How Do I Keep My Job Search Confidential?
Martin Yate CPC
NY Times bestselling author
Knock em Dead The Ultimate Job Search Guide 2012
Copyright 2012 all rights reserved
"I am currently considering what may be better offers from competitors of my current employer. I like my job and am only testing the waters at this point, so I do not want to jeopardize my position. How do I ensure that my current boss will not be contacted until I am certain I have a bona-fide offer I want to accept?"
Go to Interviews to Get Job Offers
You go to interviews to get job offers, not to consider them. This isn’t splitting hairs. The way we define activities determines how we will pursue them, and "considering offers" leads to a mindset that has you walking into interviews asking about what the job pays rather than what you need to do to be successful in the job. You don’t have anything to “consider” until an offer is on the table, so all you need to consider is how to get it there.
When you go to interviews to get job offers, you have a different attitude, a different approach to the questions you will ask. Please don’t take this lightly: your single most important professional survival skill is your ability to turn job interviews into job offers, but it is also the skill at which you are weakest and have least experience.
The Reality of Reference Checks
Employment references get checked about 75% of the time, according to current studies. Reference-checking is a time-consuming process, and usually it is restricted to the top candidate. Checks can occur anywhere from immediately before the job offer is extended to up to thirty days after you have started work.
You are protected [AU: From what?] under the 1970 Fair Credit Reporting Act. Under this act an employer is required to get your written permission before checking any references that you may supply. That’s why you have to fill out those ridiculous application forms that require your signature at the end over a block of impossibly small type; your signature gives an employer permission to check your professional references, credit, and legal history.
Keeping Your Job Search Confidential
Reference-checking is a responsibility most often picked up by Human Resources, so on first contact with a corporate recruiter, explain your situation and make the need for confidentiality clear. You should ask not to sign any application form giving permission for background checks until there is established mutual interest—which you’ll subsequently define as your formal resignation following acceptance of a written offer. Do not supply references until the appropriate time, and request that current employment references not be checked without your permission.
Instead of such formal checks, hiring managers and headhunters are likely to make informal inquiries that can cause just as much trouble, so you need to treat them as totally divorced from HR’s responsibilities and priorities. So again, on first contact with each of these parties, politely drop into the later parts of the conversation, once a degree of interest has been established, that you are happily employed and looking for the “right opportunity,” and that you would like to confirm an understanding that all communications are to be strictly confidential.
Sanitize your resume to protect your identity by cloaking your name, current employer, and any other information that might readily identify you. This is perfectly acceptable strategy and simply tells recruiters exactly what you want them to know: that you are engaged in a confidential search.
For contact information on your resume, and to facilitate confidential communication throughout your search, create a new e-mail account with a name that reveals something about your professional profile, such as SystemAnalyst@hotmail.com or TopAccountant@yahoo.com. This type of e-mail address is professional, keeps your identity confidential, and acts as a headline, telling the reader who is calling and some idea of what the communication is about.
Finally, use only your personal communication devices for job search activities, and only use them on your own time. Follow these guidelines and you’ll keep your search confidential and conduct yourself like a thorough professional.