IT Employment

Be careful when mailing resumes to anonymous companies


I recently read an account of an employee who, in response to an ad in the paper, sent a resume to an anonymous company via P.O. box. Unfortunately for him, that company happened to be the same one he was working for. His supervisor found out and he was fired.

To me, this sounds like a knee-jerk reaction. True, when you find out one of your employees is applying for other jobs, it can give you the sense that he or she isn't fully committed to your company. But some people like to keep feelers out there.

Many newspapers and online sources allow you to exclude certain companies from receiving your resume. That would have helped this poor guy avoid trouble.

Some people in the discussion of this account wondered whether the anonymous ad could be construed as entrapment by the hiring company. Others wondered whether it was legal to fire someone for that reason. (I will say that "at will" states can pretty much fire anyone any way they like.)

I wonder why the supervisor didn't take the opportunity to first talk with the employee to find out if there were particular reasons he was looking for another job. It would be a great way to find out if there were some internal issues that could be addressed.

My question is has something like this ever happened to you? If so, do you think that putting feelers out for other jobs is grounds for dismissal?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

42 comments
toxic psychotic avenger
toxic psychotic avenger

It did not say whether this was a large or small org. In a small one, someone who has "already left" mentally is a cancer. I would like to hear how small employers, with their hearts and souls on the line would handle this. The employee can't be giving best efforts to internal or external clients. How long should the manager show to other employees a)that this is acceptable b)that the boss is willing to bring down the ship that pays everyone else's mortgage. Surely, companies being the social organisms that they are, others know about the disconnect as well as the job search. "Oh, Susie's out sick again...really?" Can this be good for morale. And for you employees out there... Do you want Susie eating in to your employer's ability to contribute to profit-sharing, benefits etc.? Just curious. Surely not everyone works in the paper mill from "Officer and a Gentleman" where we can say way to go Paula!! when someone leaves. Either you want your company to do well, or you don't. Think about it.

djed
djed

You assume 1) every employee leaves due to dissatisfaction and 2) every dissatisfied employee stops working. I worked at a place where the turnover was 50% but the company still made a profit. I also know people who always keep their resume current just on principle even though they love their job. One size doesn't fit all.

seanferd
seanferd

Some people perform to the max even when they should probably leave, and know it.

cynic 53
cynic 53

My father gave me a piece of advice many years ago before I started my first job. "You are only as good as your last piece of work to your Employer, they are only as good as the last pay-check". I'm afraid there are very few people in my generation (Baby Boomers), never mind those in Generation X who will get a gold watch for 40 years service to one Employer.

seanferd
seanferd

I am not too sure where this is coming from, re the article. Sounds like a lot of assumptions are made, also. If employees are poor performers, address the situation or let them go. Employees are no more beholden to their employers than their employers are to them.

cynic 53
cynic 53

Thank heavens this doesn't happen in the UK! We have Labour Protection Laws, albeit weaker than the first class protection that the French and German Workers enjoy. If an Employer did this in the UK they could be taken to an Industrial Tribunal for Unfair Dismissal and if found guilty would be forced to pay a large amount of compensation or to re-instate the Employee. I'm glad I live in Great Britain!

Retireme
Retireme

Your manager is close minded. If you can't ask questions to the one in charge, that person doesn't need to be in charge. It's called working together to better the business! Diffently move on.

Retireme
Retireme

Your manager is close minded. If you can't ask questions to the one in charge, that person doesn't need to be in that position. It's called working together to better the business! Diffently move on.

thomas.maldonado
thomas.maldonado

I once mailed a resume to a blind box ad and it turned out to be the position I had just resigned from. Needless to say due to poor managerial and communication skills by management, I did not pursue the position.

NGT
NGT

Absolutely Ridiculous - It could only happen in America where lawyers & the Govt are the Dictators & the people seem silly enough to believe they live in a Free Country! Everywhere else in the world what employees do with their careers, enhancement, resume etc is how it should be - their business!

andy.nelson
andy.nelson

Equally, and I know this is going to sound highly controversial, it could be said that this pattern of behaviour by companies is just a reciprocal action in response to the way many employees show little or no loyalty at all. We often see candidates that we?ve placed putting their CV/resume online within a couple of weeks of permanent placement ? when we call up to see if something is wrong in their new job, they almost invariably reply ?oh no, nothing?s wrong, I just want to see if something better comes along?!! And that?s after as little as two weeks! While the actions of the company in question are certainly not to be condoned, is it not perhaps also indicative of a culture in which employees are viewed as disposable commodities in much the same way as they view an employer as nothing more than a rung on a ladder?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

There are those who will argue that employees got that attitude when companies started showing the same amount of loyalty to their employees. Unfortunately, the most important thing for publicly-traded companies seems to be what will help the bottom line most this quarter and not what will keep them in business long-term.

jodym
jodym

I was fired when the company I was working for found out I had an interview with another company. I had no prospects of ever moving any further in the company I was with at the time and knew it. My boss knew it too but needed me long enough to hand my network over to the company that bought them out. I think it's wrong to fire someone because they are looking for a better position or some way to work themselves up the chain or even to save themselves from being unemployed. Do you think your boss wouldn't do it if given the opportunity?

Leee
Leee

When you see "Company Confidential" on a job listing, it means one of two things: One, the company is so popular everyone, no matter how qualified or not, will apply, or two, the place has a bad reputation and/or high turnover. These two examples fall into the second category. The first time was at my husband's old company. A colleague, desperate to leave an oppressive environment, answered a "Company Confidential" ad and ended up applying for her job, not knowing that it was about to become vacant. Not sure exactly what took place after that, but there was a lot of screaming from the boss' office and her job became open sooner than expected. The second happened last year, when my husband applied for freelance consulting work. He knew the pitfalls of "Company Confidential" (hey, even if it's a bad company, it's freelance!) but ended up getting, yes, his previous employer. Since he'd left on his own, he had no desire to work for them again -- and knew that they'd be unlikely to call him.

programadorlinux
programadorlinux

That happened to me once, not exacly, I used to work for a telecom company, which buys products and services from IBM, and the very same day I game my resume to a worker in IBM, I was fired. I had personal reasons for looking for another job, and I knew the risk(IBM and other companies working for Telemar were explicitly warned to not hire Telemar's employees, and denounce employes looking for job to the company, to later be fired), but the risk was worthy, working in IBM would be great for me. I was lucky that at the same day, I got new job before being fired.

AlphaW
AlphaW

That is the reality of todays business world, if you are putting out your resume to various positions then be prepared to leave you current job. Some managers will blow up if they find out. Recently one of our .Net developers decided to leave and got hired by someone I used to work with. I was pretty hot about it as his manager, but I would not have fired him if I found out earlier. If someone seriously wants to leave, then you are better off letting them go in my opinion.

e_hood
e_hood

How could someone with conscious do something like that (fire this person). What, they've worked at this company since high school. Let the person get over 55 and making a salary that goes with someone that's been at a place for 20+ years and they will be the first let go when they want to save a few bucks. I've never seen a headstone that reads " Here Lies ________ he/she was a good employee"

jperick.mbei
jperick.mbei

This is a rather bizarre--albeit interesting situation. Fist of all, I agree that employers can fire employees for whatever reason. That fact not withstanding, I do not think that firing for "whatever reason" is totally "legal." Secondly, if an employer has a hiring clause that stipulates that "you cannot apply for another job--internal or external without your manager/supervisor's approval/knowledge, then I think firing this daring guy may have been justifiable. I am not an attorney, let alone one specializing in labor issues. So, my point here is simply a personal opinion. I agree with you that instead of firing, the manager/supervisor should have sought to meet with the employee and see why he was trying to leave the organization. There are various reasons why an employee might decide to leave. Some of these: (1). Needing exposure to other experiences (2). Seeking a better growth opportunity (maybe the employee is interested in say, management but see her/his chances limited at the current company (3). Seeking a better pay (4). And so on Most of these reasons are valid professional grounds and should never expose anyone to firing! Obviously, the reaction of this manager is strange. Sadly, anyone could have been trapped here! So, it is a call--a timely one for anyone to be very cautious and not trust all P.O. Boxes. Jean-Pierre E. Mbei Systems Consultant

Freebird54
Freebird54

that seems not to have been considered to this point... What if the job being applied for caught his eye....BECAUSE IT WAS HIS CURRENT JOB! He certainly should match up well for qualifications.. It could also explain the firing, as he was to be replaced anyway! Just a 'back of the mind' realization of the many possibilities out there....

frostbite
frostbite

yet another reason why we should find jobs and send feelers through our trusted networks. without a lot of background, this scenario begs more questions than answers. On the surface, it definitely looks like a knee-jerk reaction from the manager. However, if the manager was willing to fire him at any moment, does that mean that he was at best a "commodity resource" or worse, a dead weight? If he were a valued employee, a good manager would have worked with him to pursue his interests/career internally.

andy.nelson
andy.nelson

OK ? from a recruiter?s standpoint, here?s my take on all this:- Firstly, NEVER, EVER apply to a role where you do not know you are being sent. If there?s an avenue you want to prospect but without risking prejudicing your current position, speak to a good specialist recruiter and ask them to market you out to the right kind of organisations anonymously. A good specialist recruiter/headhunter will invariably have more contacts than you alone could have, and will know the ways to force your CV past the usual red tape that accompanies the HR department and their usual lines of ?we will keep you on file?. We regularly send people out to market anonymously, with the current employer name removed as well as candidate details. It protects everyone, and we only send a candidate to a list of companies they have approved. Ask around, get referrals of who is good in your target location and skillset specialisation and you?ll not go far wrong.

gpszewczyk
gpszewczyk

Its deplorable that the employee got fired but businesses today are cutthroat and feel that all people are replacable.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Yeah that makes sense in a management sort of way. I never put myself on the market unless I've already decided to go. At that point I don't give a crap, because to get to there, my employer didn't. The only time I've been persuaded to reverse my decision, I've been made to regret. I learn from my mistakes.

advanracing62
advanracing62

It's always nice to know what the current market is faring for my skills and expertise. I usually pop a few resumes out towards review time, so that I have a valid market comparison for my employer to look at- Of course, you never know when that feeler might turn into something greater than you expected. Can the grass ever be green enough though?

highlander718
highlander718

You are right, actually there is nothing wrong with the feelers. I guess I got to the point (at least for the moment) where the grass is green enough :-). Will see what the future brings.

nwoodson
nwoodson

Firing someone for traitorous behavior (theft, compromising "secrets", etc.)......yeah...necessary. Firing someone for looking for a job while not on company time is motivation for others to look elsewhere as well. I do agree that the fair question that a supervisor/manager SHOULD ask is 'Why would you want to leave?' and then remain calm because the answer may not be what one would like to hear. The chattel in the cube farm is already insecure and that type of irresponsible behavior by management does little to further the causes of...oh....say team building....esprit de corps or anything positive. As for it being legal in right-to-work states......so what? Ignorance hasn't been outlawed either, but that doesn't make it right or prudent. This type of behavior goes to reinforce the "college-trained manager" fallacy. [I am one....but I try to NOT be a fool.] Textbook knowledge is great, but sound decision-making takes practice and employee development can be painful, but in the end it tends to be beneficial. I???d say that poor slob was likely to be better off in the end???..unless he got a bad eval (which sounds likely) before he left

wayoutinva
wayoutinva

At least mine (VA)..I have yet to see an employee fired without some documentation in their file...CYOA...once you get past the 90 day eval period.Its easier than firing someone from a union job...but show me a HR person who will tell you that firing someone simply because you dont like their (add your choice of words here) is okay....I have yet to talk to one.

Canuckster
Canuckster

The first job I was let go from, re-engineered was the flavourof the week at that time, they provided me with employment search councilling as part of my severence. This 3rd party organization that was assisting the job hunters repeatedly made it clear that a person should never, ever, apply to an ad with no company name, etc. If they won't tell you who they are then you shouldn't tell them who you are.

jperick.mbei
jperick.mbei

Eaxactly! Like an old saying goes, the more you know where you put your feet, the better you are. The rule should be simle. Don't respond to anonymous ads. if you do, use our friend's trick. No name. Use an email address tha tcan't be traced to you. However, because isimly don't feel comfortable with fakes, the best I do is not respond to anonymous ads. JPEM

computechdan
computechdan

perhaps the employee was a slacker or had some other problems that prompted the supervisor to act. "the straw that broke the camels back"

highlander718
highlander718

It is a little difficult to make the difference between "fealers" and real job searching resumes. From my personal experience, I am not inclined to keep "fealers" or to waste to much time on the job market when I am comfortable with my current position. That being said it happened to me once that I sent a resume to a company that came out was the sister company of the one I was working for. Not sure what happened, I continued to work for the initial company, eventualy getting over the initial frustrations :-)

djed
djed

I sent my resume to a large electronics firm (you'd know the name). Turned out that the controller knew my current boss, saw the name of the company I worked for, and told him. My boss, an otherwise great guy to work for, told me I had to give six weeks notice or promise to stop looking. He thought I wasn't showing company loyalty. Not having any prospects, I promised to stop looking. Eight months later my boss resigned long distance while on vacation with no notice. Love the irony. Everyone, employees and employers alike, wants to get loyalty. But self-interest always trumps giving it.

jperick.mbei
jperick.mbei

Long live contextual Loyalty!!! People seldom remember the Rule of Thumb. They won't do unto you what they would love others to do unto them. As long as they receive their perks and are content with, vive la loyaute! It is indeed sad. Managers telling their employees to be loyal to the company while at night, they just become gray like any nighty cat! Well, I think poor managers want their employees to be loyal to them--so they look good and keep their job--not really to the company. Fact is, the manager knows that low employee retention can hurt their career. So, for you to stay even when you are not happy provides significant dividend to the manager. I have looked around, trying to see managers who want to help their employees grow into future managers or leaders. I have yet to find that brand of managers. If I think of any manager as a leader--a business leader, then certainly, every manager should care about how many people they have helped grow into potential managers/leaders, how many employees, potential deserters they have retained. Managers--great managers, should not just justify their success in terms of how much money they have helped their organization save, or earn. They also ought to be able to justify their success through factual and convincing statistics regarding human capital growth and retention. It is like every now and then, every where, we witness the expansion of a culture of "selfness," that super ichism. The culture of I, me. Managers who view their employees as the organization's primary asset/capital, as human beings, will love them, help them grow. Those who view employees as human doings will constantly use them to achieve their personal goals. Sometimes, at the detriment of the company whose loyalty they preach. JPE

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

When I was job searching, I kept two versions of my resume: one for companies that had a name. Other for 'blind' companies. You guessed it, to the blind companies, I sent a resume identical except that it DIDN'T INCLUDE MY NAME! And I don't include my address on either copy. If they wanted to contact me, I had a disposable email address on yahoo's premium email service that I setup for just that job# (takes just a minute). That way if I ever get spam I know who it came from and can delete that email address. There are ALOT of job ads that ARE NOT ACTUALLY FOR JOBS. Companies, headhunters play games. either to justify salary of current position, or skillset, or because they have to have ad out before hiring H1-B, etc.

maggie_t
maggie_t

I think there was a bit of treachery in placing the blind ad anyway. What was the idea - replace the worker anyway? Why the secrecy otherwise - if the requirements match the employee skill set and they're not expanding then maybe someone was nearing the end of his employ. This is why I won't touch blind ads - the employer COULD have taken corrective action with the employee being replaced, but instead takes the "easy" way out.

amaronge
amaronge

I totaly agree with maggie's response. Why was the ad out there in the first place if they (the company) weren't intending to replace the guy in the first place. This all boils down to supervisors/managers that do not have the skill set in place to be a good leader and mentor. Now, what we don't know is whether this person had been disciplined and was having issues at the job place. Always two sides to a story.

jperick.mbei
jperick.mbei

Maggie, you are asking a pertinent question. In fact, if this whole saga is proven accurate, then the company --or its HR people, or maybe just one incompetent manager, puts its own reputation into question. If the intent was to find a way to get rid of this employee, or anyone like this poor colleague, then I wonder. Can a serious company use such treacherous methods? Well, if I have the name of such a company, fact is, I will never try to work for them, nor will I encourage/advise a friend to work for them. The practice simply rises serious ethical questions. Jean-Pierre

Editor's Picks