How to Job Search Without Losing the Job you Have

Q. I took this job because I needed a job. It is OK, pays OK and I am doing OK. It is not my dream job, and I have started to look for others. I interviewed for one job I really wanted, but didn’t get it. It’s so hard to interview when you have a job; making arrangements to leave the office, “be sick,” or have a dentist appointment doesn’t make me look good at work. How can I look for a new job, and not lose the job I have?

A. The challenge you face is one most often cited by those looking for a job as the most difficult, and by employers as the most annoying concerning employees. Employers do expect job seekers to make themselves available to interview during the work day even if the seekers have jobs, but they don’t want their own employees to do that.

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This won’t be easy, but there are ways to push back regarding the expectations for meeting during the work day. Many contingency recruiters do most of their work over the phone. If they invite you to meet with them in person, discuss the situation in your current workplace. Help them understand you are a serious candidate, but cannot risk losing your job. Let them know you are very interested in the job they have described, and introduce alternatives. You can offer an early morning meeting, perhaps 7AM, allowing you to get to work on time. Another option is 6PM, allowing you to get to their office, or a mutually convenient meeting place. A Skype interview may also be a good alternative.


Having a job and looking at new jobs should make you more critical when considering job opportunities. You must ask, “Am I really interested in this job? This company? Do I know enough about it to take time off to find out more?” This evaluative exercise will make you do more research on the company, the role, the manager and hone your research skills through LinkedIn, Glassdoor and networking.
If you decide you are interested, and when you are dealing with internal company recruiters, honesty continues to be the best policy. Let the recruiter know that you are currently working and ask him or her if their is any flexibility in terms of meeting times. You might say, “I am very interested in this position and meeting with you. Do you have any flexibility in your schedule? I would be happy to meet you early in the day or late in the day as I want to be respectful to my current employer.”
This may work for a first interview, but perhaps not later on in the interview cycle. However, I encourage you to continue to ask. Make sure you communicate your strong interest, and your willingness to do what it takes to meet, so the company or recruiter knows you are serious. If they can not accommodate your schedule, you may need to take a half day off or leave early or come in late. All of which requires a great deal of finesse at your current job.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners
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