Company Laptop for Interview: Safe?

Here’s whether it’s safe to use the company laptop for an interview such as through Zoom:

Generally speaking, it’s at least frowned upon to use a company laptop to interview for a job with another company. 

In some cases, it could be illegal. 

In other cases, you can do it with relatively little risk or fallout. 

It completely depends on the nature of your job and your relationship with the company.

So if you want to learn all about how safe it is exactly to use your company laptop for interviews, then this article is for you.

Keep reading!

Company Laptop for Interview: Safe? (e.g., Zoom?)

Why Would You Use the Company Laptop For an Interview? (3 Things)

Let’s all be brutally honest for a minute. 

You’re here because you at least acknowledge that it might not be ok to use a company laptop to interview for another job. 

The downsides vary, and I’ll go through them in detail later, but the point is that you at least have some reservations if you’re asking the question in the first place.

Despite that, you’re still considering doing it anyway. That means that what we’re really discussing is a risk analysis. 

Is it worth it to risk fallout by using the work laptop? 

The only way to answer that is to consider why you want to use the company laptop and what consequences you might face for doing so. 

Let’s start by looking at why you would want to use a company laptop.

#1 Convenience

This is obviously the top reason to use a company laptop to take an interview for another job. The laptop is already there. 

You probably already do Zoom meetings (or any other type of virtual conference) on the laptop, so it’s set up and ready to go. 

Also, you probably have a workspace set up, so it’s a nice location for a quiet, professional interview.

If any of that sounds familiar, then this might be the only motivation you need. 

I’m going to talk about the downsides of using your company laptop in this way, so consider all of that before you make up your mind. 

But, I get it. 

It’s convenient.

#2 Necessity

In other cases, you might already understand why this prospect is risky. 

It’s why you Googled the question and clicked on this link in the first place. 

But, you’re up against a wall. 

You don’t really have a better way to take the interview, and it’s an important potential career move.

Again, I’m going to cover the downsides, and it’s important that you think them through. 

I’ll also give you some alternative courses of action that might help. 

Ultimately, if you don’t have a better option, it might be worth the risk. That’s ultimately up to you.

#3 Blurred Lines

Many of you might sit in this category. 

You’re wondering if it’s really bad to use a company laptop for an interview, and depending on the circumstances, it might not actually be unethical or wrong.

Consider a few possibilities.

Does the company own the laptop? 

Do they let you take it home? 

Is it reserved specifically for work use, or is personal use actually ok (this is really a thing with some employers)? 

Is it actually your laptop but they make it so you can use it as a work laptop?

If the company owns the laptop and clearly told you that it’s only for work, then the answer is clear. 

Using it for an interview violates that agreement and could create problems for you. 

If you technically own the laptop, then they really can’t tell you what you do with it, as long as it’s not while you’re on the clock.

Plenty of other situations can really blur these lines. 

So, if you’re not really sure, consider the potential downsides and alternatives before you commit to anything.

Why Shouldn’t You Use the Company Laptop For an Interview? (3 Points)

We’ve covered your motivations. 

Now, we can get into the risks. 

Depending on the nature of your job, the risks could be incredibly mild. They could put your occupation at risk. 

If your work requires security clearance and you use your laptop in an unauthorized way, you could even go to jail.

Security clearance is the biggest deal. If that describes your work, then my advice is to not do this. 

Find a different way to have the meeting.

If security clearance isn’t an issue, then I’m still talking to you. Things could get bad, so let’s talk about the particulars.

#1 Tracking

It’s not at all uncommon for a company to track how employees use issued computers. 

The tools for tracking what you do with a laptop are sophisticated and powerful, and it’s very possible for the company to know when you take the interview. 

They can even watch the interview through your laptop without you knowing about it.

So, if there’s a chance that this all leads down a bad road, understand that hiding the interview might be very difficult.

#2 Retaliation

This is the real risk. 

It doesn’t actually matter if the company knows that you took an interview. 

What matters a lot more is what they do with that knowledge, and retaliation is probably the biggest risk. 

The company might cut your hours, responsibilities, or pay. 

Some bosses will even fire you since you were looking to leave the company anyway.

If you are in an at-will work location, then the company legally can fire you without any negative consequences on their end. 

This is what you want to consider the most carefully. 

What do you think your boss would do if they knew about your interview? 

That should inform your decision.

#3 Company Rules

The other big risk to consider is company policy. 

If the company owns the laptop, they have the right to set and enforce rules regarding its use. 

If the rule is along the lines of “only use the laptop for work,” then you could get in trouble. 

Your contract might even spell out potential consequences of that trouble, and the company is within its legal rights to pursue such punishment.

If you’re not clear on any of this, reread your contract, employee handbook, or any other documentation attached to your job.

What Options Do You Have Besides Just Using the Company Laptop For an Interview? (3 Ways)

We’ve gone through the pros and cons. 

You have a decision to make, and it’s not always an easy one. 

Something that could help a lot is finding alternative ways to take the interview. 

You can double-check that an in-person interview is out of the question. 

If it is, there are still ways to try to do a Zoom interview without risking the wrath of the company.

I’ve got three tips for you. If you think about it, you might be able to come up with more alternatives.

#1 Talk to Your Boss

This is basically a 50/50, so think about it carefully and read the full section before you stomp off to have a chat with your boss.

Every workplace is different. 

Some bosses will not be offended by you looking for a better job to advance your career. 

If there’s not much room for you to move up and they get it, they might even offer you a letter of recommendation. 

They might say that using the company computer is fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work, or something like that.

Other bosses are very much not ok with the prospect of you leaving (or using the laptop to search for another job). 

These are the kinds of bosses that will reprimand, punish, or retaliate when they find out. 

You have to know what situation you’re in and act accordingly.

But if your boss is fine with it, you can use the company computer without any worries.

#2 Go to the Library

If possible, you can borrow a computer from a friend or family member for your interview. 

That’s the easiest solution, and it sidesteps all of the problems immediately.

But if you’re thinking about using a company laptop for an interview, it might be that your options are already limited.

One thing you might be overlooking is your local library. 

Local libraries often have computers, and they even sometimes have meeting rooms. 

You could talk to the librarians and see if it’s possible to arrange a computer for an interview.

Similarly, you can contact your local job services department. 

They might also have equipment that you can use for the sake of an interview. It’s very much in line with their purpose, so it’s definitely worth at least asking.

#3 Use a Different Operating System

This option gets a little outside of the box, and I’m getting deep into some gray territory. So, let’s start with a disclaimer. 

If the laptop belongs to the company and is designated specifically for work, you’re potentially violating your work contract if you take the advice 

I’m about to give. 

I can’t take responsibility for any negative consequences if you try this, so please be smart. 

Make good decisions. 

All that jazz.

Here’s what you can potentially do in order to make your work laptop a viable option for a Zoom interview. 

If you can get your hands on a blank flash drive (they’re pretty cheap these days), you can put a fully-functioning operating system on that drive. 

Ubuntu is one of the easiest, but you have options.

Making the operating system is a bit complicated, so I’ll leave the instructions here

You can potentially use your work laptop to make the flash drive, but unless you have a very good justification to do such a thing, that only adds to the risk.

Once you have a working bootable drive (another name for an operating system on a flash drive), you can use it to circumvent tracking software on the work computer. 

You’ll need to restart the computer and run it from the bootable drive (more instructions here). 

When you do, you aren’t running off of the operating system installed on the computer. 

So, any tracking software that needs that operating system won’t work. 

You can do your interviews in this way while lowering the risks that anyone at work knows about it.

I need to give you one more bit of warning. 

It’s not impossible for IT to know that you’ve used the computer outside of normal parameters, and they can even lock down the computer so that you can’t use a bootable drive. 

So, you’ll want to be sure that your particular work computer is viable before going this route.