A client of mine is under extreme scrutiny at work. His company is bleeding talent and they are on high alert for critical people that they could lose.
He, like me, has no poker face. He was confronted directly by his boss after we updated his LinkedIn profile. He found out with his answer whether or not he was looking for another opportunity. He wondered what he was justified in telling them, but he still wanted to be honest because that is his nature. He knows the topic will come up again, especially because he will be interviewing soon.
We brainstormed some ways to deal with inquiries about his job seeking activities honestly, but without putting his job at risk.
Realistically, even if they knew that he was looking, they can’t afford to just fire him. But he also can’t afford a ding on his record, nor could he sustain his current standard of living for his family if he had to spend any time unemployed.
Below are things that you could say to minimize concerns while still being able to deliver a genuine answer.
Reasons why you need time off of work:
- “I have an appointment.” This may or may not be sufficient for some employers. Technically, they are not allowed to inquire about anything medical. Keeping it vague may not alleviate concerns completely, but you may at least escape further inquiry for the moment. If pressed further, or to be preemptive, choose the next option.
- “I have to resolve a matter.” This me, again, be too vague to alleviate concerns, but it may change the perception from you interviewing, to perhaps a legal matter.
- “There is an event that I’m hoping will make me a better performer.” This doesn’t immediately sound like an interview, but it is the truth in cases of when you are feeling inhibited in your performance by the conditions of your current employment. If you are asked more about this event, tell your boss that you are uncertain how valuable it will be, so you will let him or her know afterward. Then, if asked afterward, you may be able to share some insight or intelligence you learned in your interview.
- “I have to tend to a personal matter.” This could be a stretch for us types. You would have to genuinely change your perception of a career from something professional to something that’s truly personal to you. Considering how much our career impacts other realms of our lives, this isn’t too far of a stretch. Most bosses back off from inquiring further about personal matters, unless they feel it is something that is impacting your performance.
When asked flat out if you are seeking another job, here are some answers that allow you to be honest while still securing your current position:
- “Let me ask you – can you assure me that my job is 100% secure and that you can accommodate the growth that I seek in responsibility and income?” This is potentially adversarial, and only works in situations where your reasons for seeking other employment is an uncertainty around the security of your future at your company. Everyone has the right to protect their source of income. This can open up good conversation between you and your boss around improvements and conditions that would make staying at your current employer better.
- “Well, you know. Everybody wants me. I am a top commodity.” When I envision delivering this answer, I envision it to be delivered in a humorous manner, but you have to keep your audience in mind, and it has to feel natural to you. You may expect further inquiry. The facts are, that if you are valuable talent, your bosses should always expect that you are being recruited and do everything possible to retain you.
- “I have met with other companies to discuss opportunities, but I intend to stay.” What you are not saying, is how long you intend to stay. Again, this could feel like a stretch of the truth, and you may ultimately feel worse when you do have to give your notice and it comes as a shock.
If you have not yet tried to address with your boss the conditions that inspire you to want to seek another opportunity, I recommend that you try that first. I don’t necessarily recommend that you tell your boss that you have thought about looking elsewhere, but instead to approach your boss from a place of wanting to make things better for the whole team. As in, “these are things that I have noticed.” And you will also want to come to the conversation with a list of possible solutions. If your concerns and solutions are not heard, considered, or implemented, any good boss would expect you to be looking elsewhere. Then again, any good boss would hear, considerate, and implement some of your solutions, given that they are reasonable. Also, most good bosses will be proactive about making sure that they know where you stand and what they can do to make you the leader you want to be.
Chances are good that you have had to take off of work for an interview. What have you said to your boss about where you were going?