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So you discover an employee is job hunting—Now what?


Say you learn that one of your star employees left his résumé on the copy machine. Or you get a call from an HR friend at another company who just received a résumé from your star employee.

You know that job hunting is a way of life for many employees. Still, you’re surprised and wonder what to do with the new information.

The answer: Tailor your approach to that employee, the reason he or she is searching and whether you actually want to retain the person.

There are three basic types of employed job hunters: 

1. Eternal job-seekers. Some employees are always searching for a better deal; it has little or nothing to do with your organization or management.

2. Angry or disconnected employees. They launch searches because they are upset about some perceived slight or have lost interest in their jobs.

3. Ambitious.
These are top performers who are good and know it. They are ready for advancement but see it coming slowly at your organization.

How do you approach each type?

Don’t mention the unearthed résumé to angry employees whom you don’t want to retain. Does the résumé date give you an idea whether the employee posted it shortly after an incident at work. Talk to the department manager to discuss how things are going with employees in that unit without bringing up that specific résumé. Examine exit interviews of employees in the department for issues that may impact retention. Get ready to launch a job search to fill the position.

Reveal your discovery to angry employees whom you want to retain, especially if they are top performers. Find out why they want to leave. Ditto for ambitious superstars who aren’t eternal job-seekers.

In both cases, talk with managers to determine what the employees’ issues are and whether the organization can do anything to address them.

Don’t confront these types of employees about their online résumés because it probably won’t do any good. Instead, inform the employee’s manager but stress that it doesn’t mean the person will definitely leave soon. Start the wheels in motion to launch a search for a replacement. 

Final tip: Don’t fall for shopworn excuses that busted employees use like “I’m testing the market but have no plans to leave.” Use your judgment, the résumé update information to determine whether an employee is telling the truth. But be cautious which employees you approach about their posted résumés: Revealing your discovery could embarrass an employee and make the person more determined to leave.