The Stealth Job Search: How to Fly Under the Radar While Finding a New Job

stealth job searchAre you currently employed, but looking to move on? Your smartest strategy is to conduct a “stealth job search.”

A stealth job search can help you protect your job and your income. Employers, not surprisingly, tend to view a job-seeking employee as “disloyal,” not focused on their work, 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.

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. Realistically, a stealth job search is your most effective option.

Following these steps will not only protect your job, they will protect your identity, too.

Do Your Job Search at Home

You have no guarantee of privacy – even during your lunch or other “personal time” – while you are at work. Your employer may monitor your use of e-mail, your Web surfing habits, and even the voice mail messages left for you, assuming that you aren’t an independent contractor using your own assets and working in your home.

Keep a Low Electronic Profile

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 visible to someone in your current employer’s organization.

Some employers do regularly scan resume banks, like Indeed Resume, Monster, and CareerBuilder, looking for the resumes of current employees. So, if you post on those sites, follow the tips in # 6, below.

Carefully Raise Your Personal Visibility

Create a strong and complete LinkedIn Profile in addition to other appropriate Websites. Join local professional and business organizations, and be an active member, representing your current employer and yourself.

On LinkedIn:

  • Be open about where you work, if other employees (like your boss) also have LinkedIn Profiles.
  • Describe your job in ways that reflect well on your employer without disclosing anything considered company confidential.
  • Brag about your employer and their product and services, so your employer may view your LinkedIn Profile as helpful for their marketing (if someone there sees it).

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. Network building is a lifelong project, and it should make you more valuable to each of your employers, too.

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. 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 LinkedIn Profile with your professional name, if you don’t already have one. Keep it up-to-date, filled with appropriate keywords for you, and saying very nice things about your current employer (in case anyone from there is looking).

Let Google Track Employers and Opportunities

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!

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 stealth 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 stealth job search, turn it into nonsense, particularly your name and contact information.)

Use Your Personal Cell Phone Number

Don’t laugh… this happens!

Want to blow your cover and make it impossible to stay in touch if you lose your job? Use your employer’s name, address, and phone numbers as your contact information. 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!

Be cautious about using your personal cell phone if you also use it regularly for your job. Your employer may be able to monitor your contacts as well as your calls on that phone. If the can monitor your cell phone, use a different phone for your job search, copying over your contacts to the new phone.

Use Your Personal or Other Non-Work E-mail Address

If you lose your job, you’ll lose access to your work e-mail account. So anyone trying to reach you about your job search will be unable to contact you. Avoid the problem by not using your work email address.

This recommendation most definitely applies to your LinkedIn account, too! Your LinkedIn account is linked to an email address. Be sure, then, that address is your personal email address. That way, you don’t lose access to your LinkedIn Profile when you lose your job.

Disguise Your Current Employer’s Name on Your Resume

You don’t want your stealth job search to be “outed” by your boss or a recruiter, right? Accidentally (or on purpose), stumbling over your resume on Indeed happens far too often. 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 [description of Widgets, without using the word “Widget”].”.

This recommendation also applies to product and/or service names unique to your employer. So, let’s say you worked in the marketing department at Acme Widget Company. Assuming that “Widget” was a unique, trademarked brand name, you would describe your work without using the word “Widget” in the job title or description. In addition, you would need to disguise 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. After all, 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.

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 in the long run, it’s best not to put anyone (or yourself) in that position.

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