“Don’t Let the Cat Out of the Job Search Bag” — 6 Ways To Keep Your Job Search a Secret

top secret laptop

Canva / Fairygodboss Staff

Rachel Pelta for FlexJobs
Rachel Pelta for FlexJobs
April 16, 2024 at 11:39AM UTC
It’s almost always easier to find a new job when you already have one. The challenge, though, is that you need to keep your job search a secret from your current boss. If they find out before you have an offer, things might get a little tense.
You can have a successful job search and keep it a secret until you’re ready to share the news. Here’s how to keep your job search under wrap.

Ways to Help You Keep Your Job Search a Secret

1. Keep up the good work.

Since you know you’re eventually moving on from the job, you might start slacking off without even realizing it. You might spend a little more time on social media and less time on your tasks. Or, you might start coming in late, leaving early, and taking an extra-long lunch!
But these actions could send a signal to your boss that you’re actively looking for a new job or that you’re not as engaged as you once were. And that could lead to problems at work — including being fired. 
Even if you’re beyond ready to quit, keep performing to the levels you always have. This way, when you do resign, your boss will still think of you as the professional they’ve come to know and is more likely to result in a positive reference from them in the future.

2. Maintain boundaries.

There are only so many hours in the day. And because many of them are spent on the job, it can be tempting to conduct parts of your job search while you’re on the clock. But even a quick glance at an email or listening to a voicemail can let the cat out of your job search bag.
Maintain boundaries between your work and job search. Conduct all job search-related activities on your own devices, not company-issued ones. This includes not using your personal phone on the company’s servers or Wi-Fi connections. It is far too easy for an employer to see what websites (and job boards) you’ve been visiting during office hours and who you’ve been talking to.
Even if you work from home and use your own internet connection, your employer can still see all the emails in your company account, so only communicate with potential employers using your personal email address.

3. Interview after-hours.

If you work in an office, schedule your interviews outside of your workday—preferably before or after hours. First, it helps maintain the boundaries between work and your job search. If you’re always cutting out of the office for “an errand,” people may start to get suspicious.
This applies to virtual interviews too. If you work in an office, try to schedule interviews outside of the workday so you’re not constantly running to the car or coffee shop for 30 minutes at a time.
Second, having your interviews outside of work hours gives you the time to change into and out of your interview clothing. If you don’t work in a suit and tie kind of place and suddenly you’re dressed to the nines every few days, your boss will start to wonder what’s up.
If you work remotely, you won’t have quite the same scheduling challenges. But remain aware of when and how often you’re interviewing. If you’ve always been available between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and suddenly you’re busy during that time more often than not, that could raise some suspicions.

4. Keep it quiet.

No matter why you’re looking for a new job, keep the fact that you’re looking to yourself. You never know when someone might say something that makes it way back to your boss. No matter how excited you are about your job search, don’t share the news until after you have a written offer in hand.
The one exception is telling your network you’re looking for a job. They might be able to connect you with the hidden job market and speed your search along. But be cautious in who you speak with. Try to pick people with no connection to your current employer, and ask them to keep things as quiet as they can.

5. Find fresh references.

Your boss-to-be wants to get a few job references from you as part of the final phase in the job interviewing process. That’s good news. But don’t use your current boss as one of them.
Instead, reach out to former coworkers and supervisors. Depending on your situation, you could ask an old teacher or even someone you volunteer with to be a professional reference. Essentially, anyone who can attest that you are a great worker and a professional can act as a reference.

6. Check your social media.

As common as it is for hiring managers to screen applicants on social media, your current employer may also keep tabs on your profiles. While the best thing to do is not post anything about your job search, check your privacy settings and lock your accounts down, so you don’t accidentally broadcast what you’re doing.
For example, on LinkedIn, consider not using the “Open to Work” picture frame. While there are ways to block your employer from seeing it, it’s better to skip it just in case. Likewise, when you apply to a company via LinkedIn, you’ll start following that company. While that may not be a huge red flag, if your profile is set to broadcast every update to your network, your employer may notice and wonder what’s going on.

Mum’s the Word

Searching for a job while you already have one can be tricky. But if you are careful, you can implement some job search strategies that will help you find a position that is a perfect fit for you without jeopardizing your current one.
This article originally appeared in FlexJobs. FlexJobs is the leading career service specializing in flexible work, providing the largest database of vetted remote and flexible job listings. To support job seekers in all phases of their journey, FlexJobs offers a range of services including expert advice, job search events, and career coaching. FlexJobs also works with leading companies to recruit quality remote talent and optimize their remote and flexible workplace.

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