8 Tips for Job Hunting While You're Still Employed

Job hunting while you're still working in your current position can be a double-edged sword. Candidates who are employed are typically more attractive to employers. However, it can be dangerous. Learn what it takes to balance your current job and your career search--without getting cut.

Looking for a job requires a lot of time and effort on your part and it isn't something you should enter into lightly. Conducting a job search while you're still employed, according to many experts, is the best approach as candidates currently employed tend to be more attractive to hiring managers. However, balancing your current job, your family and your job search can be exhaustive, and if you're not careful it could end in disaster.

[ALSO: 15 tips for landing a job interview]

There are countless reasons to look for a new job. Perhaps you feel like there's nowhere for you to go in your current role or maybe you just can't stand someone you work closely with every day. Before you start to send out resumes be sure you have thought things through.

"Talk about what may be frustrating you at work and determine if there are things that can be changed to make your issues better. If you want to move locations, it may be better to talk about that with your boss, as the company may want to discuss remote working options, "says Chad Lilly, director of recruiting at Lextech, a custom mobile apps company. Bottom line, make sure your current role can't be salvaged. Could you transfer, change departments or work remotely? Is there something you can do to make your work more enjoyable and rewarding?

If the answer is no, then go, says Roy West, CEO of the Roy West Companies and senior scientist at the Gallup Organization. "You should go quietly, gracefully, swiftly and never look back. If you are not currently working for someone who clearly understands that your growth and their growth [boss/organization] is an implied contract and common goal, then you are compelled to find one that does and will," says West.

So what do you do when you've decided it's time to move on? Most of us have been there at some point in our careers. Do you tell your boss or not? How do you handle interviews and references? To help bring a measure of clarity to your job search, CIO.com spoke with industry experts to figure out the best way to conduct your new job search without losing your old job.

Who Can You Tell

It's never a smart move to lie to your boss, but sometimes it may be a necessary evil if you want to hold onto your job. Some companies have a policy of letting people go who are actively searching for a job. So keep your job hunt on a need-to-know basis.

"In general, it is good practice to keep your job search quiet. You really have to trust the relationship you have with your boss to divulge this information," says Lilly, who has 16 years of experience working in the professional services market recruitment business.

In fact, Lily says, it's probably not wise to share this with anyone you work with. One misstep from a friendly coworker could mean a pink slip or damage your reputation with the company.

Donald Burns, executive career strategist and coach, agrees: "Absolutely do not tell your boss--doing so will compromise your most valuable asset, namely, your current employment. As soon as the company discovers you're looking, they will start looking for your replacement. Your job is probably toast. You've 'crossed the Rubicon' and there's no going back," says Burns. Knowing the company culture on this matter will help make a decision on which path to take.

Don't Conduct Your Search on the Company Dime

Conducting your job search on company hours is never a good idea. When you are at your current job, it should be your primary focus. Underperforming is surely something that will tip off your boss that something is going on with you. It's unethical and not likely something that will get you a great recommendation from your present boss when the time comes.

Also, if you are trying to keep your job hunt discrete, this is a common way to get caught or at least to get the rumor mill grinding. "If your employer finds out they can start looking for your replacement and fire you before you are ready to go. It also hurts your productivity and the rest of the team. You start holding back on committing to new work because most candidates do not want to leave in the middle of a project," says Lilly.

Recruiters understand that discretion is often part of the process and are willing to do what they can. "If you are upfront with the recruiter they will do what they can to get you in. We are sympathetic to a point for getting the candidates in to meet. Most recruiters will talk off-hours or at lunch time," says Lilly. One tip he offers: List specific times to reach you on your resume.

Don't Use Company Email Addresses or Phone Numbers

Whether you're talking about social networking site profiles like LinkedIn and BranchOut or your resume, you really want to stick to using your personal email addresses and phone numbers for your accounts. Some experts even say you should restrict your job search to your personal PC. One inopportune email or phone call could alert your supervisor that you're considering leaving.

Using a work email address for your social media accounts is also a sure way to get yourself locked out of your profiles when you do leave and your old email address gets shut down or redirected. Whomever the email is redirected to will get your notifications and be privy to your updates, messages and who knows what else. You'd likely get control back after submitting a request but avoid the hassle and stick to personal email addresses for primary emails.

What Should You Do If Your Boss Asks You Directly?

If your boss asks you if you are looking, don't lie. "It may be best to be straightforward with your employer. You are at risk of being let go in this situation, depending on your past performance and standing with the company," says Lilly.

That said, there are some ways to spin it, according to the experts: "Lots of changes are happening here lately. I don't want to leave, but I'm a little nervous and just thinking about Plan B," Burns says, is one way to handle it.

Don't Be Careless With Your Resume

Be selective about who you give your resume to and explain to those who do get your resume that your job search is confidential. "Spamming your resume is bad business. It does not work and if you are currently employed, you are easily ferreted out when you respond to online inquiries. Even providing your resume to be privately circulated is a risk. There are no secrets," says West.

Lilly echoes that sentiment and takes it one step further. You also want to keep your resume confidential when posting it on job boards. Keep your LinkedIn profile updated, but be careful when you connect with recruiters. Your network sees that too and may create alerts as you start your search," says Lilly.

Don't Say Negative Things About Your Current Employer

Regardless of your situation, bad-mouthing your company or superior isn't going to get you the job. It's important in the interview to remain positive and focused on what you bring to the table.

"Tell them the truth," says Burns, "Something changed at the company, or you've reached a point where you've gone as far as you can go and can't spend years waiting for a 'spot' to open. Make sure you never even hint at anything negative about your current employer. I've met people who understand this rule but let things slip during interviews," says Burns.

"You should avoid bashing at all costs even if your boss is the reason for your leaving. Interviewees should think of something positive to say or keep it very general and shift the conversation to a positive about your performance," says Lilly.

How to Handle References

Accidentally using your boss or supervisor as a reference likely won't sit well with them when they get blind-sided by an employer checking up on your references. References should be given upon request only, according to West, and even then with the caveat that your job search is confidential for the time being.

"You should have three solid references from different employers," Lily says. "One of them should be a supervisor or past manager. You should only use someone from your current place of employment if you trust them not to leak or they have left recently."

Selling Your Personal Brand is Easier When Employed

For whatever psychological or analytic reason, employers prefer to hire someone who is currently working. "You are perceived as more desirable by potential employers and you are in a stronger negotiating position. In fact, some employers harbor a 'secret' bias against hiring unemployed people," says Burns.

Lilly agrees, "The advantage is the perception that someone wants them. An unemployed candidate will only have an advantage if the position really needs to be filled immediately and he/she has the right skills."

Put Yourself in the Best Position

"Even though 'global job shortfall' is at epidemic proportions, the most talented will always have options," says West. If you're working and thinking about moving on, make sure you've done all your homework and put yourself in the best position to get the job you want before leaving.

At the same time, it's important to stay focused and productive at your current job. The best employees always strive to finish strong and leave on a positive note. Do the job you are being paid to do to the best of your ability. It is only in your best interest and can make finding a job that much easier.

Read more about careers in CIO's Careers Drilldown.

This story, "8 Tips for Job Hunting While You're Still Employed" was originally published by CIO.

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