It's a nightmare scenario: Unhappy at work, you start looking for a new job, but your current employer finds out -- and your job security is gone.
That's what happened to one office manager in St. Louis, whose supervisor found his application on the company's computer system. "My boss called me in his office and asked me about a resume I submitted to a rival company," he says. The office manager had to do some quick thinking to explain himself. "It didn't matter that I gave this company three years of service -- I was no longer trusted. I didn't get fired, but I put my job search into high gear, because they no longer saw me as loyal."
It's no surprise this job seeker got caught emailing his resume. The American Management Association and ePolicy Institute's "2005 Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance Survey" suggests 76 percent of employers monitor their workers' Web site connections.
So how can you search for a new job while keeping your hunt under wraps? Follow these tips.
Don't Job Search on Company Time
"Never use your employer's email, computers, fax lines or telephone systems for job search purposes," advises Pat Kendall, author of Jumpstart Your Online Job Search in a Weekend and president of career-services firm Advanced Resume Concepts. "Even if your employer is aware of it (and supports it 100 percent), it looks inappropriate to potential employers and may raise questions about your honesty or integrity."
Wendy Terwelp, president of career services firm Opportunity Knocks, agrees. "In my mind, it brands you as a time thief to potential employers," says Terwelp, whose client was caught working on his resume during office hours. "He was fired immediately and escorted out. It was a hard lesson."
According to Kendall, "Looking for a job in your current industry -- especially if it's a small, tight-knit industry -- should be approached with extreme caution." If you're working with industry-specific recruiters, give them a list of employers to avoid if you think your current employer might hear about your job search.
Terwelp also counsels her clients on the importance of discretion when distributing resumes.
"Network with your personal contacts -- those you trust -- to help you make discreet connections to employers," she says. "Who's in your network that you trust can keep your confidentiality? What are your target companies? Who do you know who knows a key decision maker at one of these companies?"
Don't be afraid to reach out to people who could benefit from the relationship as much as you can. "Employees are rewarded for bringing key players on board," Terwelp says. "Why not help your friends be rewarded by their employers for hiring you?"
Create a Limited-View Resume
Most employers respect the fact that a job search is confidential, but there's still a chance confidentiality could be breached when you submit your resume. On Monster, you may post a "visible and limited" resume, which hides your contact information. If you choose to upload a Word file or copy-and-paste a plain-text version of your resume, make sure you remove identifying information before uploading to Monster.
Kendall offers these additional tips to camouflage your resume:
Replace your name with "Confidential Candidate." Be sure your name doesn't appear in the file name or its Properties dialog box.
Confine contact information to a carefully selected email address -- one not based on your name or attached to a public profile with personal information.
Describe your current employer in general terms (e.g., "high tech manufacturing firm") rather than listing the company's name and location.
Avoid including product or target market keywords that would give away your employer or identity. Remove keywords your current employer might use if looking for someone to replace you.
Cover It in Your Cover Letter
There are no guarantees that mentioning your job search's confidentiality will prevent your employer from discovering your search, but it doesn't hurt. Terwelp suggests adding a line like: "As this is a highly confidential career search, I would greatly appreciate your discretion in handling my candidacy."
Use Saved Searches
Kendall recommends using Monster's Saved Searches, which search jobs and notify you when suitable ones are posted. "This approach is safer, as it limits your resume's public exposure," she says.