I am looking for either a more senior or similar role in a bigger company. All our competitors would be happy to have me. Some of our biggest customers also approached me. And some of our partners, including one of the biggest companies on the planet, are also interested in both my technical expertise and business network.

I don't want to lose my job if I am not 100% happier with the next one. This might take multiple conversations over the next few months, until I get the right environment and opportunity.

It's a small world, and it's very likely that any competitor, customer or partner will be in contact with a manager or colleague at my current company at some point. My expectation is that the hiring manager will eventually check internally "hey, did your department work with this company in the past? Do you know this guy?". What level of confidentiality should I expect in my job search? Or, should I expect that once I start interviewing, my employer will know?


4 Answers 4


If it's a small market, they can't afford to lose good candidates either. I've taken opportunistic interviews (not determined to leave but it was a good opportunity) and haven't had problems if I mention to my primary contact that I'd like to keep this quiet. On the hiring side, I've helped interview candidates who were doing the same thing and we've been careful; if somebody is currently employed and hasn't said the job hunt isn't a secret, then it's not in the interviewing company's best interest to do something that will irritate the candidate.

If an application progresses to the point where the company wants to make an offer, then there will need to be a conversation about checking references. Until then, unless the people you're talking to have a bad reputation in this regard, you should be pretty safe if you just tell them your concerns.

My experience is in the US tech sector.


You do it on the assumption that anyone could know. I'm in a small country, I've had a former employer informed immediately on the phone by a receptionist as soon as I walked in the door for the interview.

You have no idea what professional or personal connections someone has, so play it safe and assume nothing is private.


I have had great results with just mentioning to the hiring manager that I would prefer they keep things discrete. News getting back to your employer is always a risk when searching for a new position but I wouldn't expect it.


Do be aware that your call with a recruitment agent isn't the same as a call with your lawyer. A minute after you tell a recruitment agent that you're looking, they may turn straight around and contact your boss, especially if they already have a relationship with that company.

Their approach may be oblique and simply intended to set the stage

"So, are you guys looking at the moment? Oh, ok. Give me a call if you suddenly find that you are"

Slightly more sly

"I hear you're about to lose a programmer. No, I can't say who, but how about I send you some CVs to look at?"

or downright blunt

"I hear that Monoandale is leaving you. I've attached ten CVs to the email I just sent you"

By the same token the manager that you just sent your CV to could easily be (golf partners / Rotarians / Chamber of Commerce) buddies with your current manager who may then mention you by name over dinner. If you're looking locally, there's a very real chance you'll come across a local link of some description. You might just as easily be seen in the lobby by someone you used to work with at your old company.

You may be seen in your nicest business suit on your "day off" by an employee who's genuinely on annual leave. That never looks good.

Even if you tell them not to take a reference, the company may simply screw up and take one anyway. Think about how many mistakes you made in the last quarter and assume that whoever runs HR at that company makes the same number.

Source: I've seen all of these happen IRL. It doesn't end well for the candidate.

  • 1
    Just saying: The recruitment agency should also be aware that if they contact my current company, they will not be able to get any commission for placing me somewhere.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 23, 2019 at 13:00
  • @gnasher729 - This assumes a) That you find out who tattled on you and b) That the recruiter gives a hoot about getting a commission for finding you something. Jobs and clients are hard to find. Candidates are two-a-penny in all but the most exclusive of areas
    – Richard
    Mar 23, 2019 at 13:35

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