Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What Do You Do If Your Company Learns That You Are Looking For A New Job?

One of the inherent dangers if you are looking for a job is that your company may find out.  It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. The worst case scenario is that no one says anything and one day you find yourself terminated and they tell you that they know you are looking for a job.  I have only heard of this happening once or twice.  The best case is that they confront you; but that, too,  is uncomfortable, but it does give you an opportunity. 

The way companies find out is that that someone at the company you are talking to believes that they have a relationship with someone at your company and call them thinking that their confidence will be kept.  Aside from the fact that doing that is taboo, believing that their confidence will be kept because of their relationship is naive. If you know that someone where you are interviewing knows someone at your current company, it is permissible and necessary to ask them to keep your interview confidential.

That I know of, this has occurred only a few times during my years as a recruiter.  I remember the first time it happened like it was yesterday, but it was actually during my first year or so as a recruiter – I got an hysterical call from a candidate who was confronted by his boss.  The person he was interviewing with actually called the guy's supervisor to ask for a reference.  No permission was asked or given.  I called the hiring manager and he told me that the president of the candidate’s firm was a good friend.  That is a terrible situation. 
At any rate, here is what I told my candidate to say. I use some variation of this advice whenever this happens.

First and foremost, I don't believe in lying.  But the truth can be stretched.

I told my candidate to tell his boss that he received a call to meet this company, which is true. I told him to tell the supervisor that he did exactly what his boss would have done in the same circumstance – he agreed to go talk to see what the company wanted.  It doesn’t mean he is looking for a job, but it does mean that he is willing to explore an opportunity if presented. 

It worked.  The boss was satisfied with the explanation.

When my candidate was offered the job, he turned it down.  As well he should have. I was proud of him; he told the offending hiring manager why he was turning it down; the call proved that he was not a trustworthy manager.
If confronted while you are looking, don’t deny it. I never recommend lying, but you can use the situation to your advantage by saying that you, like any other smart executive, are always open to finding out about a good opportunity.  And this is or should be the truth.  On several occasions, I have heard about this actually resulting in a raise or a promotion.

(Just remember, that most of the time raises and promotions do not eliminate the true issue that caused you to look for a job in the first place.  Counter-offers are counter-productive.)

However, if you are actively looking and your company does find out about it, you should consider yourself vulnerable and increase the speed of your search. If you are working with recruiters, be honest and tell them the situation.  They will work doubly hard for you.


  1. Hey Paul ... You know I don't really need anything from you (other than your friendship), but good advice for those who need professional help. Bill

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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