The Confidential Job Search – Searching for a Job While Employed

Conducting a job search while employed poses notable challenges. You’ve concluded that it is time to find a new opportunity, but how can you conduct a job search without raising suspicions?  To ensure that your confidential job search does not raise red flags with your current employer and work colleagues, follow the suggestions below.

Be aware of your behavior. You may have intellectually and emotionally “turned the corner” at your current employer. But do things just like before and go out of your way to defuse suspicion. Keep your current job a priority (you owe that to your employer) and finish strong. Resist the urge to tell coworkers of your intentions (which may not be easy), and do not use your employer’s computer equipment or email for your job search (use your personal email, even if you have to create one). When you network (as you will and should), let your contacts know about the confidential nature of your search—they’ll understand, but they must be made aware first. You should arrange similar confidentiality with recruiters at search firms. Recruiters can be great eyes and ears for new opportunities, and they are trained to keep dealings confidential.

Update your LinkedIn profile. You need to update and optimize your LinkedIn profile (taking full advantage of the programming and algorithms of LinkedIn). However, depending on the changes you make to your LinkedIn profile, they could be broadcast to your network connections and raise suspicion. To hide your changes on LinkedIn, go to your Profile page and turn off “sharing profile edits.” That is done through the Settings & Privacy tab of your account.   

Be careful about asking for employment documents. Requesting copies of past performance reviews, covenants-not-to-compete, and the like are unusual requests. Some employers (thankfully) have policies to keep requests confidential when Human Resources’ channels and protocols are properly used. Hopefully, you kept copies of these documents and you do not need to ask for them.

Be aware of telephone communications. Avoid having job-search telephone (or cell phone) conversations in the office, especially in open spaces. Go to a conference room and close the door (keep your voice down), go out into the hallway, outside, or to your car. And keep conversations brief. The wrong set of words overheard by the wrong person will blow your cover.

Inform potential employers that your search is confidential. In your first conversation with a potential employer (HR or the actual hiring executive), state that you are currently employed and your search is confidential. This puts the topic on the table, and every employer will understand. Do what you can to schedule interviews (of whatever nature) early in the day, during lunchtime, or after working hours. If you happen to be a remote employee, you have more flexibility, but don’t take advantage of your flexibility to conduct a job search on company time (and dime). As your search progresses, you will likely need to take a day off (PTO or paid vacation) for longer, more involved interviews. Try not to take too many PTO days too close together. Your sudden disappearances from the office may create suspicion.

Be aware of your attire. If your office dress code leans more toward business casual, showing up in interview attire is a sure tip-off. This may require you to change clothes before returning to the office after an interview.

Anticipate that your confidential job search will eventually become known. Plan on your confidential job search being discovered by your coworkers, boss, or others, despite your efforts. Think about what you will say (in advance) if a coworker or boss confronts you. Be honest. Get a short answer together and memorize it. Getting caught by surprise and stumbling through an explanation is the embarrassing alternative. You could say: “Yes. I have been approached with another opportunity, and I thought I needed to explore it, just as you would if the circumstances were reversed.” The phrase “if the circumstances were reversed” often squelches a detailed conversation on the topic.

Searching for a job while employed is not illegal, unethical, or immoral. It is similar to having a part-time job. Just be aware of what you are doing and how it is seen by others and you should fine.

Branding and Your Job Search

It is imperative that you craft a professional brand that announces your distinct talents and what you represent to the marketplace. The process of branding is discovering who you are, what you are, what are your unique abilities, and communicating them through various mediums to your network or target market.

The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.) book lists numerous benefits of creating an impactful brand, including:

  1. You will differentiate yourself from other job seekers, and gain a huge advantage.
  2. You create the initial impression the employer has of you.
  3. You can more quickly convey your value to the employer.
  4. You can more easily match your skills and value proposition to the employer’s needs.
  5. You can better determine which opportunities to pursue.

The drawback of not having a professional brand is simple: you are an unknown, you become ordinary or a commodity. Employers will determine for themselves what they want to see in you. They will cast you in a light based on their own conclusions, which may not be the message you want to communicate. There is no perceived differentiation from other job seekers. And, you cannot command a premium, and have reduced leverage when it comes to compensation.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of creating a professional brand is the self-awareness of your unique skills and experience, and recognition of how they work together to create an impact. You will project the value of your abilities more clearly, resulting in a job that’s a good match for your skill set. Branding can also help you set your sights on what you want your future career to be.

Additionally, when your networking contacts know your brand, they are much more likely to advance it for you through referrals, recommendations, and so on. When the right opportunities come along, you become top of mind (because of your brand).

The professional-branding process is written about in The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.)The process starts with introspection and thoughtful reflection. In some cases, thinking through your branding can be both an emotional and a professionally enlightening event.

Think of it this way: as a job seeker, your goal is to connect with employers both intellectually (you can do the job) and emotionally (you’re a good fit). Having a well-crafted, professional brand helps on both levels. You must be perceived as the right candidate, and through branding you are better able to align yourself to an open job position.

Keep in mind that the effectiveness of your brand is determined by the connection that exists between what the brand claims and what it can actually deliver. In other words, you must be able to prove and quantify your professional brand. Failing to do so will have disastrous results. Don’t oversell your brand and capabilities.

Create a succinct brand. Think of it, in analogous terms, as a tagline or a theme that will be the foundation for your job search.

To help determine your brand, ask yourself some questions:

  1. What am I good at or an expert in?
  2. What have I been recognized for?
  3. What is my reputation with others (subordinates, peers, senior management)?
  4. What have been my strong points in past job reviews (if applicable)?
  5. What differentiates me from others with the same job?
  6. What professional qualities do I have that make me good at my job?
  7. What are the professional achievements I am most proud of?

The answers to these questions and the thoughts they provoke are essential to forming your brand. Now, synthesize the answers and thoughts into single words or short phrases that capture the concept of your responses. Here are some examples:


Award-winning sales executive with experience in workers’ compensation, pain management, consistently exceeding sales goals.

Operations Management

Operations executive dedicated to improving operational efficiency through effective leadership.

Account Management

Client-focused account manager focused on client satisfaction and retention.

ERISA Lawyer

Experienced attorney protecting ERISA fiduciaries from the Department of Labor.

A branding statement could also be a few separate descriptive words or phrases:

Process Improvement ▪ Lean Six Sigma ▪ Turn-around Specialist

Marketing ▪ Advertising ▪ Public Relations

The purpose of branding is to get you known for the value you offer, get you in the door, and differentiate you from other job seekers.


For more information check out The Motivated Series of job search books.




How to Successfully Work with External Recruiters to Advance Your Job Search?

Creating professional relationships with external recruiters can significantly advance your job search and career. Knowing proper etiquette when dealing with recruiters (those who are external and work for search firms) will create mutual respect and lead to a more rewarding professional relationship.

Before we begin our discussion on candidate etiquette when working with recruiters, the first thing you should know is an optimized LinkedIn profile is pivotal to your success.

In today’s job market (and business world), an optimized LinkedIn profile is the platform recruiters use to get their first look at you as a potential candidate. (If you want information on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile for maximum impact, check out the book Motivated Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles.)

Let’s start our discussion about etiquette with things you want to do that will impress a recruiter. Here are your “To Do’s.”

1. Profile your desired job
When you speak with a recruiter, know the type of position you are looking for, the industry, the type of company (small to publically held), and so on. Be reasonably specific without being too narrow. This will help the recruiter in targeting positions that will potentially appeal to you.

What you want to avoid is “I’m open to anything,” or relying on the recruiter to guess what would appeal to you professionally.

2. Research recruiters
Do Internet and LinkedIn research and identify recruiters that specialize in your industry of interest, positions, and potentially their client types. Only contact those recruiters that fit your profile (or close).

Contacting recruiters that cannot help you is a waste of your time. Blanket email campaigns to recruiter lists are a waste of effort.

3. Be responsive
When contacted by a recruiter, respond timely. When a recruiter is working on filling an opening, he or she will want to speak to you as soon as reasonably possible. Even if the actual conversation cannot take place for a few days later, your responsiveness is noticed by the recruiter and creates a positive impression.

When you do speak with the recruiter, do not treat the conversation as a “transaction.” You don’t want to be treated like that and neither do recruiters.

However, if you get the feeling the recruiter is treating the engagement as a transaction (caring more about the placement fee than a good career move for you), be sensitive to this fact.

Conduct your interaction with the recruiter with this in mind if you pursue the opportunity and for the future conversations.

4. Develop a relationship with the “good” recruiters
In the course of your career, you will undoubtedly be contacted by several recruiters. Some may come-and-go while others will establish themselves as true recruiting professionals specializing in your industry (position type, etc.).

Once identified, the good recruiters are those you want to align yourself, be connected on LinkedIn, and develop a line of communication. Recruiters can provide valuable information on a host of industry trends and career topics that can help direct your career path beyond actually placing you in a position.

5. Make relevant referrals
Refer talented colleagues to recruiters. The key here is to make your referrals relevant. Only refer colleagues that match the specialty of the recruiter.

Referring people that are not within a recruiter’s specialty is annoying to the recruiter and could result in the recruiter not responding to your referral’s outreach. This is simply the recruiter protecting his or her time and could reflect poorly on you when your referral tells you the recruiter did not respond.

If you truly want to ingratiate yourself to a recruiter, refer a potential client-company. You will be forever remembered by the recruiter if you refer the recruiter to a potential new client (and if that referral results in a placement).

6. A Toss Up: Sending an unsolicited resume
Most experienced recruiters cringe when they receive unsolicited resumes. The vast majority of those resumes are from candidates the recruiter can’t help. It’s a waste of time for everyone.

However, if you identify a recruiter that specializes closely with your background, sending an unsolicited resume could get you some traction with the recruiter. The key is the match must be near perfect. For example, if you are an underwriter with experience in the trucking industry and you find a recruiter that specializes in placing underwriters focused on the trucking industry, then sending an unsolicited resume might get the recruiter’s attention.

Let’s now shift our discussion about etiquette to the “Don’ts” list.

This is really where etiquette comes into play. Violating these etiquette rules will reveal to the recruiter your professional naiveté, an unprofessional attitude towards the recruiter, or disrespect towards the recruiter and their profession.

This could result in a limited conversation or “black balling” you from future contact.

1. Never ask who the client-company is
When contacted by a recruiter, it is bad form and unprofessional to ask the recruiter “who is the company?” This is especially true if you do not have a previously established relationship with the recruiter. Moreover, recruiters resist putting the name of their client in writing (in an email or InMail).

Most recruiters will reveal the client’s name in conversation after it is established that you are qualified and sincerely interested in the opportunity.

2. Never ask about compensation
Asking about compensation in response to an initial communication from a recruiter is poor etiquette. It reveals, possibly inaccurately, that your career is only about the money.

Compensation is important but there is a “right time” for it to be discussed. Most all recruiters will discuss compensation parameters in an initial conversation. They are looking for the right match and that includes compensation.

If you want to be viewed as a true professional, volunteer your general salary and earnings with the recruiter during the compensation conversation. This fosters a professional relationship of trust and mutual respect.

Pay Equity Laws
There are a growing number of jurisdictions that prohibit employers and recruiters from asking about your compensation. If you live in one of these jurisdictions, you are granted the right not to disclose your compensation. All of these pay equity laws allow you to volunteer your compensation, if you choose.

If you live in a jurisdiction that has a pay equity law, it is up to you whether you want to disclose your compensation to a recruiter. Most recruiters will still provide you with the general compensation range for the position they are looking to fill, even if you choose not to disclose your compensation.

3. Do not lie
Sounds simple but sadly some candidates do not tell or stretch the truth. Recruiters talk with a lot of people. This includes your colleagues, upper management, competitors, vendors, and so on. It is remarkable what recruiters learn that will reveal a lie or a stretch of the truth.

When your misrepresentation is discovered by the recruiter, your candidacy is dramatically diminished. If the misrepresentation is severe, the recruiter may discontinue the engagement and not contact you in the future.

4. Avoid asking for a meeting or a call
Avoid asking for a meeting or a call from a recruiter (especially a recruiter you do not know) to discuss how the recruiter can help you. It’s permissible to offer your availability if the recruiter has an opening or would like to discuss your candidacy in more detail.

However, asking that the recruiter call you can be viewed as poor etiquette. Recruiters do not work for candidates. They work on behalf of their client-companies.

5. Do not decline or reject InMail messages
If you are not interested in a position, either reply with a professional “not interested” or do not respond. Recruiters understand and are not offended if you remain silent or simply indicate that you are not interested. Avoid declining or rejecting an InMail message from a recruiter.

When you do, it creates a record in LinkedIn that the recruiter can see. The recruiter may choose to not contact you for future opportunities. Someday when your circumstances change (and circumstances will always change), you may be thankful that a recruiter reaches out to you.

Regardless of how secure you are in your current role, it only makes good career-sense to have a flow of opportunities coming to you regardless of whether you pursue them.

6. Never insult a recruiter
Never make a derogatory remark, either directly or in a passive-aggressive manner to a recruiter. This could be done in conversation or in writing. Doing so is incredibly unprofessional and will result in the recruiter not contacting you in the future.

In the event that a recruiter “has done you wrong” and the behavior is significant and can be traced directly to the recruiter and you need to distance yourself from the recruiter, take the highroad. Disconnect on LinkedIn, and professionally inform the recruiter that there are other candidates that would be better aligned to working with him or her.

Wish the recruiter well in future endeavors. Then, take solace that unprofessional recruiters seldom survive very long when they conduct themselves inappropriately.

By following proper recruiter etiquette, you will enhance your relationships with recruiters, advance your job search, and potentially shape the future directions of your career.

This article is also featured on CareerMetis

12 Important Career Lessons Most People Learn Too Late in Life

“If only I had learnt that early in my career…”


If you constantly find your thoughts veering along these lines, then that’s probably because you realize that the plans you had for your career aren’t going exactly the way it should.

That’s probably because you were so engrossed in the process of achieving success, meeting challenges and deadlines, and getting ahead in life meant so much to you that you’d completely bypassed that there’s more to life than promotions and appraisals.

Now most people, especially when they are inexperienced, begin their career with the notion that you have to keep making sacrifices to reach somewhere in life.

And what’s worse is that these people get a tad bit serious about making sacrifices, so much that after a point it becomes stifling for them to pursue whatever they were once passionate about.

That’s why in order to prevent any regrets that may surface as you age, you need to start following these advice to make your career more fulfilling and pleasant in the long haul.


1. Money isn’t the be-all and end-all

There are so many people who have kept their passion aside so that they can have a career and make a living, irrespective of whether they enjoy the process or not. What they don’t realize is that working on something that they love doing means so much more than doing something simply for money.

Why slog it out for nine hours doing something you don’t enjoy? When you could use that time to do something that makes you happy! You need to understand that money isn’t equal to happiness.

Now some may argue that you can’t pay bills without money. Yes, we need money to survive, but then why not earn it by doing something you love? So, don’t shy away from taking that leap of faith.


2. Not wasting your time in a job you hate

When you’re just starting out, you tend to take up any job. But that’s not a good idea. When you get a job that you don’t particularly like, you’re wasting your time just for some extra money, but not getting any valuable experience in exchange.

This investment of your time and effort ultimately leads to a waste your energy and patience as well.

If you don’t like your job, but still ended up spending years within the same office, it’s best that you quit. Progress doesn’t happen without taking risks.

And if you still believe you need money and that it’s better to stay put, then learn everything you can while you work. Understand the requirements of the employers.

Try taking part in various projects. In fact, you can even take online courses. Spend your time well and do anything that you can use within your line of work.


3. Listening is a virtue

The ability to listen can save you from a lot of trouble. With this ability, you can fix many issues, as it fosters creativity, provides valuable perspective and also let the other people know that you’re paying attention.

Listening to people is essential for acquiring a thorough understanding of situations. As without detailed knowledge, you can never solve a problem or barely identify the signs of it.

If you’re not a good listener, you can challenge yourself to make a genuine effort to listen more than you talk and we promise the results will be rewarding.


4. Learn as you go

Gather as much information you can about your surroundings, your area of work, and even the things that aren’t directly related to your line of work.

Even when you’re moving ahead in your career, keep yourself motivated to learn new things and try to use that knowledge in your work whenever there’s an opportunity.

If you have this vague idea that just because you have achieved something in life, you don’t have anything new to learn, then you’ll only be depriving yourself of the knowledge about the ever-evolving world.

And if you don’t stay updated about new technologies and inventions, you’ll never be able to solve the issues of the modern world, as your old techniques won’t be of any use there.


5. Never let your job title become your only identity

For most of the self-proclaimed “career-driven” people, their whole life seems to revolve around success, fame and recognition.

That’s their way of measuring their self-worth. But what they don’t realize until later is that when you run after fame or success, you let these factors control you.

Maybe it’s time for you to gain some perspective on fame or success. Learn to look at the bigger picture and put your focus on a higher purpose, and that way you’ll be the best version of yourself and help others to bring out their best. Only by utilizing your talents for the benefit of others can attain you prosperity in life.


6. Know the significance of teamwork

The purpose of teamwork is to share ideas with your colleagues, making plans for a certain project, and more importantly to help each other grow. You need to understand that alone you may walk but with your team by your side, you can walk for long.

So it’s perfectly alright to seek help from team members, and it’s also essential for you to be present when the team seeks your involvement.


7. Failures or setbacks shouldn’t affect you

Life presents endless possibilities, so never take failure to your heart. Even though it leaves bitter memories, failures are, as wise men say, the pillars for success. So treat failure like an experience you couldn’t have gathered otherwise.

Rejections are very much a part of our lives. That’s why learning to cope with it early on, will prevent it from getting the better of you. While rejections will always hurt, but dwelling on it will only make the matter worse. If you have positivity in life, even the toughest times won’t seem so burdensome.


8. Live your life beyond your cubicle or office desk

As mentioned earlier in the post, life shouldn’t only revolve around your work. There is so much happening every day, be it within your own family, friends, your community or the world, that you shouldn’t miss out on.

If you want to spend quality time with your family, then remember to never take your work home. Of course, you shouldn’t completely ignore your professional commitments, invest your free time indulging in your hobbies or go out to meet your friends or read a nice book.

Finding a proper work-life balance will contribute to your overall health and well being, and you will not feel weighed down with work and can carry them out with precision.


9. Made a mistake? Admit it!

You’ve probably heard this gazillion times that making mistakes is the first step to learning something. So why should you be ashamed to admit your mistake?

Admitting your mistakes will not only keep your conscience clear, but it will also allow you to avert any consequences that may crop up in future because of your actions.

Also, people appreciate it when you’re upfront and truthful. In fact, that way you’ll be admired for your honesty. As they say, to err is human.


10. Put your health over wealth

Your wealth may come and go, but you will never get back your strength and vigour by staring at your laptop screen trying to perfect that presentation. Unfortunately, most people struggle to find the balance between their work and life and eventually succumb to various health conditions.

And in the process, they don’t even get to enjoy the fruits of their hard work. Invest considerable time to keep your mind and body active, don’t let anxiety creep in, have enough sleep, eat right, and more significantly, DO NOT burn yourself out.


11. Worrying will only make things worse

So what the meeting with investors didn’t go so well? So what you lost a client today? Ask yourself, will worrying about the issues change things back to normal? It won’t, and rather it will make way for stress or fear. The only way you can get over your fear is by taking some action.

You will never be able to achieve the goals you had set out to achieve at the beginning of your career if you worry about the consequences. So even if you’re worried or anxious, push yourself until the things that you were worried about no longer matter. Have a little faith. Patience and perseverance always work in your favour.


12. Enjoy the journey of your career

When it comes to the career, most people get so busy trying to reach the destination; they forget to appreciate the journey. So focusing on the journey more instead of the destination will allow you to develop a sense of gratitude.

While there will be hurdles and challenges in work and life, focusing on the good things always helps. You must look forward to your work and try to learn something new, that way the element of monotony will never find a place in your work. So cherish the journey of both life and work with an open mind and an open heart.

Now we agree that just like relationships you career also needs some compromise and sacrifices, but what’s important here is to know where to draw a line. Simply chasing after success will do more harm than good for your career as well as your life.

So learning these career lessons early on in life will prevent you from regretting the choices you make.



Brian Howard Interviewed and Discusses His Recent Book, Motivated Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles

Brian Howard was recently interviewed on CareerMetis discussing his book, Motivated Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles. You can listen to the interview on the CareerMetis website, as well as YouTube, and SoundCloud.

This is the fifth book in the Motivated Series of job search books. Other books in the series include: The Motivated Job Search, The Motivated Networker, The Motivated Job Search Workbook, and Over 50 and Motivated.

You can purchase Motivated Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles, as well as the other books in the series, on Amazon.

Now Available as an Audio Book! – The Motivated Networker

The Motivated Networker is now available as an audio book! The audio version of the book can be found on Amazon or Audible.

The Motivated Networker has been endorsed by Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder of BNI (Business Network International) – The world’s largest business networking organization. Dr. Misner has been dubbed “The Father of Modern Networking” and is one of the world’s leading experts in business networking.

“The Motivated Networker is the most comprehensive networking book on the market on how to use networking to find a job. Well-written, thoroughly researched, and practical, The Motivated Networker covers important networking topics and introduces the “ICE” Method for job search networking. It is a must-hear for all job seekers!” – Dr. Ivan Misner

The Motivated Networker is a part of The Motivated Series of job search books.

Employment Perks versus Monetary Compensation

There is a growing trend indicating that U.S. employers are re-evaluating how they compensate their employees. Employers are finding ways of using perks and benefits instead of monetary compensation. The motivation could be driven by the fact that these perks cost less than pay raises. Another plausible explanation is employers have learned what makes their job and company appealing through use of these creative perks. Employees forego exploring job changes because they like the perks their current employer offers.

There is a (logical) split among employees in their view of these creative perks. Those at the lower end of the pay scale may not be as interested because they have more immediate financial needs. But, for those who are earning more, the perks have more appeal. For these higher earners, their reward for continued employment could be additional vacation time, flex time, increases in certain employee benefits, stock options, and so on. Perks that affect work-life balance and lifestyle seem to be more appealing to these higher wage earners.

Brian Howard is the author of The Motivated Series of Job Search Books.

Jobs Market Continues to Improve – Here’s Some Numbers

Jobs: U.S. employers added 148,000 jobs in December. That is over 85 straight months of employment growth in the U.S. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent. As a point of reference, the unemployment rate was 10% in 2009 which shows how our jobs market has improved over the course of time.

During 2017, the economy added over 1.5 million new jobs. However, there are some indications now that the robust jobs market could be slowing. This could be a sign of an economy at “full employment” or the inability of employers to find and hire skilled employees.

Wages: The average American earns over $26.50 an hour. That is an increase of over 50 cents an hour over the course of 2017. This news about wage growth has been anticipated as the jobs market begins to struggle to fill open positions. With a reduced supply of skilled workers (which will become a more prevalent issue in the future), employers will need to raise wages to attract and keep employees.

Underemployment: The U-6 figure from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is a statistic which includes those who have stopped looking for work and people who want full-time jobs but are stuck in part-time positions. In December that figure was 8.1% and has been trending downward over the course of the year.

Labor Participation Rate: The number of Americans in the labor force, plus those actively looking for work, has remained reasonably constant at 62.7%. Labor participation continues to struggle and still hovers close to a forty year low. This will not change partly because baby boomers continue to retire and younger Americans are choosing not to participate in the workforce.

Brian Howard is an actively practicing executive recruiter and the author of the Motivated Series of Job Search Books.