Guide to a Stealthy - and Successful - Job Search
Conducting a "stealthy" job search may feel dishonest. But, quitting one job before you have another one makes finding that new job much more difficult for you (see Don't Quit First for the reasons).
Realistically, a stealth job search is your most effective option.
It is not, unfortunately, unusual to hear of someone being fired for job hunting, an attitude that pre-dates the Internet.
Not unnaturally, employers tend to view a job-seeking employee as "disloyal" and a threat to company secrets, customer lists, etc. So maintaining a low profile is the smart thing to do, even though it makes your job search a bit trickier.
Following these steps will not only protect your job, they will protect your identity, too.
1. Do your job search at home.
You have no guarantee of privacy - even during your "personal time" - at work. Your employer may monitor your use of e-mail, your Web surfing habits, and even the voicemail messages left for you, assuming that you aren't an independent contractor using your own assets from your home.
2. Keep a low electronic profile of your job search.
Don't announce your job search in Twitter, your blog, your Facebook or LinkedIn accounts, or in an e-mail sent to the general world. Don't hire a resume distribution service to post your resume at dozens of job sites or e-mail it to thousands of employers and recruiters. It could so easily end up in the wrong hands or become visibile to someone in your current employer's organization. Some employers do regularly scan resume banks looking for the resumes of current employees.
3. Carefully raise your personal visibility.
Create a strong and complete LinkedIn Profile and other appropriate Websites (more on using social media for job search). Join local professional and business organizations, and be an active member.
Having a good network of people who know you is the best insurance you can have against a long, painful job search after a job loss. This is a lifelong project, and it should make you more valuable to your employers, too.
4. Monitor and clean up any "digital dirt" about yourself.
Google (and Bing, etc.) yourself regularly. Just type your name into the search box to see what the search engines are showing people about you.
[For details about online reputation management, read Defensive Googling.]
IF there is something bad in the first 10 or 20 results, you need to raise your personal online profile to push those entries down below # 20. Raise your visibility in social media. Establish a Google Plus account with your real name, if you don't already have one (link in the upper right corner of most Google pages). Also, establish an Amazon account with your real name, and submit thoughtful reviews of books or other products that are relevant to your industry and/or profession.
[For more ideas about where to establish public profiles to help you manage your online reputation, read Reputation Management or Recovery on WorkCoachCafe.com.]
5. Let Google track employers and opportunities for you.
Develop a list of potential employers where you would like to work, and sign up for free Google Alerts (google.com/alerts) for jobs posted on the organizations' Websites or when related news about the employer is picked up by Google. Have the alerts sent to your personal (not your work!) e-mail address! See Job-Hunt's Using Google Alerts article for tips and detailed information.
6. Be VERY careful when posting your resume on a job board.
Do NOT openly post your resume at any job sites, particularly with your name and the name of your current employer visible! Unless you can post your resume as "private" or "confidential," don't post it.
Sign up for the job alerts, but don't have them sent to your work e-mail address where your current employer could find them. Read Job-Hunt's Cyber-Safe Resume article for tips on converting your resume to one that will protect your privacy and your current job.
When your job search is over, be sure to delete all the copies of your resumes posted on job boards. (If you cannot delete the resume at the end of your job search, turn it into nonsense, particularly your name and contact information.)
7. Use your personal cell phone number on your resume.
Using your employer's name, address, and phone numbers as your contact information is a very good way to blow your cover, and makes it impossible for you to stay in touch if you leave or lose your job. Just think how awkward it would be if your boss answered your phone and a recruiter was calling, or a co-worker picked up your messages and found one from a recruiter!
8. Use your home or other non-work e-mail address to for your job search.
See # 1, above, for the reason. In addition, if you lose your job, you'll lose access to your work e-mail account, so avoid the problem by not using it. This recommendation most definitely applies to your LinkedIn account, too! Your LinkedIn account is linked to an email address - be sure that is your personal email address so you don't become one of the job seekers who loses access to your LinkedIn Profile when you lose your job.
9. Disguise your current employer's name on your resume.
You don't want your job search to be "outed" by your boss or a recruiter accidentally (or on purpose) stumbling over your resume on Monster or CareerBuilder, etc. So, don't put your current employer's name (e.g. IBM or Acme Widgets, etc.) on your resume. [And, if your job title is unique to your employer, replace that, too.]
Substitute a description in place of your employer's name - so, assuming you work for IBM, in place of "IBM" on your resume put "Multi-National Fortune 50 Information Technology Company." If you work for Acme Widgets, you would describe your employer as "Manufacturer of [discription of Widgets, without using the word "Widget"].".
This recommendation also applies to product and/or service names unique to your employer. So, if you worked in the Acme Widget marketing department, assuming that "Widget" was a unique, trademarked brand name, you would describe your work with out using the word "Widget" in the job title or description in addition to disguising the company name.
The goal is making sure your resume doesn't appear in a search through the resume database on the employer's name - that's a set of keywords you don't want to have on your resume (unless you are a former employee)! Yes, your resume may not be included in some relevant search results, but you won't become unemployed.
10. Add an "effective date" at the bottom of your resume.
Hopefully this will keep you from being haunted by an old resume, if your current employer finds it online. If they see the date is before you started working for them, they should be less concerned.
Unfortunately, a stealth job search may be necessary to retain your income stream. Do your best not to let anyone where you work know what you are doing. Even your best friend at work might let something slip that could result in you losing your job, so best not to put anyone (or yourself) in that position.
© Copyright, 1998 - 2013, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.
About the author...
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, NETability purchased Job-Hunt.org, which Susan has edited and published since. Susan also edits and publishes WorkCoachCafe.com. Follow Susan on Twitter at@jobhuntorg and on Google+.