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Should I tell my boss I’m interviewing for another job?

Quick Answer

There are pros and cons to telling your boss you are interviewing with another company. On one hand, it shows transparency and gives your boss a chance to make a counteroffer. However, it could also jeopardize your current job if your boss doesn’t take it well. Consider your relationship with your manager and the company culture before deciding. If you do share, frame it positively – e.g. you’re exploring options to advance your career, not dissatisfied with your current role.

Should You Tell Your Boss You’re Interviewing Elsewhere?

Deciding whether to tell your boss you’re interviewing elsewhere is a delicate situation that requires careful consideration of the pros and cons:

Pros of Telling Your Boss

  • Shows transparency and honesty
  • Gives your manager a chance to make a counteroffer and address any concerns prompting you to look elsewhere
  • Allows you to leave on good terms if you do get another offer
  • Avoids catching your boss off-guard if you resign

Cons of Telling Your Boss

  • May damage the relationship and trust if your boss doesn’t take it well
  • Potentially awkward dynamic if you stay in your current role
  • Risks triggering retaliation such as being passed up for projects/promotions
  • Employer could terminate you preemptively

There are good arguments on both sides, so it’s not an easy yes or no answer. You need to weigh up the situation carefully.

Factors to Consider Before Telling Your Boss

Before deciding whether to tell your manager you’re interviewing elsewhere, take the following factors into account:

Your Relationship With Your Boss

If you have an open, trusting relationship, your boss may appreciate the transparency. But if they are likely to take it personally, react negatively, or undermine you, it may be wiser to keep it to yourself.

Company Culture Around Career Growth

Some companies encourage employees to take interviews for experience and have open conversations about career development. Others view it as disloyal. Know what reaction to expect.

Your Reasons for Looking Elsewhere

Dissatisfaction with pay or work conditions? Your boss may make efforts to address them if they know you could leave. If you’re just exploring options, frame it that way.

Job Market Conditions

In a competitive hiring market where you are in demand, you have more leverage and less risk in being open about interviewing. Handle it more carefully in a weaker economy.

Length of Time in Your Current Role

If you’ve been in your role awhile, your boss may appreciate the notice to find a replacement. If you’re quite new, they could see you as dishonest for looking so soon.

Level of Difficulty Replacing You

For roles requiring extensive training and institutional knowledge, it benefits your employer to counteroffer and keep you. With easily replaceable roles, you have less bargaining power.

How to Tell Your Boss You’re Interviewing Elsewhere

If you decide it’s in your best interests to tell your manager you’re interviewing elsewhere, frame the conversation positively:

  • Thank them for opportunities you’ve had to gain experience and skills in your current role.
  • Emphasize you are not dissatisfied with your job, but exploring options to continue advancing your career.
  • Share that you hope to find an opportunity offering X – whether it’s leadership potential, training and development, etc.
  • Assure them you intend to continue performing at your best in your current position.
  • Express openness to discussing ways your current employer could support your growth and development.

By focusing the conversation on your career aspirations rather than critiques of your current job, you are more likely to have a productive discussion.

What to Do If Your Boss Reacts Poorly

While many bosses will respond professionally, some may react poorly by:

  • Taking it personally and acting defensive, hurt or angry
  • Threatening your job or making retaliatory comments
  • Undermining or micromanaging you
  • Sharing news of your interviewing widely

If this happens:

  • Stay calm, professional and do not retaliate or act defensively
  • Reiterate you have no plans to leave immediately and remain committed to your work
  • Start documenting any concerning interactions in case you need them later
  • Consult your employee handbook on policies around termination/non-disclosure
  • Brush up your resume and explore employment law resources in case you are terminated

With some bosses, it may be impossible to have a smooth conversation about interviewing elsewhere. But handling their reaction maturely preserves your reputation and options.

Alternatives to Telling Your Boss

If you decide it’s unwise to tell your boss directly, some alternative options include:

Cite General Career Development

Softer approach: “I’d like to set up a meeting to discuss professional growth opportunities here and my career path.”

Use a Job Offer for Leverage

Wait to disclose other interviews/offers until you have one, so you can use it to negotiate with your current employer. Don’t threaten to quit, but be prepared to resign if they are not responsive.

Say Nothing Until You Have Accepted an Offer

If your company culture is negative, it may be safest to keep your search completely quiet until you’ve accepted an offer letter elsewhere and are ready to resign.

Consult HR Privately

Rather than telling your direct boss, speak to an HR rep to get their advice on navigating the situation and policies. Keep the conversation confidential.

Key Takeaways

  • There are good arguments on both sides of telling your boss you’re interviewing elsewhere.
  • Consider your relationship, company culture and reasons for looking before deciding.
  • If you tell, frame it as an opportunity to advance, not dissatisfaction with your current job.
  • Have alternatives ready in case your boss reacts negatively.
  • Stay professional if handled poorly, and document concerning interactions.

The decision requires understanding your particular circumstances. With the right approach, being upfront with your manager can work out, but also be prepared for other reactions.

Frequently Asked Related Questions

Should you tell your boss you’re planning to leave?

Giving notice that you plan to leave is standard professional courtesy, generally at least two weeks. However, you do not need to notify them of your job search or intent to leave until you have formally accepted an offer elsewhere. Exceptions may be if you have an extremely close or transparent relationship with your manager. Even then, framing it as exploring opportunities is safer than stating definitively you plan to leave soon.

What if my employment agreement requires disclosing interviews?

Some employment contracts mandate disclosing if you are interviewing elsewhere, so review yours carefully. Violating such terms can potentially enable retaliation or termination. However, even if not contractually obligated, there are still pros in some cases to being transparent for relationship and negotiation purposes.

Can my employer fire me for looking elsewhere?

In most U.S. states, at-will employment means you can be terminated at any time without cause, including for exploring other roles. However, being proactively terminated just for interviewing elsewhere could potentially be grounds for a wrongful termination claim depending on state law and employment protections that may apply. Speak to an employment lawyer if you are fired after notifying your employer of an outside interview.

What if I suspect my boss will fire me if I give notice?

If you genuinely believe your boss may terminate you immediately rather than letting you work out a notice period, discreetly lining up alternative employment first is wise. Once you’ve accepted an offer, resigning professionally and politely without extensive prior notice in this situation is understandable. Make sure you know the company policies and local laws regarding notice periods to protect yourself.

How can I decline my boss’ counteroffer after telling them I’m looking?

If your reason for interviewing elsewhere is primarily about salary, be clear upfront additional compensation would need to match your outside offer to stay. For other reasons – growth, work-life balance, relocation etc – emphasize the factors leading you to look around won’t be resolved just by more pay from your current employer. Transition positively by offering to help hire and train your replacement.


Telling your boss you’re interviewing elsewhere is a sensitive situation requiring careful consideration of the pros, cons and likely reaction based on your specific circumstances. With the right framing, it can be handled professionally and even benefit you. But also be prepared with alternatives and next steps if your manager responds poorly. With tact and maturity, you can navigate this tricky scenario successfully.