Acme Inc.'s HR called me and said they are interested in me and that the salary is $XYZ. I asked if it was negotiable, and she said it was dependent on their hiring manager, and she made it sound like that is all they can offer. She also wants me to include my current manager as a reference even though I have not told my current manager that I am looking. Acme Inc. said they are serious about hiring me and that this would be the final step before we get into anything official.

I am wondering if this is a "handcuff" HR tactic so that now my current manager knows I am leaving and Acme Inc has leverage on me. After all, Acme Inc can say, "Sorry, we can only offer you $XYZ! What are you going to do? Your boss now knows you're leaving!".

I am desperate and do want this new job even though it pays only $4K less than what I make now, hence the negotiation I want to try to come out "even" on my salary. I want to maximize what I can get. But since Acme Inc have not officially offered, I feel that asking/negotiating might be premature until I give them my current manager as a reference.

How should I play this?

Update on 6/4/2013: I tried refusing to give my current manager's information, and got in contact with the hiring manager directly, but the hiring manager was unable to circumvent HR. I was desperate so I talked to my current manager and explained the situation. In the end, everything worked out, but it was not an ideal scenario for me. I guess this is a good reason to always to do your best at work and have a good relationship with your current manager.

The end

  • 14
    I'd just make it crystal clear that you don't want your manager contacted until all the preliminaries are out of the way - including salary negotiations.
    – Robbie Dee
    May 9, 2013 at 19:59
  • @user785179 - If they are giving you an offer before they talk to your reference, talking to your reference, after you accept the job is sort of pointless. Do you have a previous manager, that could be your reference instead, using your current manager isn't wise even if the person thinks you are best thing after sliced bread ( and they already know your looking to expand upon your career horizons ). I would do negotiations and accept a job offer before I tell anyone at current employeer anything about me leaving.
    – Donald
    May 10, 2013 at 12:30
  • Yes, I have interviewed with my future manager and things felt good at the interview. I have actually submitted 4 references, but they still want my current manager as a reference. I talked to another person who works there and he had the same situation as me, but he was unemployed at the time so he dodged a bullet by not having to provide a current manager reference.
    – user785179
    May 10, 2013 at 21:19

4 Answers 4


Acme Inc. said they are serious about hiring me and that this would be the final step before we get into anything official

If they are actually serious about hiring you, they will respect your wish to not contact your current manager until you have an official offer.

Playing hardball on this suggests to me they are either not as serious as you think, are trying to manipulate you, or are incompetent.

Suggest something like:

  • "Hi, I would prefer to not provide references until I have an official offer, because I have not yet had a conversation with my current manager about my desire to seek better opportunities. I do want to work for Acme Inc but this would put me into a very difficult position should we not come to an agreement on a new position."

You should try to get in contact with the hiring managers, too, because they are likely going to be on "your side" compared to HR. They can make all sorts of magic happen within HR if they really want to hire you.

If you can get in contact with a hiring manager, something like:

  • "Hello Hiring Manager, as I understand it, HR is requiring me to provide contact information for my current boss prior to receiving an official offer. This may cause problems in my current position - do you know if there is any way we can come to a more agreeable solution? I have no problems with my manager being contacted, I just would rather have confirmation I am leaving to pursue new opportunities with Acme Inc first."


But since Acme Inc have not officially offered, I feel that asking/negotiating might be premature until I give them my current manager as a reference.

It is more premature for them to force you to give them a reference for your current boss without an official offer.

Do you have other references? Prior managers at different companies? Also could try suggesting that.

As a side note, do you not communicate with your manager enough? If you are as desperate as you sound this seems like something you and your manager would have talked through already.

  • Very good suggestions! I do have contact with the hiring manager since we spoke via email a few times, and I have interviewed with him already in-person. I just don't know if it's professional to side step HR. Regarding my current manager, we do not speak much and he is unaware of my unhappiness. The organization is going down the tubes and I need to get out. And yes, I have provided 4 references for them, 2 of them being previous managers.
    – user785179
    May 10, 2013 at 21:22

I have previously used my current manager(s) as a reference, but they were well aware that I was unhappy and I was trying to leave the company. In any situation but that one, I would absolutely refuse to use any current manager or co-worker as a reference. As you stated, too many bad things can happen if it falls through and your current employer now knows you are looking to leave.

If you really want the job, then take it. If you want a higher salary, then ask for it. If you do it politely, the worst case scenario is they say "no." There are several questions on here that can help with asking for a higher offer. I unsuccessfully tried the tactic from one of those questions recently, but the offer was not rescinded, it simply remained the same. It is all about delivery.

  • 2
    Here is the thread I was referring to: link May 9, 2013 at 19:55
  • 2
    +1 for "ask politely, the worst you can get is a no". $4K/year is less than $100/week; I don't know what industry you are in, but if they really want you to work for them it's unlikely that politely asking for that is a dealbreaker.
    – user
    May 9, 2013 at 20:12

My response in this situation would be:

I would be happy to entertain a formal offer from your company for the position of X but I would need a rate of $Y. Include any other requirements in compensation here as well such as: This should include the 3 weeks of paid vacation we have spoken of previously.

Upon receipt of a formal offer letter, with in 1 business day, I will provide your company with the contact information for Z professional references that have always provided sterling recommendations for me in the past. The references include my former manager at Company A where I did B for them for C amount of time. As well as my current X whom I have been working closely with for D amount of time.

This communicates to them that you are serious, know what you want and lets them know what you will provide them and when. Since there is no formal offer there is no real negotiation, but you can set your expectations and so long as you do show willingness to lower them it will serve your purpose.


As Robbie Dee mentioned, don't give contact information of your manager. If they really like you, then they should pay more (at least a bit more) than what you are getting now. However, you should focus on the whole package -- medical benefits, signon bonus, etc., not just only base salary. Don't reveal your current salary or the number in your mind FIRST. Regarding the negotiation, first get their initial offer and then ask more. Here, more means reasonably more -- research on glassdoor.com etc., websites to know the range of the package. Based on that you can counter offer. All the best.

  • I am concerned that if I decline to give them my current manager's information, then they will not offer me the position and view this as suspect
    – user785179
    May 9, 2013 at 20:21
  • 5
    If so, then I don't think that company is right for anyone. Definitely, there is a risk in giving the contact information of your manager before getting an offer from them. You can politely say that you cannot give that information now, however, you might once you get a satisfying offer.
    – samarasa
    May 9, 2013 at 20:23
  • @user785179 By all means, give them the details, but ask them not to contact him/her until all the other details have been finalised. Of course, even if your manager does find out, this could end up being a good bargaining chip.
    – Robbie Dee
    May 10, 2013 at 8:08
  • 1
    @user785179 - Even if you tell them they can decide to take back their offer even if you sign it in some cases. It really depends how badly they want you, is it realy worth not having any job, thats what you risk by giving them your current manager's contact information.
    – Donald
    May 10, 2013 at 13:14

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