You’re in the heat of the job search, filling out applications and scheduling interviews left and right. The issue? Making sure your current boss doesn’t find out what you’re up to.
I know you’re nodding yes because this is a common problem we all have to deal with at some point in our careers.
The reality, however, is that no one is ever paying as much attention to you as you are. You may see your 30-minute “doctor’s appointment” as a massive intrusion, but there’s a good chance your boss wouldn’t have even noticed you were out.
That said, if you have a helicopter manager and find it difficult to get anything past them, here are some of the tricks real-live people I spoke to suggested for not getting caught resume-handed (see what I did there?):
Schedule Interviews Around Lunch or End of Day
It’s always smart to tack your interviews onto times when you’re already expected to be unavailable or not in the office. Lunchtime is great because it allows you to take earlier interviews (that said, don’t walk in from your interview that was supposedly a lunch and say, “Anyone want to grab a bite?”). Likewise, toward end of day allows you to avoid coming up with a complicated excuse for why you’re leaving.
If “taking a lunch” doesn’t’ exist at your office and leaving early is akin to committing a crime, here’s a little more advice on how to get out of work without weaving a web of lies.
Push Back on Hiring Managers
Don’t be afraid to turn down interview times that conflict with your current job.
As Muse author and HR expert Rachel Bitte says, “Hiring managers who offer non-negotiable meeting times are few and far between—and if they’re truly in a time crunch, they’ll likely clue you in.”
Use an Incognito Browser
I’d normally not suggest using your work computer for any job searching (more on that below), but sometimes you have urgent things to cover, like emailing the hiring manager back. If that’s the case, try using an incognito browser, and wipe your history when you’re done.
Oh, and make sure you’re in a spot in the office where no one can look over your shoulder and see what you’re up to.
Leave Less-Urgent Tasks for When You’re Home
For other stuff—updating your resume, writing a cover letter, scrolling through openings—do them in the evenings or on the weekends (here’s how to kick-start your search in one afternoon). It’s not worth the risk, and you’ll have more time to focus and really nail your application.
Make Sure Your LinkedIn Updates Are Private
Goes without saying, but if you’re updating your profile, make sure the “Notify Your Network” setting is turned off.
Another trick? Turn on “Let recruiters know you’re open to opportunities” in your privacy settings—this works without your network seeing it.
Change Outside the Office
When I asked my co-workers for their real stories, one colleague told me rather adamantly that he changed in a Best Buy restroom to avoid getting caught.
Like my co-worker, it’s smart to put on your interview clothes when you’re away from the office, or at the very least, away from your boss’ desk.
Avoid Chatting With Co-workers
Even mentioning your job search to your closest colleagues can have repercussions, so it’s best to avoid doing so. If you need to confide in them (or need them to serve as a reference), make it clear that this has to be kept under wraps.
Don’t Use Your Boss as a Reference
Also goes without saying. Stick to former managers or colleagues.
Find a Private Place for Phone Screenings
This is probably the toughest dilemma. How do you take a phone call without people overhearing your conversation? And, how do you find a spot that’s not distracting or loud, easy to get to, and far enough away from co-workers and bosses?
The best advice I have is to scope out a place before the call and make sure it’s available and suitable for the big day. Check out nearby coffee shops, sound-proof conference rooms, your car, or even a quiet side street. If you’re in a city, consider booking yourself a Breather (a room for rent) for an hour or jumping in a cab and driving to a quiet destination.
Take a Work-From-Home Day
If you have the option to, request a work-from-home day. Just make sure you’re not expected to be on call during your interview time.
Use Your PTO
Especially for final round or long interviews, it might be worth taking a day off completely. As Bitte says, “It doesn’t have to be for weeks at a time. If you buckle down and plan in advance, a few hours here and a half-day there will allow you to blaze through multiple applications and interviews.”
Muse career coach Kyle Lee adds, “The fact of the matter is that we don’t live in a society that views attempting to leave your job with support and understanding, so do what you need to do to succeed in your interview if you really want the job”—even if that means calling in sick once in a while.
Finally, if you’re getting everything done, hitting all your deadlines, and in general reliable and responsive, you’re more likely to throw your boss off the trail of you looking at other jobs.
So, make sure you’re being a good employee first and a job seeker second. This means continuing to put your best foot forward and show enthusiasm for your work. Before you know it, you’ll have a new job and be able to leave your current one with grace.