|By Joann S. Lublin
Don't let your boss see you reading this column. I'm going to tell you how to job hunt in secret.
Frustrated by skipped bonuses, skimpy raises and excess work, many Americans would love to find fresh employment. They're encouraged by forecasts of a modest hiring rebound. One-fifth of nearly 16,000 employers recently polled by Manpower, a Milwaukee-based staffing service, said they planned to boost staff this quarter-up from the 16% that predicted workforce additions a year ago.
But with the overall economy still shaky, you don't want a job search to jeopardize your current position. "If your superior learns you're looking, you may get yourself on a slate to get laid off," warns Martin Yate, a career-management consultant and author in Sea Cliff, N.Y.
Marcus Littleton, now general manager at Holiday Inn Express in Newton, Iowa, says he didn't conceal his quest at his last job and was let go. Luckily, he was just two weeks away from being a hired for his current post. His former supervisor says Mr. Littleton's spot was determined to be "duplicative," but admits managers often sour on job-hunting employees because it appears "they're spending more time looking for a job than doing their job."
Here are smart ways to seek work without risking dismissal:
SANITIZE YOUR RESUME.
It's wise to omit your name, present title, work number and employer's identity from resumes sent to popular job boards, such as Monster. The downside: Certain recruiters ignore cloaked resumes.
You're safer divulging personal details when you apply through corporate Web sites. Even then, you should note that "this resume is being submitted in confidence," suggests Mark Mehler, a principal at Career X Roads, online recruiting consultants in Kendall Park, N.J.
Use online resources with the best privacy safeguards.
Some sites offer "job agents" that e-mail you about openings based on your confidential profile. But it's hard to tell whether a listing is from a search firm or an employer.
There also are "job leads lists" such as Netshare.com and ExecuNet, which charge executives to peruse an online catalogue of vacancies paying $100,000 or more. The lists usually provide extensive information about the relevant hiring managers.
Conduct your job search from home.
You'll need a separate e-mail account, fax machine and even an additional phone line with, ideally, a professional answering service. Potential employers aren't impressed when your four-year old answers the phone and shouts over barking dogs that you're in the shower.
Select a moniker for your new e-mail account that reflects your professional prowess. How about firstname.lastname@example.org? Make it your permanent career account.
Assemble a solid cadre of references, and coach them well.
"They should know how to present you in the most positive light" and at least one reference should have known you for 12 years, advises Lisa Flavin, a principal at Concord Search Associates, a recruiting boutique in Concord, Mass.
David Snow, a drug-company marketing executive, offered six good references while vying for a U.S. management post at British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca about two years ago. The references included a continuing-medical-education supplier and an ad agency he previously worked with-as had several AstraZeneca staffers.
The company contacted every reference, and so had no need to call Mr. Snow's then-supervisor at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Now 41, he's a group director at AstraZeneca's cardiovascular business in Wayne, Pa.
SCHEDULE JOB interviews during nonwork hours.
If the interview will occur over dinner and your colleagues rarely don suits, keep your dressy clothes hidden until you're ready to leave the office.
Alternatively, take vacation time for interviews. One senior executive so feared his prying boss might discover his search during a day off that he persuaded an out-of-town employer to interview him on a Saturday. The big business flew him to its headquarters on the corporate jet.
Insist on a written offer before a potential employer speaks to your present boss.
Eric Pelve became world-wide sales vice president for a suburban New York producer of electronic components last month. The 38-year-old executive previously worked for a U.S. unit of Ascom Holding, a Swiss maker of telecommunications and automation equipment. Before making the offer, his new employer asked to contact his Ascom boss. "They were pretty adamant about it," Mr. Pelve recalls.
He refused. Officials approached his other references instead.
Though things worked out for Mr. Pelve, you should think twice about joining a company that wants to call your superior ahead of an offer. "It shows a lack of respect for your rights as a professional," contends Mr. Yate, the career consultant. "They're obviously willing to jeopardize your current employment."
Source: The Wall Street Journal; February 4, 2003
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