Q. I am applying for a new position, but do not want my boss to know. Is there such a thing as a confidential job search?
A. You are wise to be concerned about confidentiality in the job search. Looking for a new opportunity while employed can put your current role at risk. As cautious as you may be, you need to be prepared for your search to be exposed. Develop the response you would use if your boss was to find out; why are you looking for a new job, and why? You should also be prepared for colleagues to ask you should they find out.
Many people want to tell office colleagues that they are starting a search. Sharing this information can put colleagues in a difficult position if they are approached by a manager. Decide if it is in your best interest, or theirs, for you to go public prior to accepting an offer.
As you update your resume, make sure to use a personal Email address and your cell or home phone number. Complete this work on your own time and don't make copies of your resume at the office. If you do, it will end up on the office copier; it just will.
LinkedIn can be used effectively for people who have jobs that are looking for jobs; make sure to update your LinkedIn profile. Add references as long as you move ahead with discretion. Try to make as many changes as possible at once; every time an update is made, your connections get alerted. Readers of your profile may see these updates as a "tell" that you are a new job seeker making many new updates over just a few weeks, especially if you had a previously dormant profile.
In all of your communications, you will want to make sure you use "confidential" in the subject line of your Email. Title it, "Confidential resume of Job Seeker," or "Resume for Confidential Job Search." Use similar terminology in any letters or Emails sent.
In networking meetings, you will need to entrust your contacts with the confidentiality needed for your search. Your contacts will need to make sure they communicate the sensitivity and confidentiality of your job search every time they make a call or send an Email on your behalf.
Posting a resume sans name and company name has been attempted, but employers may find out. They may call to see if they know the employee; it is best to skip this activity.
When you are asked for references, you can provide trusted former employers. If your potential employer wants to speak with the person you report to, you can let them know that you will be happy to discuss that after the offer has been made. At that time, the choice to talk to your manager, or not, is yours.