When launching your executive job search campaign while employed, there are always a few concerns. The biggest concern is that your current employer might find out. Some consider this “disloyal” behavior, even if they themselves would have no issue with poaching an executive from a competitor.

A few companies have internal or unwritten policies that an employee (executive or otherwise) who is discovered searching for a new job should be replaced as soon as possible, rather than be stuck having to quickly fill a key position when that person gives notice. For this reason, if your job search is discovered, the company may start to seek your replacement, even if you haven’t announced you’re looking, much less leaving.

linkedin_executive_job_searchThere are some specific strategies you should use when conducting a confidential job search regarding your LinkedIn profile. Although having a LinkedIn profile doesn’t necessarily draw suspicion that you plan to move on, you want to be careful how you use the site.

To support stealth job search, while still being visible for business connections and to facilitate unsolicited job opportunities, the following tips will help you stay under the radar screen:

1—Turn off your activity broadcasts. This is the first step to take, as it will ensure that your entire network isn’t notified every time you make a change to your profile. If you don’t turn off this setting, all of your connections will receive notifications of every change you make to your LinkedIn profile. So turn off your activity broadcasts before making any changes!

2—Select who can see your activity feed. Your choices are: Everyone, Your Network (these include “friends of friends”), Your Connections, and Only You. Choose “Only You.”

3—Select who can see your list of connections. The choices are: Your Connections or Only You. Who you know is actually valuable information for future employers who are considering hiring you or searching for you on LinkedIn, so leave this as “Your Connections.”

4—Select the type of messages you’re willing to receive. Do not click the “Career Opportunities,” “Job Inquiries,” or “New Ventures” boxes because they will show up on your profile. However, you can check the “Expertise Requests,” “Business Deals,” “Personal Reference Requests,” and “Requests to Reconnect” boxes.

And be sure to fill in the “Advice to People Who Are Contacting You” section on that page. In particular, include your personal telephone numbers (home and/or cell) to facilitate employment-related contacts. You want to make it easy for people to call or email you. Remember, if someone is not a first in your connections stream, they may not see your contact information.

5—Manage your recommendations. Cultivate these over time — suddenly adding several recommendations at once may raise suspicion. So request recommendations over a period of time (for example, one per month), so that they appear to be more organically cultivated.

6—Don’t reveal confidential information on your LinkedIn profile. You want to quantify accomplishments, but not disclose company secrets. Focus on how you’ve helped the company achieve business goals and be successful.

7—Don’t participate in LinkedIn groups for jobseekers while you’re employed. Instead, participate in LinkedIn groups where you might be found by recruiters or future employers. Contribute your expertise (and carefully considered comments) in job function-specific or industry groups.

8—Build your network of contacts slowly. Do not send out multiple connection requests within a short period of time. If your number of connections jumps from 20 to 120 in just days, that’s suspicious to anyone who might be checking out your profile. (However, you definitely want to get your connection number above 100 – 500 is optimal. But do it over a period of time, not all at once.)

9—Do not use LinkedIn’s profile blocking feature to minimize your LinkedIn visibility to your current boss or colleagues. This will only raise red flags if they know you have a LinkedIn profile but can’t access it. (They can and will ask a friend or colleague to log into their own LinkedIn account and pull up your LinkedIn profile.) If you had previously blocked supervisors or colleagues for this reason, LinkedIn now allows you to “unblock” these individuals. Instructions and your list of blocked individuals can be found here.

10—Connect with the right people. It’s true that employed executives are perceived to be more desirable than ones that are unemployed. So looking for a new position while employed will give you higher leverage, but be careful and cautious especially with your online posts and profiles. Connect with the right people, and opportunities will find you.

One last thing to remember—LinkedIn is your PUBLIC profile, critical for your personal brand. As an executive, it's important to also join BlueSteps, your PRIVATE profile for discreetly connecting with executive recruiters at top search firms.


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