If you’re looking for a new job, there’s a chance you’re feeling unfulfilled in your current position and you’re so over your boss that instead of bringing this up to them and hoping for a change, you’re ready to jump ship entirely.
Especially if you and your boss aren’t on good terms as it is — and you don’t feel like they’re a support system for you — how terrible would it be if they realised you were actively searching for an escape route? If, heaven forbid, you lost out on a job you were interviewing for and had to continue working for a boss who now knew how unhappy you were, the idea of continuing to show up to work under them every day would be absolutely mortifying.
That’s why you need to know how to job hunt on the down-low.
Be careful when job-hunting on LinkedIn
LinkedIn has a feature called #OpenToWork that lets you demonstrate to recruiters that you’re actively hunting for new roles. As LinkedIn explains:
If you’re looking for a job, you can let recruiters and your network on LinkedIn know you’re open to new job opportunities. If you specify the types of job opportunities that you’re interested in and your preferred location, we’ll help your profile show up in search results when recruiters look for suitable job candidates.
There’s a balance here, though. Advertising yourself as willing and able to interview for and take a new job makes it easier to, well, interview for and take a new job. But it also makes it pretty obvious what you’re up to. Your job might have recruiters trawling LinkedIn, too, and they might rat you out if they see you’ve enabled that feature.
This could work in your favour, of course. Maybe your HR department or boss would come to you with solutions to your complaints or an offer of a raise if they knew you were searching. This is why it’s important to consider approaching your boss with your grievances and requests before looking to bail.
But you know your workplace culture and all of its unique quirks. If that were an option, you probably wouldn’t be actively looking. So bear in mind that if you advertise yourself as available, your boss might just find out. Prepare yourself for that conversation and any awkwardness that follows.
You can also head it off by double-checking your settings. Make sure your “Notify Your Network” setting is turned off. The #OpenToWork feature only advertises you to people outside your network, too, so connect with the entire HR team at your company to avoid moles seeing when you have it turned on.
How to interview when you already have a job
Job interviews are tough to schedule if you already have a job. To get to the potential employer during work hours, you might have to leave your own job during those same work hours. We don’t recommend lying and saying you have a doctor’s appointment, but work out your phrasing in advance. Just saying you have “an appointment” could work, if your managers aren’t super strict about knowing where you are when you’re not at your desk.
When coordinating an interview with another company’s recruiter, don’t sound too desperate, no matter how bad your situation is. It’s a job-hunting no-no to diss your current employer, but you can delicately explain that there might be scheduling conflicts and you’d appreciate the recruiter’s help finding a suitable interview time that works for you and the hiring manager. It’s their job to get good candidates into the interview chair, so work with them and try not to spin a web of lies as you go.
We live in a work-obsessed, capitalist society and at plenty of companies, lunch breaks and appointments are rigidly scheduled. If you have vacation days, consider redeeming one for the day of your interview so you’re not on a time crunch. If all else fails, you might have to dash to the interview on your lunch break, but make sure you tell the hiring team in advance if that’s the case so that this can run smoothly and on-time.
If you’re actively looking for a new job, start dressing up every day at your current one. That will not only put you in a very business-forward mindset, but will make it much less suspicious if you show up one day in a fancy interview outfit. If your current workplace is really casual, change into the interview garb somewhere besides your office bathroom. Nothing is quite as suspicious as emerging from the restroom in a dress and heels before “lunch” or “an appointment.”
Communicate clearly with the hiring manager
Once you get into a talking stage of sorts with a recruiter or hiring manager, be totally honest with them. As mentioned above, work with them to schedule interviews that won’t raise suspicion in your current office setting.
Beyond that, make it clear from the jump that you’d prefer your activities be confidential. You have a right to ask them not to contact your employer and to tell them, professionally, that you are keeping this hush-hush. If they give you pushback, it could be a sign that the work culture there is no good, either, so consider sticking it out with the devil you know while you apply elsewhere.
Avoid using your work computer for job-hunting tasks
If your company has given you a computer or phone for business use, try to use it only for business. That’s an all-the-time piece of guidance, but it’s a hard one to follow. Corporations have big bucks and the little guys have much less, so it’s probable that your work phone and computer are faster and better than the ones you bought for yourself.
But remember that anything you do on a work-issued device — yes, anything (yikes) — is something your boss has a legal right to look at. The people on the IT team are probably too busy to dig through all your communications, but play it safe anyway. They could easily run a search after you put in your two-weeks’ notice and find all the resumes you saved to the desktop or emails you sent from your work phone. It’s not a good look, and it burns a few bridges, so it’s best to avoid that altogether.
Take advantage of remote work
During the pandemic lockdowns, most of us became well acquainted with Zoom and Slack. Use this to your advantage by using work-from-home days when you have hiring calls or interviews. Some interviews can even be done via video call and your boss never has to know.
Don’t let the job hunt — or your overall dissatisfaction with your current gig — affect your output or productivity, though, as hard as it might be. This can raise suspicions or even get you fired before you’ve secured a landing place at another company. At some point in the hiring process, you might also be required to prove that you work at your current job, though hiring managers should ask you before reaching out to your HR department. Don’t do anything in what you hope will be your final weeks to give them a reason to bad-mouth you to your potential saviors.
Don’t tell your current colleagues you’re job-hunting
If you hate your job, your co-workers probably do, too. Kvetching at an after-work happy hour is common and can build camaraderie, but a mutual interest in shit-talking doesn’t mean you need to fill your colleagues in on your job hunting activities. In a toxic workplace, you have no guarantee they won’t use your desperation to get out as a way to throw you under the bus to make themselves look good in front of a boss.
Plus, it’s straight-up embarrassing if you hype up an interview and then don’t get the job. Move in silence, as they say, and never let anyone know what you’re up to until the day you put in your notice.