Here are eight tips for searching for a new job when you’re already employed:
1. Don’t job search on your employer’s time, and especially not from your work computer. You may think no one will find out, but some companies do look at employees’ web histories, and having yours full of job listings isn’t a good idea.
2. Don’t use your employer’s resources, like their postage, printer, or copy machine. The one time you print off a job description will inevitably be the time you accidentally send your print job to your boss’s printer or when your boss’s boss finds your resume in the hallway printer. It’s not worth the risk.
(Side note: I once had a candidate FedEx me his resume, using his employer’s account. I could see right there on the shipping slip that he’d billed the cost to his employer. This type of thing is an automatic rejection, because how you treat your current employer can be a good indication of how you’ll treat your next one.)
3. Similarly, don’t use your work email address for correspondence related to your job search. This may sound obvious, but I regularly receive resumes from candidates sent from their work accounts. Not only is this an improper use of your current employer’s resources, but it will look really, really bad to the employer you want to work for.
4. Don’t post your resume on online job boards. This isn’t a terribly effective job-search strategy in most cases anyway, and it has the added risk that someone from your current company will see it.
5. Try to conduct phone interviews from outside your office—ideally from home or somewhere else private. If that’s not an option, consider taking the call from your cell phone in your parked car. Use your office only if you’re absolutely sure you won’t be interrupted.
6. Scheduling in-person interviews can be especially tricky when you already have a job. You can try asking the interviewer to schedule the meeting for first thing in the morning or late in the day, or during lunch time (although be aware that a good interview will often take more time than a typical lunch hour). But you might need to take a personal day or half-day because you have “an appointment,” “an out-of-town visitor,” “some family business,” or so forth.
7. If your workplace is business casual and you show up in a suit because you have an interview later that day, be prepared for the (maybe half-joking) question, “Got an interview?” It might be simpler to bring a change of clothes with you and change outfits somewhere before you arrive to the interview.
8. It’s fine to tell prospective employers that you don’t want your current employer contacted as a reference, since your boss doesn’t know that you’re looking. This is normal and employers will understand why you’re asking it. However, in the rare instance that an employer insists on talking with your current manager, you can explain you’ll be glad to allow it once you have a firm offer (which can be contingent on that reference).
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.