Looking for a Job? Shush, Don’t Say a Word!

By Phil Gérard

Appeared originally in Hilborn Charity eNEWS.

Here’s news: You are in the best position to look for a job if you don’t need one just yet. Job hunting when you are unemployed or when you desperately need to find a job soon is extremely stressful. You are not in a position of power, so you cannot be choosy and are at the mercy of the recruiters. You may make hasty decisions and potentially land in a situation worse than your current one.

I continue to hear from people who widely broadcast their job search. That is a mistake. Whether you need to find a job or are just curious to see what is out there, the number one rule is to go about it discreetly and with integrity. Managing your job search discreetly is wise for many reasons.

Changing your manager’s view of you

Generally, I strongly encourage open communication with your supervisor about your career path and progression. But it is never, absolutely never, a good idea to speak about your job search with your boss. That seems to be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people do it.

Maybe they are trying to send the message that their supervisor better try harder to keep them. Whatever the objective it is just not a smart thing to do. You are sending confusing messages to your supervisor. Are you still dedicated? Do you want a better offer from your present employer? They might make an offer to accommodate you, but I believe that this is not a long-term solution. If you are looking in the first place there is something fundamentally wrong, and your future staying power will be limited.

Risking embarrassment with your colleagues

Ok, so talking to your boss is taboo, but what about your co-workers? I think it is acceptable to confide in someone about your job search, but it must be someone you can fully trust and ideally, not someone who works in the same place as you.

Generally, however, never talk openly in your organization about your job search. You may come across as a busybody – and that’s the best case scenario! The situation will be really embarrassing if you do not get a new job and everybody knows you are still looking.

Honesty – to a point – about absences

So you have managed to secure an interview, but of course it’s in the middle of the day. Or worse, your interview is out of town and you need to be away for a few days. What do you do now?

I personally believe it is crucial to be transparent. You do not need to announce that you are interviewing for a job, but you do need to let your supervisor know that you will be away from the office for a personal appointment.

You and your supervisor can negotiate the best way of making up for the time. Maybe it is just a matter of taking an extra-long lunch break if the interview is over lunchtime. Or you can come in later in the morning and stay longer. If you need to leave town for the interview, take a few days off as vacation time. You do not need to give a specific reason, particularly not if you are taking a vacation day.

I just don’t believe in taking time off, ever, without officially booking that time with your boss. Some might think we put in enough hours as it is, and it all balances out in the end. However, you will always err on the safe side if you are transparent and correct about it.

Managing references

Recruiters and HR managers have different procedures on the timing for reference checks. Some hiring managers check references of a number of shortlisted candidates before they offer the job to one successful candidate. Others verbally offer a job conditional on a positive reference check. It is always a good idea not to include your references on your resume. Instead, add a line that reads “references available upon request.”

One reason for this is that it gives you the opportunity to notify your supervisor when the time is right. You may also want to customize the references according to the preference of the hiring organization. Every employer has a different idea of the kind of references they want to see.

Personally, I have always asked during to be informed prior to the reference check so I can advise my supervisor. It is not advisable, in my view, for a recruiter or potential employer to call your supervisor before you have informed him or her. You need to be the one telling them, not a stranger. As long as you are employed, it is your job to make your boss look good, even in this situation.

Dealing with recruiters

Being in touch with recruiters is a good idea even if you are not looking for a new job, because it is likely the most discreet way of exploring opportunities. Having a good relationship with a recruiter you respect will keep you up to speed on the latest opportunities. The recruiter is sworn to complete confidentiality, so you know you are safe (with respectable recruiters at least).

As a recruiter myself, I have sometimes heard remarks about how annoying we can be when we call all the time. Count your blessings! You want that phone to ring – it means that you are still in demand.

Yes, recruiters can be tenacious and you may not want to consider a particular career opportunity, as attractive as it may be. But I strongly advise always to be kind to recruiters – you may need them one day. Being rude or not responding to emails is bad karma! You do not want to call that same recruiter when you are desperate and need a job.

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