In-demand candidates are usually already employed. Hiring managers consider this a major factor when searching for desirable candidates, so take advantage of this mindset and begin your job search while you are still gainfully employed.
Managing the interview process while going to work every day is like walking a tightrope. Obviously, your most important consideration is that you must fully conceal your interest in leaving your current employer. No matter how stealth your job search campaign, you take the considerable chance of being terminated upon discovery. Therefore, you must be strategic and thoughtful throughout the entire job search process.
Keep in mind that how well you navigate this landmine will also leave an impression, good or bad, with both companies (your current and your future employer). Even if you are being aggressively recruited—keep in mind that they are evaluating what you say about your current employer and how you manage this transition.
STEPS TO PROTECT YOUR CURRENT EMPLOYMENT
Create a separate, web-based email account used solely for communications with prospective employers. Use something other than your full name when you create this new email account. Never, ever use your work email account as it is possible that your online activities are monitored, even if you work remotely.
Don’t use company phone to conduct job search activities. When you begin your job search, provide your personal cell phone number. Be clear and tell the recruiter that you will not take calls at work. It may be prudent to add a layer of insulation: purchase a temporary cell phone or secure a Google Voice number that can be linked to your cell phone number.
Avoid discussing your job search by the office water cooler with your current co-workers. The fewer people who know you are in the midst of a job hunt, the more likely you are to be successful at concealing it. Keep it to yourself, even if you absolutely deem your co-workers trustworthy or consider them to be personal friends. If you have not chosen them as references, there is no need to disclose your job search to them.
Schedule interviews at off-times. Most hiring managers are very understanding regarding the intricacies and difficulties involved with managing a job search while still employed. It is common practice for them to make every effort to thoroughly accommodate your needs whenever possible.
Refrain from mentioning your job search on the Internet. Don’t Tweet your resume or credentials. Don’t share on Facebook. Don’t update your LinkedIn status with “open to opportunities.” This might seem obvious. Yet, there have been many job seekers who have been caught in this net because they thought their profile was 100% private. No matter the privacy settings, you have a lot to lose if your job search is discovered. Online profiles that are deemed “private” are not always as hard to find and read as you might assume — you cannot foresee how others, in your “private” network, might disclose information you shared exclusively with them. (The recent incident with Mark Zuckerberg’s sister comes to mind.)
Choose the references you provide very carefully. Every company is different. Some request work-related references only and others accept a mix of professional and personal references. Upon involving yourself in the job search process, use scrupulous care in determining who will be your references. Consider folks who know you well and have a good opinion of your character and work habits. Above all, take the time to discuss what they will say BEFORE you include their name on your reference list so that they are well-prepared to receive the inquiry. Impart as well that your job search is to be kept confidential.
Do not connect with recruiters on LinkedIn. While LinkedIn has become the #1 social media source to recruit candidates, this step can alert your employer of your active job search. There is a way to hide your connections from the visibility of others (thus, hiding your connection to recruiters). However, that will also mitigate your ability to network based on your connection’s influence and to see others’ connections. You will have to outweigh what is most important or of value to you.
Verbalize that your job search is not an open one. Be upfront, letting recruiters know that your job search is confidential and that you desire their discretion regarding your candidacy. Don’t assume they will automatically honor your confidentiality. Advise them that you must expressly give them authorization before they seek contact with your current employer and/or an employment verification is completed.
The employment verification should absolutely be one of the very last steps—at the point it is done, you should already know that you are ready and willing to accept the new position.