How do I keep a low profile while applying for jobs in my industry?
February 1, 2013 3:32 PM   Subscribe

I work in a legal specialty where everyone knows everyone else. If I apply for a job at a competitor firm, or as in-house counsel at a client company, does the interviewer have any obligation to keep it confidential? Or can they just call up my boss and say, "Hey, guess who interviewed for a job today?"

I find myself afraid to apply for jobs because I don't want my boss to find out.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They have no legal obligation to keep your application confidential, but few employers would risk their reputation by making your application public knowledge, knowing that would scare off future candidates.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:44 PM on February 1, 2013

It is assumed that applications are made in confidence. It is common to note this in the application - in the cover email to say "I appreciate your keeping this application confidential until such time as a formal reference check is in order," something like that. I often see resumes with "confidential" on them somewhere.

HOWEVER. People are people and you should take this into account when you make your applications. Don't send an application to your boss' best friend.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:52 PM on February 1, 2013

In my field (not legal), keeping it confidential is baseline professional behavior, and I think you can have some security in expecting that. Screw-ups and conflicts of interest (boss's best friend), etc are rare but can occur. I don't think you have much recourse if that happens.

Personally, I would go ahead, and I wouldn't even mark it confidential - to me that's a bit like requiring an NDA before a job interview - there is a whiff of "It has crossed my mind that we might not all be professionals here."
I personally prefer to take my chances with an attitude of assuming and expecting people to be outstanding.
posted by anonymisc at 4:00 PM on February 1, 2013

Basically they don't *have* to be discreet but they *should* be, because they are going to lose any candidates who they piss off by not acting with discretion. It is not a bad idea to use some kind of language like fingersandtoes mentioned.

It's also not out of the norm for people to poke their nose outside their company every once in a while to see what's out there - or for someone to be contacted by a recruiter. Even if your boss found out that you sent in an application and confronted you, you could say that you just like to keep your eyes and ears open to interesting opportunities.
posted by radioamy at 4:02 PM on February 1, 2013

I would drop a line in the cover letter or email to alert them of your preference to keep it quiet for now, but my view is also that the smaller your area, the more likely word is to get out, and the more precautions you need to take.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:40 AM on February 2, 2013

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