Interviewing With Secrecy

Most of us have had to schedule job interviews while being gainfully employed. But how much stealth and secrecy do we really need to have? And what about ethics- do they play a role in the process?

Anyone who has been on a job search, or has been contacted by a recruiter or another company, has had to figure out how best to plan an interview during business hours. This is nothing new and happens all of the time. But it comes down to doing the right thing. Companies are paying us to do a job. They are paying our wages, benefits, taxes, matching our 401k’s, etc. We need to do what we can to mitigate an impact on our employer.

However, sometimes there are no other options for scheduling interviews. Most companies do not have the flexible schedules to meet with us before or after hours. We do find that most companies are able to work with potential candidates by arranging lunch meetings, which work for most people.

What happens when the interview can go long, and potentially take up an entire morning or afternoon? What is the ‘right’ thing to do? Most interviewers are empathetic to these circumstances. But there are those occasions when there are multiple people to meet (e.g., HR, Hiring Managers, future team-mates, etc.) and scheduling after-hours is impossible. If there is to be a lengthy meeting, the best thing to do is take that morning or afternoon off for ‘personal time’. If one needs to be gone the entire day for travel or extensive assessment testing, the ethical thing to do is to take a vacation day. Calling in sick and having your current employer ‘pay’ you for interviewing at another company is wrong.

Brenda Greene, author of You’ve Got the Interview: Now What? says “If anyone questions you, say you have an appointment. The less explaining you do, the less you’ll have to cover up.” If you are cornered by your manager, you may be forced to tell less than the whole truth. If stating the truth can cause greater harm, then it is ethically permissible to say that you have a ‘doctor’s appointment’.

You are looking for a change, and hoping that the next company will provide that next step in your career. Interviewing at another firm is all about self-preservation. That means that you need to do what’s in your best interest. And that bridges over to confidentiality and secrecy. Unless we had an extraordinary relationship with our current boss, we would never disclose that we are searching outside of the company for another opportunity. Sometimes that does work but utter honesty is not always the best thing.

The best ways to maintain privacy while interviewing is 1) never telling anyone at your current company, 2) being careful of your online profile (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) as any of those can give you away and usurp your progress, and 3) see item number 1 again. Even your ‘friends’ at work will only be loyal to you as it suits their needs. If confronted by authority, they will not hesitate to throw you under the bus (self-preservation goes both ways).

Once things work out and you have a written job offer, you can then give notice to your manager. It is up to them whether to accept your two-week’s, provide a counter-offer (never, ever consider this), or escort you out of the building.

Always be aware of this: clandestine interviews happen every day, in every city. You have done it, your manager has done it and that’s just the way business hiring is done (when you already have a job). It’s nothing new and nothing to be ashamed of. The best bet is to never leave on a poor note; you never know who you’re going to work for in the future.

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