Whoops! Your boss just discovered that you're interviewing for a new job. There’s no telling how it happened – maybe she heard it through the grapevine. Perhaps she found incriminating emails on your work computer.
Or, it could be that an employer you’ve applied to contacted her to learn more about your work history.
Now what? First of all, it's time for some serious damage control.
You'll need to act quickly, especially if your job search was merely exploratory and you want to keep your current job.
What to do next depends on what you were doing when you caught, and how much your manager has discovered.
What To Do if the Boss Catches You Job Searching
In today’s competitive employment climate, it isn’t unusual for employers to try to “steal” top talent from their competitors. Perhaps you weren't actively seeking employment, but were solicited by a recruiter or another employer to interview.
If so, tell your boss that you love your job, you want to stay, and you were simply interested in hearing what the company had to say. Make it very clear that you don't have plans to leave in the near future (if, in fact, that's the case).
If you have built a strong rapport with your employer during your tenure, it may well happen (in a best case scenario) that they inquire about what benefits another employer is offering you and decide to give you a comparable raise, a more flexible work schedule, or other benefits.
When You Were Considering a Job Change
Were you considering a job change? Janet Scarborough Civitelli, VocationVillage.com, suggests explaining to your supervisor that your standard operating procedure for career management is to do continual assessment of your short- and long-term career goals.
If you present your participation in an interview as a chance to learn more about your marketability and competitiveness in the job marketplace rather than as a rejection of your current job, your boss may (hopefully) take it less personally.
It also puts them on notice that you take your career seriously and intend to steadily advance upward on your career ladder.
When You Hate Your Job
Do you hate your job and can't wait to find a new one? Then maybe getting caught isn't such a bad thing. This might be a good opportunity to review the issues you have and perhaps even resolve them.
At the very least, your discussion with your boss will clear the air and get the problems on the table. Worst case scenario, you can make plans for an amicable departure and perhaps gain your employer's support and assistance in your job search.
Tell the Truth
Whatever the circumstances - tell the truth. Especially in a case like this, where you’ve been caught “red-handed” and there just isn't too much you can say to deny that you’ve been involved in a job search.
Lies always seem to find a way to come back to haunt you! If you aren’t straightforward with your response, be prepared for an uncomfortable time period until you and the boss get back into a normal routine and a level of trust is restored.
Don't be surprised if your boss is upset for quite a while, whether or not you tell the truth. You should realize that she may wonder if and when you are going to resign and whether she should consider replacing you. Just remember - these are routine consequences when you decide to actively pursue a new job you hope to do for the rest of your working career.
How Not to Get Caught
When you don't want your current employer to find out that you are job hunting, there are steps you can take to keep your job search confidential. These include requesting that a potential employer keep their knowledge of your application secret, and posting your resume on job sites that allow you to keep your contact information and current employer’s name under wraps.
By no means should you conduct your job search on your employer’s campus. Use a private email address and cell phone and your personal computer or tablet – not your work computer – to conduct your career search. If an employer calls you on your cell phone while you’re in the office, let them leave a message and return their call as soon as possible from somewhere that your conversation won’t be overheard.
Finally, be careful what information you share about your job search on social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. While networking on social media can be a good means to learn about new jobs, it’s also a sure-fire way to let the cat out of the bag. .