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How to Do an Incognito Job Search

Keep it under wraps!

by Janna Kefalas in Job Search, Networking

I totally get it. As a job seeker, you really want to put yourself out there, network like crazy, and announce to the world, “I’m looking for a new job. Help me out!!”

And on many levels, these strategies can really up your chances of landing a plum new opportunity.

But…you also don’t want your boss to find out!

Obviously things can get a little tense at your current workplace if they catch wind of your imminent departure. So what’s a proactive job seeker to do? Here are 6 tips for navigating this dicey situation with tact and decorum:

Incognito Job Search Tip #1 – Don’t Job Search at Work

It may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many job seekers do this, thinking no one is noticing. While it might be tempting to open up Indeed and shoot off a few resumes when your boss is in a meeting, remember, there’s a good chance your company is monitoring your online activity. So don’t take the risk! Keep your job searching activities to evenings and weekends on your own laptop.

Incognito Job Search Tip #2 – Don’t Give Out Your Work Email or Phone Number

You might think it’s just easier to hand out your work business card at a networking event or include your work contact info on your resume. But resist this temptation. Resumes should only include your personal number and email, which you should be checking regularly. (Thank goodness for smart phones!)

And it’s also an excellent idea to create personal business cards with your own email, phone number, and LinkedIn profile URL (along with your general title and a few key skill sets to be remembered by). and are great resources for designing and printing personal business cards. That way, when you’re attending networking events, you won’t risk having new contacts reach out to you at work.

Incognito Job Search Tip #3 – Don’t List Your Current Supervisor as a Reference

I might sound like Captain Obvious here, but job seekers sometimes feel like they’re obligated to list their current supervisor as a reference on a job application. Don’t do it! (And there’s usually a box you can check saying you don’t want your current employer to be contacted.)

If you have your ducks in a row, you probably have stayed in touch (and on good terms) with former supervisors and colleagues who will gladly give you a raving recommendation.

Incognito Job Search Tip #4 – Don’t Attempt to Do a Phone Interview at Your Office…or in the Lobby

When I was recruiting, there were a few times when I called a candidate, only for them to conduct the interview in a hushed voice, pausing whenever a coworker walked by. You might think you’re being sneaky, but it doesn’t impress the interviewer and will no doubt hurt your chances.

As a career coach, I tell my clients that if they have a phone screen in the middle of the workday, to leave the office, drive their car to a nearby, quiet street, and conduct the interview there.

And if it’s possible to schedule the interview early in the morning or near the end of the day, you can hopefully arrange to come in late or leave work early — and do the interview from the privacy of your home.

Incognito Job Search Tip #5 – Watch Your Social Media

It might be tempting to tweet that you’re looking for a new project manager position or post a photo on Instagram of you on your way to an interview, but these broadcasts could potentially be seen by the wrong people.

A better strategy is to approach your friends and family over email or direct message to ask about job leads or give updates on your search.

And when it comes to LinkedIn (the #1 job searching tool, IMO), here are a few things to keep in mind. First, check your privacy settings to ensure you’re not broadcasting every profile change you make to your connections.

Second, I wouldn’t put “seeking new opportunities” in your title. Obviously you don’t want your employer to see this, and more importantly, your title should instead serve as an SEO opportunity to include relevant keywords that you could be searched for by recruiters.

Now, you could use LinkedIn’s tool to notify recruiters that you’re looking (once again, found in your privacy settings). LinkedIn asserts that recruiters from your current company or its partners won’t be notified, but obviously nothing is foolproof, so proceed with caution.

Incognito Job Search Tip #6 – Keep Kicking Butt at Your Current Job

This is perhaps the most important tip of all. The real risk job seekers face is subtly (or not so subtly) slacking off in their current job. They might be thinking, “I’m sooo outta here! None of this crap matters.” But you never want to give your supervisor cause to let you go prematurely.

Contrary to popular belief, employees aren’t typically fired because their boss has an inkling they might be job searching. After all, employers anticipate and plan for turnover.

What gets job seekers in trouble is goofing off, missing deadlines, lots of unexplained absences, and venting to coworkers how they can’t wait to ditch this terrible place.

So keep up a positive attitude and continue slaying it at work! Remember, one day you’ll likely need your current supervisor as a reference, so leaving on good terms in paramount.

And when that stellar new job opportunity does come along, you can say farewell to your current company with gratitude and grace.