There are plenty of reasons you might interview for another position while working at your current job. You may need a new professional challenge. You may be looking for a position with less of a commute. Or, you have an opportunity to make more money. Whatever your justification, should you tell your boss you're interviewing for another job?
It all depends on the situation. Generally speaking, no—you should not tell your boss you're considering leaving. What's more, if you enjoy your current position, sharing your job search too early could compromise your relationship with your employer and coworkers.
When not to tell your boss
Don't tell your boss about an initial interview. Interviews can easily go nowhere. Wait to share information about your job search until you have a firm offer from another employer. If you like your current job, you can use the competing offer as leverage. A good boss wants to maintain competent employees and keep turnover low. You may discover that your boss will consider some changes to keep you around.
If your new offer pays more, can your current boss give you a raise? If your new offer is closer to home, would your current employer be open to a work-from-home option? Having another offer means you can make some reasonable asks from your current employer.
If you don't have a great relationship with your current boss, don't compromise your job by telling them about an interview with a different employer. The interview might go nowhere, and a disgruntled boss could pass you over for future opportunities.
When to tell your boss
There are some scenarios in which it makes sense to tell your employer that you're interviewing for other positions. For example, if your current position is temporary (such as an internship or seasonal role), go ahead and inform your current employer. Your current employer could also be downsizing or laying people off, in which case, there's no reason to pursue another position in secret.
Moreover, if your boss is supportive of your professional growth, and you'd like to use them as a professional reference, then it's in your best interest to be transparent. It would be best if you gave them advance notice that your prospective employer might be giving them a call.
If you're interviewing for another job within the same company, give your boss a head's up. No doubt word will spread that you're seeking a promotion or switching departments, so there's no need to play coy.
Who needs to know
Who to tell about your job search depends on your work relationships and your position. However, no matter your current situation, avoid these common errors if you're job searching while actively employed.
Don't forget to speak with human resources
Before sharing any news with your boss, talk to human resources. Explain to your human resources (HR) representative that you're interviewing with a different company but are not yet committed to anything. Gather as much information as possible so you can make the best decision for yourself.
For example, if you leave a job too early, you could be on the hook for technical, professional, or moving expenses. Your current employer may have firm expectations around when to give notice that you're leaving, and you'll want to plan for that accordingly.
Most importantly, some organizations have strict noncompete clauses, preventing their current employees from accepting a position with a competing company. Don't tread too far into the interview process with a new job without learning about the potential consequences of your decision.
Don't share your news with colleagues
Don't share your job search with coworkers, as tempting as it may be. If you start gossiping with colleagues, news of your possible departure will likely reach your boss before you can tell them. Furthermore, coworkers may resent you for considering other options; people rely on you and may avoid making meaningful connections with you if they know you're likely leaving.
Don't check out of your current role
If you're only in the interview stage, do not check out mentally from your current job. You don't have another offer yet, so showing up to work late, dressing poorly, or dropping the ball on your responsibilities only compromises your current position. It's always in your best interest to leave your current role gracefully and to set up your team for success. You never know from whom you'll need a reference one day.
Don't use company time or resources
If you use a company phone, laptop, or printer for work, don't rely on these resources for your job search. The same goes for your time. Don't browse job boards or schedule an interview during your workday. Not only could this behavior get you caught (i.e., you accidentally leave your resume on the copy machine), but it's also not really ethical. If you must schedule an interview during company time, take a personal day rather than sneaking around the office for a covert Zoom call.
Sometimes word gets out despite our best efforts. You may have posted your resume on an industry job board without thinking, or someone made a careless comment on social media. Should your current employer ask you whether you are considering another job, don't lie. Being sneaky or deceptive makes you look bad, no matter what you ultimately decide to do.
Don't burn bridges
Whether at the beginning or end of your job search, you must remain professional and respectful. Don't make negative comments about your current job. Don't neglect your current responsibilities. Poor behavior with one employer could harm your reputation within your professional network.
Be honest with your interviewer. Let them know you're currently employed and whether or not you'd like them to keep your job search confidential. Request they schedule interviews around your work obligations (maybe aim for lunch breaks or early morning appointments). They will respect your professional consideration of your current employer.
Searching for a new job while working for another employer is totally normal and can lead to new professional opportunities, better work-life balance, or even higher pay. However, the grass isn't always greener, so reflect on your reasons for leaving before diving into a new job search.
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