How to Discreetly Job Search While Employed

Trying to find a new job while employed can be stressful. It can feel like you’re “cheating” on your boss. What if your supervisor finds out? Should you tell your team? It’s possible your boss will be supportive of your job search. But more often than not, announcing you’re looking for a new job while employed will be awkward. Your team might treat you differently when word gets out that you’re leaving. The news could impact your performance review. Your boss might even give you a worse reference.      

Ultimately, your career is your business–You don’t have to tell anyone that you’re looking for a new job while employed until you accept another job offer. But getting caught searching for a job by your boss or colleagues can be even more awkward than telling them upfront. Here’s how to discreetly find a new job while employed. If your’e unemployed seeking a new role, check out our other article for insights.

Change your LinkedIn status privately

You can easily let companies and recruiters know you’re looking for a new job without your boss knowing. If you already have an optimized LinkedIn profile, click the “Open to” dropdown button below your profile. Select “Finding a new job.” When you finish providing details, you’ll be asked who can see your job search status. Select “recruiters only”. Recruiters will see you’re looking for a new job without your network seeing it. Your boss and coworkers won’t be able to see you’re open for work, but recruiters will see a green “open to work” frame on your profile. 

How to edit linkedin profile to open to work

You should also edit your privacy settings for discretion. When updating your LinkedIn profile, make sure the “Notify Your Network” setting is turned off. In your privacy settings, you can also turn on “Let recruiters know you’re open to opportunities”. 

While LinkedIn’s algorithm does a good job of protecting discrete job seekers, it is still possible that a recruiter at your company could see your #OpenToWork status and tell your boss. But we’ve never seen this actually happen. It’s especially unlikely if you work for a large company.

Apply to a few jobs daily

Rather than burning out by applying to hundreds of jobs at once, already having a job means you can take a more targeted approach. When you have time to yourself, apply to just a few jobs each day. 

We’ve found that including a personalized message with your application triples your odds of getting an interview, on average. Since you’re only applying to only a few jobs daily, you’ll have time to craft a personal email to recruiters with every job application. You can find recruiter’s emails and auto generated the perfect networking email using chrome extensions like Pathrise Career Connect. Our app doubles interview rates by automating the outreach process–the extension email of hiring managers then generates a highly personalized networking message based on your resume and the job description. 

When should you apply? Generally, the early morning before (or even during) work can be an especially good time to reach out to recruiters since your message will be at the top of their inbox. If you don’t have time to click send in the morning, you can use our app to generate and auto-send networking emails en masse, at the most optimal time to reach recruiters.

But don’t use company devices or email

When trying to find a new job while employed, stick to your personal devices. A colleague or supervisor could see your history or browser on a shared company device. You should exclusively use your personal email on applications, not your job email. If you want to be extra discreet, avoid searching for a new job while connected to your company wifi–though this will almost never actually alert your boss.

Take phone interviews early (or at work)

Ideally, you schedule your phone interview for the early morning, evening after work, or during a lunch break. But if the interview overlaps with work, you can create a “dummy meeting” on your Outlook calendar. You can set your status to “Out of office” for 15-30 minutes. This should prevent you from being called by teammates during the phone interview. 

You might be a little nervous to interview for a new job while at your current job. But taking half an hour to answer phone interview questions will almost certainly not make your boss think you’re looking for a new job. Think of all the personal calls coworkers take at work. Your call won’t stand out as long as you’re in a private place.

Take PTO for onsite interviews (Friday to be safe)

If you have a flexible schedule, come into the office early and leave early for the interview. But for lengthier onsite interviews, you can take a half day off. If asked, you can say you’re traveling or have a doctor’s appointment. But you probably won’t be asked.

Unfortunately, at competitive companies with high turnover like Netflix, taking a random half day can be like announcing you have an interview. If you want to be extra safe, schedule the interview for a Friday and take a half day. Since so many professionals take time off Fridays to travel on the weekend, a Friday half day will raise fewer eyebrows.  Alternatively, you can take a full day and use the extra time to prepare for the interview.

Don’t list your boss as a reference

If your boss learns you’re looking for a new job from another company’s HR team, they may give you a bad reference out of spite. They could increase your current workload or give you less opportunities for career development. Or it could simply be awkward.

Instead of listing your current supervisor, good references to list references on your resume include past supervisors or former teammates. If a hiring manager insists on hearing from your current boss, tell them that you don’t want to affect the relationship and that you can provide the boss’s contact information when you get an offer. You can also directly ask your prospective employer to be discreet with your application, to be extra safe.

Leave on good terms

If you’re trying to find a new job while employed, you might be tempted to put less effort into your current role. Some employed job seekers stop trying to advance in their current position. This is a big mistake. You don’t know how long the job search will take–you could be at your current role for a year or more. You could also be offered an internal opportunity that will depend on your performance in your current role.

What to do after accepting your job offer

After you negotiate your job offer and accept the new role, be thoughtful about how you share the news. Try to ask for a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor first when you give them your 2 week notice. Then you can announce your departure to the team. Express gratitude to your current boss for your time at their company and offer to help ease the transition in your final 2 weeks. Try to stay in touch with your supervisor and coworkers, or at least keep their contact information. You never know exactly how your career (or theirs) will progress–they could even help you find opportunities in the future.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that helps professionals land their dream job. With our tips and guidance, we’ve seen our fellows interview scores double and application responses triple.

If you want to work with any of our mentors 1-on-1 to get help you discreetly find a new job while employed, become a Pathrise fellow. It’s free until you land a great job.

Apply today.

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Patrick Bohan

Hi, I'm Patrick, I write about the job search. After graduating from Cornell, I became a content lead at UBS where I helped professionals at Fortune 500 companies understand their stock options, salary, and benefits. When I'm not writing about the hiring process, I write novels for teens.

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