By ELIZABETH GARONE
When Jon Burke decided earlier this year to look for a new job, he updated his LinkedIn profile with a new executive summary and up-to-date bullet points highlighting his recent accomplishments.
He hoped the changes would be enough of a signal to recruiters that he was serious about making a change and was someone worth contacting. He also hoped the changes were subtle enough not to arouse the suspicion of his coworkers or supervisors, he says.
He also wanted to make sure his profile was consistent and up-to-date with his rÃ©sumÃ©. Stealth job hunting while employed has never been easy. But in today’s workplaceâ€”where offices are more open and pressured managers more regularly check in with employeesâ€”it can require a Herculean effort by professionals. Plus, job seekers are often strapped with the workload of two or three people after the layoffs of the past two years. Still, savvy job hunters and career experts say there are a number of creative and traditional ways to ease the burden.
“In this market, having a profile on LinkedIn doesn’t necessarily mean you’re looking,” says Mr. Burke. Unlike wearing an interview suit to work, using such websites isn’t a clear sign of job hunting, since many people use these portals as part of their job. For Mr. Burke, who uses the site daily as a sales tool, it was the easiest way to search for a job without being too obvious.
After Mr. Burke, then employed by at NetSuite in San Mateo, Calif., made the changes to his profile, he says he was contacted on a regular basis by recruiters. He’d respond via LinkedIn to ask what they had to offer. Mr. Burke was able to quiz the recruiters almost exclusively through email. “I was very picky,” he says. “I â€¦ couldn’t afford to waste my time.”
For Mr. Burke, not using an online profile would have required a bigger investment of time. “It would have been much more labor intensive,” he says, recalling the “nightmare” of looking for work in 2003 when he used Monster.com and Craigslist to search for jobs. “It’s like having a second job at night, and you’re hoping people call you back. This way, people are calling you.”
Professional networking websites like LinkedIn are becoming particularly popular to recruiters who often have specific needs to fill when hiring. “Eighty-five percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find talent,” says Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, a career services expert with Vault.com and a former Fortune 500 recruiter. “It’s a completely passive job search tool.” To give yourself the best edge over the competition, make sure that any online profiles you have are up-to-date and complete, she says.
John Phillips, the director of Global Talent Labs at Microsoft Corp., says that one of the first places his recruiters look is networking sites and LinkedIn in particular to find candidates. “Your profile serves just like your rÃ©sumÃ© would,” he says. “If you’re not there, you would just be missing out on being found.”
Another way job hunters are keeping their job searches secret is through meetings at odd times. Stephen Miles, vice chairman of executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. says those doing the hiring will make the time to see a desirable candidate, even it’s outside business hours.
But don’t be too restrictive when suggesting times, Mr. Miles recommends. “Give the person on the other end a lot of options,” he says, offering some time slots before work and after. For his part, Mr. Miles, says he has held meetings as early as 6:30 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m. to accommodate candidates.
Mr. Burke eventually accepted a national sales position with PanTerra Networks, a technology start-up in Sunnyvale, Calif. after five rounds of interviews. For his first one, which was with the CEO, Mr. Burke suggested a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting in order to avoid having to leave work in the middle of the day. Subsequent rounds took place over lunch and dinner, also at Mr. Burke’s request.
For job hunter Toni Unrein, a former executive-level recruiter for Washington Mutual, finding the time to research the companies that interested her was too time-consuming. So she has outsourced the work to a virtual assistant in India through Elance.com. For $8 an hour, the assistant, a former financial analyst with an M.B.A., researches business models, executive bios, and the past year’s most significant press releases on the companies Ms. Unrein assigns him. “It gives you time to focus on what’s important, like the strategic information,” says Ms. Unrein. “What are the potential problems? Where is the company headed?”
She also uses the assistant to do research for interviews and says he has done great work. “It’s as if he were interviewing himself,” says Ms. Unrein, who has yet to land a job.
Recruiters say outsourcing research is a tactic they’re seeing more often, and some recommend it to their clients.
Even networking now can be done on the sly online. When Kevin Nichols, a paralegal, saw signs the San Francisco law firm he worked for would have layoffs, he knew he needed to make new connections in order to find a new job. But his office was close enough to his boss’s office that his phone calls could be heard and it would be obvious if he left the office in the middle of the day.
Mr. Nichols had already started an-in-person professional networking group that met regularly in downtown San Francisco. So in 2008, he brought it online by making it a LinkedIn group limited to locals. Today, the group has 1,200-plus members. “If I had to meet each time to make a connection, it would slow things down a lot,” says Mr. Nichols, who was laid off and later found a legal sales position through a former colleague.
Write to Elizabeth Garone at [email protected]