What to do if your employer finds out you are job searching

Are you job searching on the down low?

Job searching can be stressful enough. Add the covert operation of keeping it from your boss, manager and co-workers, and a day at the office can feel like a James Bond movie minus the awesome gadgets and sweet car.

Hiding your job search is stressful, but maybe not as stressful as being confronted with it once your boss finds out.

“So, I hear you are looking for a new job?”job searching at work

Awkward silence.

What do you say?

Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy during the entire process of job searching. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Luckily, we have some tips for you when you get caught red handed.

How to Respond If Your Boss Finds Out You are Job Searching

It is possible to handle this situation in a way that allows you and your career to walk away unharmed. It takes tact and honesty, but it can be done.


He or she already knows and lying is never the better option. You can make light of it, sugar coat it, down play it, but don’t lie about it. When it comes to light conversation, water cooler talk and nosy co-workers you can laugh it off.

However, a one-on-one conversation that involves a point blank question needs to be addressed. However, you don’t have to go into a lot of detail or tell the complete truth either.

CORRECT: “I am thinking of moving out of state and looking at my options.”job searching

INCORRECT: “Yes, I have been looking for quite some time now. I really don’t want to work here anymore.” (obviously this is not a good answer.)

If you aren’t planning a big move then something simple like, “Yes, I have been doing a bit of job searching,” can work nicely.

WHEW! So, you both got past the initial shock of letting the cat out of the bag.

Now what?

2. Have a good reason for “why”

Naturally, your boss will want to know why you are job searching and don’t want to spend your entire life dedicated to this company. It’s OK that you don’t, you just need to be nice about it.

If you are indeed moving away, or looking to change careers and do something entirely different, than explain that. Lead with how much you’ve learned in your current position, and how much like working there, but you just really want to move from ___________ to ____________.

  • Finance to Sales
  • Customer Service to Project Management
  • A burning desire to work with shelter animals

You get the idea.

Whatever it is, be clear and go with the “It’s me, not you,” argument. This may not really work in your romantic life or movie situations, but when it comes to changing careers, no one can really deny your passion to follow your heart, can they?

3. Job Security

If you are job searching because you are worried about job security, be honest about that too. If your company is struggling, going through major restructuring, laying people off, or doing anything else that is making employees uneasy, than looking for a new job would be understandable. Who knows, maybe your boss is looking too and you can bond over job searching ideas and tips.

4. Career Advancement

If you are job searching because you want to advance your career and don’t feel you can do it in your current position, tell you boss in a very respectful way.  In fact, maybe you have been told you can’t go any further or there is no money available for a raise and promotion. Either way, lead with the fact that you have learned a lot and enjoy working there, you just want to take your career to the next level. You might be surprised how fast your company will be able to come up with the money and job title if they really want to keep you.

5. An Opportunity Found You

If all of the above scenarios don’t apply to you than you can always say that you weren’t really looking but an opportunity came your way and you decided to check it out. It doesn’t matter if you just heard about it or have already had two interviews and are waiting for an offer. This way, your boss doesn’t see you as already having one foot out the door and it buys you some time. Career minded people should always check out opportunities, and any good boss or manager should understand that. If they don’t, it might just be one more reason why you don’t want to work for them anymore anyway.

6. In the Meantime

After you get through this awkward chat with your boss, continue to give your current job the attention it deserves while you wait for an offer or continue your search. You always want to be sure to leave each job on a good note with references in hand a good track record. It never pays to burn bridges in business, which is why honesty is always the best policy.

We hope this helps ease the stress of this awkward conversation. Happy job searching!

Join Our Discussion

For more insights and a community of like-minded professionals join our LinkedIn group Resume Help and Advice for Professionals and Executives.

Leave a Comment