5 Mistakes That Can Derail Your Confidential Executive Job Search

by Meg Guiseppi on August 26, 2013

Undercover Executive Job Search


Whether you foresee a layoff coming, have decided to move to another company, or you’re pursuing a career transition, chances are you’ll be conducting a stealth job search.

You want to hang on to your existing job, while you’re looking for another one.

If your search is found out by your employer, you may find yourself ushered out the door, before you’re ready.

Maintaining confidentiality in a job search is a delicate thing. Proceed cautiously.


Here are 5 ways you may slip up and blow a hole in your undercover executive job search:

1.  Broadcast to Your Entire Network That You’re Looking

An early step in job search is connecting with your first degree network, to let them know that you’re looking and what you’re looking for. These are people who may have some connection to the companies or organizations you’re targeting, or know someone who does.

If you’re not sure of your career direction yet, these people may be able to help you decide.

Only discuss your job search with those you can entirely trust to keep it to themselves . . . probably only your first degree connections, plus your existing recruiter connections and new ones in your niche that you’re developing.

And think twice before telling anyone you work with that you’re job-hunting.

2.  Use Your Employer’s Equipment or Technology

Even at the c-suite level, you can’t assume your work emails are private. It’s probably not a great idea to make phone calls related to your search from your business office.

Internet and phone usage may be monitored. Your employer can see, if you’ve been visiting job search-related websites. And if you suddenly leave the company, you may lose access to all those emails.

Use only your own equipment, in your own space, for your job search.
Set up a professionally-named email account not associated with your company email, just for your job search.

The contact information on your resume, online profiles and other job search materials should not be associated with your employer.

3.  Be Careless on LinkedIn and Other Social Media

With an estimated more than 80% of recruiters and hiring decision makers Googling candidates for social proof, and their practice of choosing those with strong online presence over those without, it’s counterintuitive to remain invisible online.

You definitely need to have a branded, 100% complete LinkedIn profile, just to keep pace with your competitors who have one. Beyond that, you need a vibrant, diverse online footprint to distinguish and support your candidacy to your target employers.

But NEVER state in your online profiles that you’re job-hunting.

Although LinkedIn has become an accepted networking tool for business-building (not just job search), your current employer may suspect any activity of yours on LinkedIn.

I always advise my clients to have a ready explanation for why they’re updating their LinkedIn, or any other online profile, and why they’re suddenly active on social networks.

Conversely, don’t let this threat keep you from building an online presence and using social media for your job search.

A few other LinkedIn “DON’Ts” that can sabotage your stealth search:

  • Leaving your LinkedIn activities broadcast “on”, so that your activities (changing your profile, making recommendations, or following companies) will be shared in your activity feed.
  • Displaying the logos for the job search Groups you belong to on your profile.
  • Posting a discussion on a LinkedIn Group about your own job search.

4.  Post a Revealing Comment on a Resume or Job Search-Related Blog

I can’t tell you how many times prospective clients have made the huge mistake of reaching out to me initially by posting a comment on one of my blogsites. They’ll include their real name and the company they work for, and write something like this:

“I’m about to leave my position at XYZ Company after 15 years. We recently went through a merger and heads are being cut left and right. I don’t have a resume, so I’m interested in learning more about your resume and branding services. How do I get in touch with you?”

Luckily, comments on my blogsites wait in a queue for my approval, so they don’t go live automatically. I don’t approve and post any comments like this. I email these people directly with information about my services.

On other sites, all comments may be automatically posted, without approval. Then you’ve left yourself wide open to being found out.

5.  Post Your Resume to ANY Job Board

Employers are known to scour job boards looking for defecting employees. They’ll find you through your name and their own company name.

Sure, you can fictionalize all identifying information (your name, company names, job titles, etc.), but then your resume may be so impersonalized it won’t get noticed.

Besides, this shouldn’t be much of an issue for you. You know better than to waste much time on job boards, right? You know that they yield something like a dismal 3-5% success rate.

Instead, spend your limited job search time identifying the hiring decision makers and recruiters at your target companies, networking your way towards them . . . confidentially . . . and circumventing job boards entirely.

Related posts:

Executive Job Search: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

7 Things Successful Executive Job Seekers Know

How to Write, Brand and Use An Executive Resume

photo by Dave-F

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