Interviewing for a new position while still employed can be tricky. Randomly showing up to work in a suit. Printing out resumes on the company printer. Inexplicably stepping out for personal calls. It all makes you look a bit erratic—and your intentions to move on could cause you to lose good standing with your current company.
After some careful reconnaissance of our own, we’d like to offer some critical advice for keeping your desire for greener pastures on the down low. Bear in mind: in the case you don’t land that job, you’ll still have to look your boss in the eye.
KEEP IT HUSH-HUSH
Discretion is the name of the game when it comes to communicating with potential employers and arranging interviews. One cardinal rule of job seeking on the sly is to not give out your work email and phone number during the application process. You should also be wary of checking your personal email at work, since many employers can now track every move made on their network. A good idea is to use your PDA to check email and speak with employers on your lunch break.
If a recruiter calls when you’re sitting in your cubicle, don’t mysteriously rush out to take it. “Let the call go to voicemail,” says Robin Ogden, career counselor and cofounder of FiredUP Careers. “If you’re not in a place where you can sell yourself in a professional way, whether it’s at work or a baseball game, you should not take the call.”
Another red flag that you’re looking to jump ship is dressing in a full suit when you’re usually more the business casual type. “There are only so many times you can say, ‘I just went to a funeral,’” says Lou Adler, president of The Adler Group, a training and consulting firm. “Make a quick change somewhere, and keep it confidential.”
CONSULT YOUR PLANNER
Arranging an interview during the workweek comes down to careful preparation and consideration. It’s generally best to take personal time so you’re focused and ready to perform.
If you can’t arrange to leave work, another option is to meet for a few hours before or after. And don’t be apprehensive about explaining that you don’t want to use your employer’s time to handle personal business—the interviewer will appreciate your discretion, and most likely accommodate your work schedule. “The employer that is interviewing you is making judgments about how you’re handling the whole situation, because you might be working for them soon,” says Ogden. Your tact in this situation will not go unnoticed.
HONESTY’S NOT ALWAYS THE BEST POLICY
There are very few times you need to be fully transparent with co-workers and reveal that you’re interviewing for other positions. One instance where you’ll have to disclose your intentions is if you need a reference for your current position. Both Adler and Ogden recommend using a trusted colleague who isn’t your direct manager. “Maybe there’s a manager in another department you are close with,” says Ogden. “If you feel they’re a confidant, you can ask them to be discreet and confidentially be your reference.” Always ask your reference to provide a private number for the recruiter to call, not just their work extension.
You may have to fully ’fess up, however, if your boss directly asks if you’re interviewing. In this case, you shouldn’t lie. Instead, it might be a good time to let him know why you’re searching for new jobs and why you’re unhappy in your current position. It’s a tough conversation to have, but could initiate a dialogue to help resolve problems that made you want to leave in the first place.