Job hunting on the sly

You may well be fed up with your current job, but how do you hunt for a new one without getting caught out by your current employer?

With parts of the economy picking up, many staff are very likely turning to head-hunters or recruitment websites in search of greener employment pastures.

Many of these will look for new jobs while holding down their current job. After all, there are only so many hours in a week for you to chase up prospective job leads or attend interviews.

Yes, you can do it first thing in the morning before you turn up to work, or you can do it after work, or even during lunch. But that’s limiting. So how do you do a stealth job search without getting sprung?

It's not easy in these days of constant deadline pressure where many do the work of two others after round upon round of redundancies. And managers who have fewer staff to deal with are able keep closer tabs on their employees.

Brad Tuttle at Time Magazine suggests finding some compelling excuses such as illness or doctor's appointments to cover interview absences, but one of the more extreme suggestions in his piece includes: “Just got a call from a neighbour. My house is on fire.” I can only hope this one is a joke.

Elizabeth Garone at The Wall Street Journal recommends using LinkedIn to find jobs. It’s a good cover, she says.  “Unlike wearing an interview suit to work, using such websites isn't a clear sign of job hunting, since many people use these portals as part of their job,’’ Garone writes.

There are even dedicated websites like this one that give stealth job hunters all the advice they need.

Forbes has also dipped into the topic, and gives us eight tips. The first is to protect your resume. That means keeping it updated but in a private file that no one can get to. The next is to cover your tracks, particularly on sites like LinkedIn. That means there should be no profile updates or lists of companies that you follow.

The next bit of advice, and probably the most obvious, is to keep your job hunting to a minimum at work. If you don’t want people to know, it’s better to do it at home or in another location.

Forbes also suggests letting your friends know as they would have their ears to the ground and would provide you with some leads. Still, you have to make sure they don’t tell anyone and blow your cover.

It advises that if you do send your resume, let the prospective employer know you are still working and would appreciate confidentiality.

It also advices against inventing a string of excuses like those mentioned above, that will give the game away - although you may get away with it once or twice.

Forbes says you should also remember to keep both your company's and your prospective employer's dress code in mind on interview day. If necessary, pull a Clark Kent and duck into a phone box for a costume change. But if you get busted, be gracious and honest about it. You never know, your employer might give you a raise to keep you. But in any case, it’s better not to burn any bridges.

Annie Fisher, who runs the popular Ask Annie column at Fortune, warns us to be careful if we’re posting anything online. She also suggests letting Google do the work for you by using Google alerts so you get news about the company you’re targeting that might be useful. And of course, those alerts should be sent to your home computer.

Similar advice from other commentators includes suggestions never to use your company email, mobile phone or internet service to conduct your job search because you’re likely to be sprung. 

And be careful what you say or do online and choose your references carefully. It’s best not to rely on work colleagues for references as there’s every chance they’ll let it slip that you’re looking for a job.

Still, I wouldn't feel too bad about it. Chances are your boss has done exactly the same.

Have you ever looked for a job on the sly? If so, what advice would you give?