Staying in a job too long can retard your career, depress your income, and diminish your brand. Surveys conducted over the past five years have indicated that over half of all employed workers are not satisfied with their current jobs. Why don’t such people just go out and look for a better job? One major inhibitor to job searching while employed is the concern their current employers will find out they are “looking” and that this could negatively affect their current position. If YOU want to search for a better job but are concerned about confidentiality, I hope you will find this article helpful.

First, let me reduce your concerns: During the last 11 years, I have worked with a large number of clients who were employed and wanting to conduct a confidential job search. In almost all cases, they were successful in doing so without their current employer becoming aware of their activities. They were able to find a better job, go through the complete interviewing process, and land the new job without their employer ever learning of their activities.

As covered in Chapter 16 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!), proactive “job hopping” is more than just a way to get out of a bad job. It is an important career strategy for many who simply want to make more money and advance more quickly.

While no amount of planning will insure 100% confidentiality, the following tips will greatly increase your odds of success:

1. Clearly mark all your resumes “CONFIDENTIAL” either at the top of the first page or on the line beside the name of your current employer. This provides a clear indication to all recruiters and hiring managers that you do not want your current employer to know of your search. Be aware, however, that this likely will not protect you from unsophisticated friends or others should they distribute your resume.

2. As referenced in the last sentence of item number one, be stingy in sharing your resume with those other than recruiters or hiring managers. Discourage such people from distributing your resume without your prior notice and agreement.

3. Don’t post your resume online on a job board or other resume site. Your employer can find you there easily if they bother to look. Besides, you will get far more junk solicitations than job opportunities anyway.

4. Select only people who you strongly trust for your networking activities. Engage these contacts one on one and make them aware that you are conducting a confidential search. Avoid going to group networking events where you would identify yourself as a job seeker.

5. Leverage LinkedIn as much as possible, but don’t look like a job seeker to the general public. You can leverage it by sending InMail private messages to people while avoiding putting anything in your public profile which would make you appear to be looking for a new job. Besides, telegraphing your desire for a new job (such as a headline with “Seeking a new opportunity, etc.) makes you appear unemployed and thus reduces your marketability.

6. This one is obvious, but be very careful about sharing the fact you are looking with anyone at your current work or anyone else in the universe who really doesn’t need to know this information. The more people who know something, the higher likelihood it can get back to your boss or another coworker.

7. Schedule phone networking calls and phone interviews during lunch or after hours. If getting off work to interview is difficult or impossible on your current job, then try to avoid taking lots of vacation one day or half a day at a time. Instead, ask prospective employers if your job interviews can be scheduled after hours. Knowing that you are employed and wanting to maintain confidentiality, many employers will work with you.

Have you conducted a successful job search lately? What else did you do? I would love to hear what was successful for you.


Richard Kirby is an executive career consultant, speaker on career strategies, and author of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!). Richard Kirby’s earlier experience includes managing engineering, human resources, marketing and sales teams for employers that ranged from a Fortune 100 to a VC-funded entrepreneurial startup. For the past 11 years at Executive Impact, Richard has helped hundreds of executives and professionals successfully navigate today’s transformed 21st century job market and achieve better employment for themselves. Richard’s expertise includes career assessments and goal setting, personal marketing/branding, resume enhancement, strategic networking and job interviewing, and “contrarian” job search methodologies. He is a Board Certified Coach (in career coaching) and a Certified Management Consultant (recognized by the ISO).