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When you don't want to risk your current employer knowing that you are looking for another job, send anonymous application materials to the company that advertised the job. Another reason you might want to apply to a job anonymously is when the ad to which you're replying is a blind one and doesn't give any clues about the company's name or location.
If you already have a job, loyalty and discretion are among the likely reasons you've decided to anonymously apply for another job. For job seekers who live in small communities where everybody knows everybody else, an anonymous job search is the safest route to changing jobs -- it prevents a current employer from suspecting that employees are unhappy or dissatisfied. Provided you have a justifiable reason for doing so, concealing your identity isn't misleading.
When you apply for a job anonymously, use one or two sentences in your cover letter to explain that you are currently employed and that you would greatly appreciate the recruiter's help in maintaining your anonymity. If you are concerned about revealing your identity in response to a blind ad, indicate that you're particularly cautious about applying to an ad that doesn't list the company's name. Identity theft affects individuals -- not companies -- so your cautious approach shouldn't seem unreasonable. Tell the reader that you are happy to disclose specific information, such as your full name and names of previous employers once the company decides -- based on your application materials -- that you're a viable candidate for the job.
An effective way to protect your identity is by limiting the information in the header on your stationery. This means omitting your full name, mailing address and email address if it contains your name or other identifying information, such as your birth date. Don't use a pseudonym that you'll have a difficult time explaining if you're selected for an interview. Using a pseudonym for anything other than writing under a pen name is confusing, at best, and sounds misleading. Obtain an email address that doesn't contain your name; however, don't use a whimsical name like "SportsLover@freeemail.com." An address like "JobSeeker10@freeemail.com" is, at least, somewhat more professional.
Your resume can be a dead giveaway if you're not careful. Therefore, carefully review your work history and redact information about previous employers and work experience that could reveal who you are. Use "confidential" and the industry to describe your work history. For example, if you worked at Macy's, list your employer as "Confidential Retailer," and instead of St. Joseph's Hospital, put "Nonprofit Health Care Provider." To be completely anonymous, omit the city and state for each employer.
The schools you attended also can give away your identity, especially if you are well-known in your professional network as having attended certain institutions. List your high school and colleges using the "Confidential" tag. Leave off the graduation dates for schools, but you should keep certification dates intact so the employer doesn't have to wonder if required certifications are current. But if your certifications contain identifying numbers, put the first digit or letter and replace the rest with "X." Resourceful recruiters and hiring managers can look up licensed or certified applicants using these numbers.
Many online services provide telephone numbers that cloak your real number. Search for "free telephone numbers" and you'll find many providers for temporary phone numbers. Again, provide the company with your real contact information when you feel confident about disclosing your identity.
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Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.