Employers can legally fire you for just cause.
The definition of “just cause” is described with words like “insubordination,” “carelessness,” and “negligence.”
With these word choices, termination for cause is loosely defined and can, therefore, be used to fire just about anyone in an active job search while currently employed.
An Indeed survey of 10,000 jobseekers showed that an astounding 2/3 of respondents worried their employers would find out about their active job searches.
Jobseekers are worried … and for good reason.
An employer could defend their choice to terminate by saying:
- The employee is not protecting the company’s interests
- The employee is not fulfilling his assigned job duties
- The employee is using company resources (e.g. time, internet bandwidth) for personal use/job-search purposes
Think this is hokum?
According to Liz Ryan, a former leading HR executive, and now a writer with Forbes.com, says that “In the U.S. you can get fired for job hunting or pretty much any reason as long as you are not fired for a discriminatory reason …”
If you’re one of those who is concerned your employer will “find out,” the below steps on how to maintain a confidential job search is for you.
7 Steps to Maintaining a Confidential Job Search — While You’re Still Employed
1. Learn from the famous Benjamin.
Benjamin Franklin has been credited with saying something like, “The only way three people can keep a secret is when two of them are dead.”
Be especially careful about telling peers you’re seeking new employment because they might let that news slip.
You’d be surprised to learn that when people don’t tell their colleagues, they tell their Twitter and Facebook followers.
Don’t for one second think that employers aren’t using reputation management firms.
These firms are paid to troll employee’s social media properties to ensure employees aren’t…
- … soiling their employer’s reputations
- … revealing confidential company
- … making inappropriate comments about colleagues, bosses, clients, etc.
- … violating company social media policies
What do you think happens when an employee publically announces they are searching for a new job?
Human Resources is notified.
2. Create a “confidential” version of your resume.
A confidential resume puts up barriers and makes identifying you difficult.
To create a confidential resume, remove your name, address, and your LinkedIn URL from the top.
Replace your name with “Confidential Candidate.”
Then, publish a generic email address and cell number only.
You can use Gmail and Outlook to secure a new email address as needed.
Be sure to search your phone number and email address online to ensure both aren’t published online … and, can’t be traced back to you.
Avoid publishing employer names in your resume.
Instead, opt for one of these confidentiality strategies:
- SALES EXECUTIVE | Company Confidential | 2016 – present
- MARKETING MANAGER | Major Accounting Firm | March 2017 – present
When saving your resume, don’t use your name in the file name.
And lastly, check the properties of your resume. Ensure that MS Word (or whatever software you’re using) hasn’t published your name as the document’s author.
3. Most recruiters know the routine.
You may think that recruiters need to be told to keep your candidacy confidential.
Yet, recruiters are not in the habit of revealing candidates to employers … and certainly not to recent/current employers.
Few jobseekers know that recruiters strip candidate resumes to a summary before pitching them to hiring companies.
If you think your name, contact info, and list of employers get passed on to the hiring company, you’d be wrong.
Recruiters don’t want hiring companies to sidestep them, which is why your info remains confidential until a job interview is scheduled.
Recruiters are busy, however. Slip ups will happen.
We don’t always know who knows who.
For example, a hiring manager at one plumbing company could know the hiring manager at another plumbing company.
In larger industries, especially with employers with multiple offices/divisions, such as software and financial services, employers generally don’t make time to care about anyone’s active job search.
Employers know that employees will get hired and depart like clockwork.
After all, every job is temporary.
4. Be careful about your appearance.
If you embrace business casual attire, you’ll raise a few eyebrows when you walk into work wearing a suit.
Remember, people notice things like a sudden change in attire.
You’ll attract attention when there’s a sudden change in your routine.
Physical appearance includes changes to your hairstyle … and for women, your use of makeup.
You might not want to hear this but taking the day off each time you have an interview is optimal.
An Accountemps survey of CFOs found that 61% of respondents prefer conducting hiring interviews in the morning.
Taking advantage of this early-morning interview time can get tricky for actively employed jobseekers.
Freeing up your work schedule to avoid later changing in a phone booth like Superman can help. 😉
5. Don’t drop the ball.
It’s too easy to let our work responsibilities slide when we’re seeking new employment.
We’re not always in the best of moods with our current employers.
After all, employees leave for very good reasons:
- Poor relationship with a boss
- Employer’s unrealistic expectations
- Employee’s overworked/unpaid
- No room for advancement/career development
Yet, when an employee “checks out” of their jobs, employers notice … and have seen it before.
You may be about to turn a corner in your career.
But, your employer shouldn’t suspect anything.
Or, you may be asked to leave earlier than you planned!
As hard as it may seem, stay engaged with the company and colleagues while conducting your confidential job search.
Throw off any suspicions by going above and beyond what you routinely do in your job.
6. Use caution when asking people to vouch for you.
A resume takes a long time to write.
So it’s understandable that job candidates get careless when submitting references.
Avoid using current colleagues and bosses as references.
Could you imagine either of them getting a call asking about your recent work performance?
Would they recommend you?
Or, would they be hurt by your betrayal and say something that tarnishes your candidacy?
7. Rewrite your LinkedIn page.
You may not know this but if I grabbed a snippet of text or maybe a bullet point from your “confidential resume” and went to LinkedIn, I could find you/your name in a matter of minutes.
Yup, this is true.
Rewriting your LinkedIn page is undoubtedly the most painful part of conducting a confidential job search.
While we’re talking about your LinkedIn page, let’s also talk about how to hide your LinkedIn job hunting activity.
LinkedIn Recruiter is nearly a $3M revenue channel for Microsoft, which means it’s a job-search tool like few others.
To hide your job searching activities from your LinkedIn followers and connections, take these 5 simple steps:
- Ensure all “notify your network” options are checked NO.
- Keep the “let recruiters know you’re open” checked to OFF.
- Don’t publish calls-to-action on your profile; e.g. “open to new opportunities” or “accepting invitations from recruiters and hiring managers.”
- Avoid posting updates showing intent to change employers.
- Under job seeking preferences, turn off “signal your interest to recruiters …”
Once you get through the above 7 recommendations on how to maintain a confidential job search, you’ll notice at least three hurdles.
First, maintaining a confidential job search requires a lot of time on your part.
Second, there’s no guarantee that recruiters and hiring managers will be receptive to the “cloak and dagger” steps you’ve taken. In fact, it could backfire on you.
Third, securing job-search confidentiality isn’t foolproof. Your employer may get alerted about your candidacy by a reputation management firm, a colleague or boss, one of your social media properties, or by sheer coincidence.
This is why there’s no 100% absolute confidential job search.
You’ll in many ways be playing Russian Roulette with any active employment.
Despite the precautions and the steps to remain confidential, will your employer catch you before you accept that next great job role?