When conducting a confidential executive job search, don’t look for a new job, but instead, seek to be found. Make sure you have a robust LinkedIn profile. Increase your visibility—look for opportunities to write, speak, volunteer, and advise. Connect and network with the right people, and opportunities will find you. Incorporating some or all of these strategies will help people see and experience who you are and what you can do for their organization. Making yourself “attractive” to others will make the phone ring.
Be careful who you tell. If you tell anyone you’re looking for a new job, let them know you’re looking for a job in confidence. Be especially careful about telling peers, as a colleague might accidentally let it slip that you’re searching for a new job; or they may see you as disloyal. If you do tell a colleague, make your intentions clear. You may want to tap into them for resources or take them with you to the next job opportunity.
Let recruiters you’re working with know you’re conducting a confidential job search. Ask to be informed before you are submitted as a candidate to a company. You might know your boss is friends with that company’s hiring manager, but the recruiter might not. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Be sure the recruiters you are working with are trustworthy. You don’t want them going to your company to get a job order for your position while you are still employed there knowing you are looking elsewhere.
Tell your prospective employer you are conducting your job search in confidence. Employers should respect your situation. Also, don’t list current colleagues or bosses as references; that’s a dead giveaway to them if they are called as a reference. Have plenty of professional people you have formerly worked with on your reference list that will be able to attest to your strengths and talents.
Set up a separate, private email account. Having a separate, private email account for job search has several advantages. First, you can close it down once you have landed in a new position if you choose to do so. Second, it separates your job search communications so you don’t mingle or lose important emails about an interview or offer with personal or junk emails. Don’t use free email accounts such as Gmail, AOL, Yahoo or Hotmail because it can tarnish your brand, there’s a lack of privacy and also many Internet Service Providers refuse to process and deliver email from some of these services. Instead, consider purchasing a domain name and setting up your private email account associated with it (you don’t need to set up a website). The cost is only about $15 a year.
Create a “confidential” version of your resume. Put “Confidential Candidate” as a title at the top. Remove your name and contact information—except for your generic email address and personal cell phone number. (Don’t use your home phone number on a confidential resume; a reverse phone number lookup may reveal your identity.) Don’t include your current employer’s actual company name; instead, provide a generic description of what the company does. Remove the dates from your education section; having your degree, school, and year makes you easier to identify. Don’t include your name in the file name when saving your resume. And check the “Properties” box if using Microsoft Word to make sure your name and contact information doesn’t appear there.
Be careful about your appearance. If you typically work in a “business casual” environment, and you show up in a suit (because you have an interview over lunch), that will likely arouse suspicion. Plan enough time to change before your interview—preferably not at your current workplace or the company you want to work for. Also, be careful about making dramatic changes in your hairstyle, clothes, etc.).
Keep up your current work performance while you conduct your job search. You may have turned the corner in your career knowing you are leaving your current company, but they 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 employees while conducting your confidential job search. Throw off any suspicions by going above and beyond expectations for what you’re currently doing in your job. Companies want employees who are committed to their job, and you don’t want to burn any bridges before you are ready to leave.