Job Search Mistake

#1 Job Search Mistake (You Could Be Making It Right Now!)


Day in and day out, I get e-mails from prospective clients in need of resume assistance, which I welcome as a service provider in this area. But a lot of times, after I get this message, I have to start an elaborate dance with them because they have put their job search in complete jeopardy.

What’s that, you say?

It’s true. Call it comfort. Call it laziness. Call it being too busy or tired to work on looking for a new job when they get home, but many people continue (astoundingly) to conduct job searches from their current workplace.

On my end, I can see that the person sent the message from their work account, and now I have to be careful – just in case the boss IS reading the e-mail when I reply back. So, I send a discreet e-mail in return, asking to take this resume service discussion offline to a personal e-mail account.

Sometimes, if the person sends an e-mail with a phone number, I call the number and see if I can reach them to ask for that personal address. But I don’t leave a voicemail… simply because I don’t know who is checking their messages (possibly an assistant?) – which could also let the “cat out of the bag.”

The point is that I don’t want to be the one to blow the job seeker’s cover. And I shouldn’t have to be. Nor should anyone else, for that matter. Job seekers need to be careful about getting reckless in their quest for a new job.

It’s just plain good sense to take ANY job search offline and only do it during your time using your own resources, not that of your employer.

So, why should you care? Do you REALLY think someone is reading your e-mails? Do you think this post is a little paranoid?

Think again.

Many employers have implemented spyware and keystroke monitoring software without the employee’s knowledge. The program could be sitting on your desktop, or on the company server that taps into your desktop.

And yes, there are bosses who do read those messages, or set up flags with certain words that would trigger a report that goes onto the supervisor’s desktop about those keywords.

Some job seekers are very aware of this software, but think that their company is too small to have spyware installed. Guess again. I once worked at a 35-person office. Thought I was safe until I was at a conference out of town and the big boss was bragging to some board members that he had just installed spyware on all the employees’ computers.

So, I found out before I did something stupid that caught his attention. You’d better believe that from that moment on, I kept my work e-mail squeaky clean.

So, sending an e-mail to a resume service provider, with a nice subject line of “Resume Assistance” isn’t the smartest move you can make.

It boils down to basics: Don’t conduct job searches from work, stupid!

Many people have gotten waaaaayyyyy too comfortable sending out personal e-mail messages from their work account.

It could turn out to be the biggest tragic mistake any job seeker could make, if they care about being discreet in their search. And once the boss knows you are thinking about leaving, they might just show you the door first.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Dawn Rasmussen

Dawn Rasmussen is president of Portland, Oregon-based Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, which provides resume, cover letter, and job searching assistance.


  1. Like Hank, I too am unemployed and was drawn in looking for some nuggets that could help improve my search process  That being said, I am surprised that this is a topic that needs to be talked about. First, looking for a job on your employer’s time is just morally wrong isn’t it? Secondly, I also worked in IT and know what companies are able to see on employee’s computers and phones. While you may not have a reminder on your company computer each time you boot up that reminds you the computer is for work purposes only, I am sure your company has an established and published policy regarding this. Don’t put yourself at risk, save your job searches for your personal computer on personal time. Take it from me, it is FAR better to look for a job while you have one than be in a position of not having one!! Best of luck to everyone searching for a job, I wish you the best 

  2. Have to agree that using your work email isn’t a good idea, but there is one exception I’ve heard of. I have a friend who was working on contract in the government and as her contract was ending used the temporary work email to get past the spam filters when she applied to other government positions. I thought it was actually very smart of her, but I get that this is a special case, in most circumstances this is a bad idea.

  3. I’m not saying employers don’t do it, but implementing spyware and key loggers without an employee’s knowledge is unethical and possibly illegal (depending on what any documentation you signed says you’re allowed to do at work (if you’re not allowed to do anything personal at work, them recording what you do is theoretically acceptable) or whether it makes any mention of the employers right to record any activity on your computer).

    Doing things outside of work hours generally adds inconvenience for everyone else involved, and you don’t want to inconvenience a future employer, and not really a recruiter either. This mostly applies to phone calls rather than e-mails or having to do things on a computer, but there are exceptions.

    There’s no excuse for the stupidity and/or ignorance of using your work e-mail account for your job searches though. Recording e-mails should be standard practice, and going from recording them to processing them to look for job search e-mails is a small step.

  4. Yes, I’m reading this at work. BUSTED!!!

    I do agree with the message but I also have had the conversation with my boss about looking for another job. I believe being honest with my boss has helped our working relationship. I am actually happier with my job because of the honesty.

    Their is software on our servers that tracks what we do. I am careful about what I do at work. My boss wouln’t like it if I printed a bunch of resumes out to go to a job fair, for instance. I do check my e-mail at work however. I know I shouldn’t do it but I am careful not to abuse the privilage.

  5. I don’t like the whole idea of hiding when I’m looking for a job. In my experience, my bosses were always aware when I was looking for certain opportunities and it was expected that I would be looking both inside and outside of the company. The most important part is to do a great job in you current position. In that case, most normal bosses would support your career development wherever it takes you. And if you are really great, they’ll even try to help you find or create opportunities within the company in order to keep your talent.
    Transparency, anyone?

  6. As a professional resume writer, I expect the word “resume” in the subject line. My company receives a lot of unwanted mail, and I delete those messages without reading them. I do agree, however, that you should NOT send those emails from an existing place of employment.

  7. This is truly a huge mistake you don’t want to be making in your job search. Leave your job search until you’re off work hours, unless you want your boss in on the secret that you’re looking to move on. This goes for all aspects of your job search, whether it’s applying to jobs or recording your video resume on a day you’re the only one holding down the office. Just because people aren’t staring at you doesn’t mean they won’t see what you’re doing. If you want to keep your job search discreet, perform it on your own time.

  8. Just to be devil’s advocate, I’d say that it might actually be good for your employer to learn about your job search. If you’re looking for a new job, there’s clearly something you’re unhappy with in your current situation, and you’re probably not alone in that sentiment. A proactive employer can (should) translate workplace traffic on or into an open discussion of what could be improved about the working environment. Of course, too few workplaces are that proactive or forward-thinking, and it is all too likely that a job search could get you a warning or a pink slip instead of what you deserve: an honest conversation about how things could get better.

  9. I agree the headline could be better but I think that the advice is rock solid. When I started this job I had to sort through the previous employee’s paperwork: I could tell in a matter of seconds that most of what he did while at this desk was job search. Apparently this employer doesn’t care because he retained a good relationship with them.

    But my former employers… very different. A company of about 125 with 4 full-time IT people who apparently monitored our computer usage closely. One day one of them said something to me that made it clear that he had read some a personal correspondence of mine so I stopped using the computer for personal communication immediately, using my phone instead. Good move because less than two weeks later a colleague was fired for something he had done on his computer. After that I started looking for a new job – all done at home and all correspondence done through my personal email because I didn’t want to tip anyone off to what I was doing.

  10. I agree totally! I work in IT so I know never to trust the company with ANY of my personal email. (I also carry 2 cell phones if the company gives me one.)

    Also, be careful what you forward from your work account to your personal account. Companies check and they are not just looking for emails that send out company secrets. If you want to keep contact information for networking purposes, write it down or print it out and manually enter it into your personal account. If you want to keep an email that supports a claim you may have about differences with the company or someone in it, print it out. If someone sends you an email critical of the company or someone in it, print it if you want, but don’t respond and delete it immediately. (Ask them off line to not do that again.) Things that you delete can generally be accessed by the company, but you can at least try to show that you don’t get involved in that kind of discussion (where they can see it at least). Don’t forward these things to your personal account.

  11. I was drawn to your headline, at first, because I thought it related to my job hunt.

    Later I discovered that the advice is for people who already have a job, but they want another one.

    No offense, but that headline is a buzz kill.

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