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How your HR department knows you are conducting a job search

looking for a job

How do I know this employee isn’t going anywhere? 

7 Ways HR knows you are conducting a job search

If you are conducting a job search while currently employed then pay attention because the Man is noticing. There are plenty of articles titled, “5 reasons you should be looking for a new job”, or the infamous, “10 signs that you are in the wrong job”. That topic has been covered 5 times too many. Been there, done that. This is my version on this topic: The 7 reasons HR will suspect that you are conducting a job search.

If you play poker, you know to look for your opponents “tell”.  Poker tells are verbal and nonverbal cues players give about the hands they’re holding. This is especially helpful when the tell is subconscious and consistent. Does your opponent rub their forehead when bluffing? Do they scratch their nose when they feel really confident? Sometimes a player may fake a tell hoping to trick their opponents into making poor decisions.

Employees also have their various tells and my Nasty antennae are NOT going desk to desk looking for them. That being said, I have seen these same tells so many times, I just can’t help but notice. They stick out like a bad hairpiece and you just can’t help but notice and wonder.  Again, I am not consciously looking, but these signs stick out to most HR people. If I see you tipping your hand, you give me a reason to look deeper. The following are a few of the “tells” I will take notice of because it is usually an indication that an employee is:

1. Not happy with their role.

2. Looking for a new job.

3. Or both.

Based on the employee, I may not say anything and hope they get an offer sooner than later. I may take the person out to coffee to see “what’s up” because you would be surprised how often the company can make an adjustment to help the signaling employee. More than 50% of the time, the company can make an adjustment and keep the employee happy. Most employees just assume that the company can’t or won’t make a change and this is where they shortchange themselves.       

This is how you signal to HR that you are conducting a job search while currently employed, or worse, that you are miserable and not looking. (If you are miserable and NOT conducting a job search then you’re just a “butt in the seat”, and everyone loses. The company loses, your co-workers lose, and most importantly, YOU lose.  Stay tuned for that post.)

  • You are dressing better. You may not be in a suit, but all it takes is a change of shirt or shoes and you are all dressed up with no place to go but the company lunchroom. If you are usually in a t-shirt and a hoodie and you start coming to work in a button-down shirt and a pair of khaki’s…well. Despite my reputation, I am not that stupid and you are probably conducting a job search.
  • Your LinkedIn profile starts racking up recommendations. When you first applied for a job with our company, the first place I visited was your LinkedIn profile. I don’t place much importance on LinkedIn recommendations because the majority of them are requested, but I noticed how many you have. Start increasing that number exponentially in a short period of time and my eyebrows will start to furrow.  I assume you are conducting a job search.
  • You start taking time off, specifically coming in late or leaving early. I understand if you are shifting hours because you have physical therapy a few times a month, but if your schedule changes at the last-minute and your kids are not on spring break the Spidey sense starts to tingle because I assume you are interviewing.
  • You remove all personal items from your desk. Most people don’t even realize they are doing this. It is a subconscious move. Most people have a picture of their dog, their significant other, or the rugrats’ school artwork hanging up in their cubicle. If you suddenly have nothing on your office walls, then I can only deduce is that you are done with Acme Publishing. You are “so done” that you are ready to leave as soon as the next offer comes along. You are standing on the platform of life, bags are packed with the ticket in hand conducting a job search.   
  • Your normally academic looking bookshelf filled with industry-related books and manuals are suddenly as bare as old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. If all you have is a few loose papers and a lonely company issued Swingline sitting on a dusty shelf, bogey at 12 o’clock.
  • You are not attending company functions. Regardless of the function’s size or importance, the company is hosting this function for you, the employee.  If you are not going to show up for a free meal and some forced fun at the summer picnic, what am I supposed to think?  If we offer free beer and you don’t show up, that is a dead giveaway.  Not showing up to a co-workers birthday party isn’t just a tell it is a loud and proud F – U.  If you sit at your desk surfing the internet while everyone is in the break room sharing a cake and candles. . .  “ohhh Johnny, that is just plain cold”.  Are you on conducting a job search?     
  • You scurry away to take calls away from your desk. You may take business calls at your desk but if you are suddenly taking personal calls away from your desk on the cell, I have one of four nosey thoughts:  a new love interest, drama with the current love interest, bill collector, or a recruiter on the other end of the line. My odds are 1 in 4 on this bet and I need to make a boat payment at the end of the month.
  • You are not participating in meetings. You don’t have an opinion, you don’t raise your hand, you don’t object to anything. Why? The only reason I can think is that you don’t give a shit and any decision we come to isn’t going to affect you because Elvis has left the building. Read my last post on this topic.    
  • You are asking about how the company pays out vacation and sick leave. You have a sudden interest in your 401K and the vesting of your stock options. Hmmm. . .what is this guy thinking?  Generally speaking, if someone is asking what it takes to liquidate a 401K or options. . .You probably found a job.   

Anyone of these things by itself is not going to raise the hairs on the back of my neck, but a bunch of recommendations on LinkedIn, cleaning your desk of all personal items and you asking about how the vacation accrual works is going to tip me off. How I react after that? Well, that all depends on if I want you to stay or want to show you the door myself.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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