Job Seekers Want to Keep Their Job Search to Themselves

By Roy Maurer Dec 6, 2017
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Looking for a new job is a clandestine affair, according to research conducted by Indeed, the world's largest job search engine.

Two-thirds of 10,000 job seekers surveyed by the Austin, Texas-based site said they worry that others will find out they are looking for a change in employment. The study was commissioned in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The research showed that job seekers often feel anxious (64 percent), secretive (50 percent) and even like they are leading a double life (33 percent). In the U.S., 52 percent said their biggest concern was work colleagues finding out about their job search, an even greater worry than not getting the desired position (29 percent).

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"The power of the Internet has revolutionized the way we search for jobs but not our attitude to job seeking," said Paul D'Arcy, senior vice president at Indeed. "There are practical reasons for this—few of us would want our current manager to know we are looking to leave, so it makes sense to be circumspect. The study confirms that even in 2017 job seekers want a simple, fast and private experience."

Angela Copeland, a Memphis, Tenn.-based career coach and CEO of Copeland Coaching, advises her clients to keep their job search as private as possible because of the "legitimate fear of being fired by your current employer."

Employers sometimes consider job searching to be an act of disloyalty, she said. "I had a colleague at a previous company where I worked who mentioned to her boss that she was looking and was escorted out of the building the very same day."

The study revealed that half of job seekers keep their searches secret even from their significant others. Of the nations surveyed, job seekers in the United Kingdom were the most secretive, with just 37 percent telling their partner when they apply for a new job. U.S. workers were only a little less reticent, with 42 percent saying they would tell a partner when beginning a new job search.

Copeland believes this secrecy likely comes down to a few things: fear of judgment, fear of failure and fear of conflict. "Friends and family may think the person is silly for trying to change jobs or aren't supportive of the idea. There's also a fear of embarrassment after applying and being rejected."

In working with more than one person from the same family, like a husband and wife, Copeland has realized that partners sometimes have very different goals for their future, such as one person wanting to move somewhere else and make more money and the other looking for more work/life balance. "People may avoid telling each other these details because they don't necessarily want to create conflict with each other while they figure it out," she said.

D'Arcy said that it's crucial that recruiters understand this aspect of the job search. "Protecting job seeker privacy is a critical part of creating a great candidate experience, and employers should ensure that their recruiting strategies and tools support this need and expectation from job seekers," he said.

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