailservice].com, not wonderboy@[emailservice].com — and list your cell phone number so that communication with potential employers will remain private. In addition, you should use your computer at home to send emails to hiring managers. Using the computer at work is risky since many companies monitor their employees' computer use."

Do you have tips on how employees can search for a new job without raising a red flag? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture
James Davis

Informative post. I totally agree with you that the person who is already working should be very cautious about their next job search because if they are caught by their present company HR or manager then they'll be in trouble. So they needs to be very attentive.

James Davis
President Owner at www.diversityworking.com

Guest's picture
CPA for Pay

I agreed with the logic in all of them (even though I may not follow them to a T in my personal life), but #9 seems to be the least accurate/ practical.

When you use recruiters you get emails 24/7 - they found something and want you to look at it right then, please call me in 15, please drop everything and do this phone interview smack in the middle of the afternoon. You could use your personal phone to follow emails for some of this, but you need a computer to upload a resume and often have to step away from your "real job" to take calls for that potential future job. It's just a reality that happens.

I would love it if hiring managers would consider the disrespectful way their asking me to behave to my current company when they request that I basically drop everything and interview the next day after a phone interview - one or two days notice would be great so you can tactfully arrange a time with your own manager. Most sites also discourage using sick leave, but I think that's a big myth - unless you're only interested in this one company and think it'll be two rounds then hired, I don't see how you can afford to take frequent random vacation days (especially if you need permission to use them.)

The recruiting/ hiring process as a whole could use some empathy - what would you want that same employee doing in a few years when they may be looking for a new job?