I've been currently employed for 9 months as a developer in a company with an excellent working environment, and I really mean it. I have no pressure on my shoulders, and an excellent relationship with my boss and coworkers. Almost friendship like. The pay is awful, though, so I'm always looking for new opportunities.
A very known software company is starting to look for programmers on my city, and I want to apply. My dilemma is... should I add my current boss as a reference? I know for a fact that he would give me a great review, and ahving him as a reference would look good on the resume, but I wouldn't want him to know that I have been applying to other jobs until I at least get an interview.

How likely is it for an employer to call for references before I'm in an advanced stage of the hiring process?


It's courteous to ask someone before putting them down as a reference. With that in mind, the question becomes: do you feel comfortable asking your current boss to be a reference? If you don't then perhaps it's not a good idea to put them down as a reference - think of how they would react if they got the reference call.

From your description it sounds like this shouldn't be a problem. If your work environment has a positive attitude towards the needs of individual employees then they should be receptive and hopefully supportive as well. In fact, broaching the topic may lead to something improving where you are!

I'm in favor of frank, open discussions. If you're not happy about your pay then you should talk to your employer about it. If they're not aware of the problem then they can't do anything about it. If they are aware but can't do anything about it then that's fine, and perhaps it's time to part ways. At least let them know that it's an issue for you.

  • Thanks. Answering your question, no, I don't feel comfortable asking yet. In case I don't get an interesting proposition from this other enterprise, I'd love to keep working here. This was a special case simply because this other enterprise is along the lines of a local Google like workplace. – Uri Apr 19 '13 at 3:09

Don't put contact details for your reference on your CV. If the CV gets into the hands of an agent it may (will) lead to your references getting multiple calls from agents trying to either fill the role you are leaving or simply cold calling to try and place their clients.

Instead put "references available upon request" then you can control when and who sees the details, and it is perfectly acceptable to wait until after an interview to give out references.

  • 3
    "references on application" if memory serves I've seen this phrased as "references available upon request" – gnat Apr 16 '13 at 16:47
  • 1
    I agree, now your comment looks weird though! Sorry! ;) – Loofer Apr 16 '13 at 20:38
  • I don't see any point in adding the line "references available upon request" to a resume. It's extraneous information: of course the candidate will provide references if requested. – nadyne Apr 17 '13 at 17:32
  • @nadyne this separates a candidate from those who don't have references (and thus, won't provide these even if requested). For example, I haven't had references for first handful years of my current career – gnat Apr 18 '13 at 18:47

They probably won't call references early in the process. They will not call your current employer until they have no choice. So list your current employer in the appropriate employment section.

When they do check your employment history many large companies will only provide the fact you worked there from date 1 to date 2, and your job title was X. They might provide the reason why you left, or your pay rate. Some companies even setup a toll-free number to handle the reference checks for employment, and loans.

The interviewer won't generally talk to your supervisor, they can't trust that they will get an unbiased answer. You current company doesn't want your supervisor to talk to the interviewer, they don't want to be sued if you don't get the job.

Don't start the conversation with your current manager until you have a written offer. While everything may seem great now, you have no idea what will happen when you have basically told him that you could leave at any time.

Some companies will counter offer but you don't even want to see it until you have a written offer in hand.


No worries, employers deal with this all of the time. Just tell the prospective employer not to contact your supervisor without checking with you first so that you can give him a heads up. For example, if you're giving them a list of references then put [current employer, do not contact yet] next to your boss's contact information.


Don't give information away that you don't want the recipient to use. Giving your boss' reference, not telling him, and hoping they don't call is not the way to win this one. In all honestly, there are a fair number of cases where references aren't called, especially in an early phase of reviewing candidates. But the fact that they asked means they have the right to follow up on what you provide.

Taking your boss' perspective:

  • Being told a great employee is looking is never great, but in a case where really sub-par pay is a known fact, it's not unusual for boss's to be quite open to employees looking, if they are very good bosses.

  • Being asked if you are comfortable being used as a reference is always at least a little bit nice - it means you are respected and you have the trust of the asker. He may not say "yes" - corporate policies can play a role here.

  • Being called about being a reference you didn't agree to is just about the worst way to find out your employee is looking. It tells you they don't trust you, they aren't happy, and they would sooner disclose your contact info without asking you than talk to you about their dissatisfaction. Based on what you've said about the job, I don't think this is the impression you want to give.

My general tricks are:

  • In cases where there is a lot of honesty about the work environment issues (company going bankrupt, really, really bad pay, relocation of job) - I go to the boss and ask for a reference. I don't name an opportunity, I say "I think I need to start the job hunt..."

  • In cases where I don't feel comfortable asking within work I either find other references outside of the current job, or say "references available upon request".

In many cases, when I get an interview, we go through the "why are you looking?", and "are you willing to have your boss give a reference after an offer is made?" - which is a pretty decent way of working around the fact that MOST people don't want to tell their current boss they are looking.


I would say that totally depends on employee and the boss relation. And as you mentioned, that your is going great with your boss, its totally acceptable to put his name under references (but just to be sure, it is always a good courtesy to ask your boss before mentioning his name).

Apart from this, it also has an added advantage. If your performance in your firm is great and you are not at all satisfied with salary and other perks, mentioning that you are looking for a "New Job" will surely ALARM your BOSS and it might help you in the longer run. You can then negotiate your terms to stay in your current organization. And let me tell you one thing, if your boss wants you to stay, he will make sure that you stay in the current organization at any cost.

  • All, I need to understand, Did I said something wrong ? Giving -1 is easy, but it should be backed by a Valid reason .... – Varun Apr 17 '13 at 16:57
  • well, first part of your answer ("totally depends") doesn't look informative to me. As for the second part ("ALARM your BOSS"), it doesn't look like sufficiently backed up, neither by logical reasoning, nor by authoritative references, nor by your personal experience – gnat Apr 18 '13 at 18:51
  • @ gnat : hmmmm ... appreciate your feedback. Still, it "totally does" depend on boss and employee relation. If an employee isn't performing to his capabilities, his boss will never be very interested to keep him under the duties, and will also not care even that employee leaves the firm. Now coming to second part of alarming the boss, it did happen to me and I never wanted to share a personal experience initially and thought it would be quite obvious [that's the reason those were in CAPS !!!! .... and i totally believe that only a person who has faced it, could write it like that ] !!! – Varun Apr 18 '13 at 19:37

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