I feel as if my current supervisor will unfortunately be an unfair reference, and will likely sabotage my job applications. This is due to our whole airline team being made redundant. (I was officially made redundant last month). I have consistently gone above and beyond for my current airline, receiving multiple commendation awards from top management and bonuses.

As a result, I do not wish to use him (my direct supervisor) as a reference - but instead my manager who is based overseas - where the airline is based.

However I found out today that one of the interviewers may have direct contact with my previous supervisor, as they work out of the same airport terminal building.

How can I mention during the job interview / on my reference sheet, that the best person to get a fair reference from is my manager overseas, rather than the supervisor locally.

I am scared that they might come across each other and say 'Hey, did you know Debbie applied for the position of XXX recently?'

NB: This question differs from others asked due to the close proximity of the two working together.


3 Answers 3


Employers should only contact people that you nominate as a reference. They shouldn't go fishing to try to find who your boss is. That is unprofessional. They certainly shouldn't speak to people other than you references.

If it's going to be trivial for them to find this out, that does increase the chances.

It's more likely they will ask people who you used to work with, who have joined your potential new company, what you were like.

There is really not much you can do, other than prepare to have good answers should they raise concerns about your conduct.

I would not categorise anything that is said as "unfair". That would make you seem childish.

In addition, you should have already spoken with your nominated references to make sure they agree to act as such.


It is a possibility that your interviewer will talk to your current manager. Because interviewers don't always just stick to the list you give them (and they're not always wrong to do so). For example if none of the references you provide were managers, you only reference peers, this is a red flag for them. Or if they notice someone in their network they trust has worked with you, they'll ask them about you.

From what I understand, you've been made redundant a month ago, so your "current" manager is really your ex-manager. It's not like you're still working there and/or wouldn't want your manager to know you're job hunting. Talking to your current manager is a big no no for interviewers. But if he's your ex-manager, and if your interviewer knows him, and if he knows that he's your ex-manager, there's a chance he might talk to him about you. There are a lot of ifs there, so I think the chance this happening is rather small.

So I wouldn't mention it at your interview. If he were your current manager, and you really wanted to make sure they don't talk, you could have said something along the lines of "I know you're working in the same terminal as my manager [manager name]. I haven't told him I'm job hunting, but I have other managers as references I can provide when you need them." But since here you'd be telling him to not talk to your ex-manager because he doesn't like you, or because there are issues between you two, this won't reassure your interviewer. And again, there's only a small possibility he talks to your ex-manager, so I wouldn't risk bringing him and your negative relationship up on the off chance they do talk.

If he does talk to your ex-manager, it won't be the end. You have your other references, the awards and bonuses you got from your good work. Just be ready to answer questions about your ex-manager if it does come up at some point in the interview. Have a short, neutral statement prepared (don't overtly criticize your ex-manager). You want to sound confident and calm, not panicked. One bad reference shouldn't dismantle your good work and good references.

EDIT : If you absolutely want to warn this interviewer, don't be vague or general. You don't want to give the impression you have a negative relationship with many managers from previous jobs, and that you willy nilly advertise this fact. Also, don't write it, say it when they're asking for your references. Tone here will be important : be calm and confident, not nervous and panicky. You just want to convey some information that might be relevant to the interviewer, not a live bomb. Keep it short, something like this (adapt accordingly to the specifics of your situation) :

I would like to inform you that I didn't end on good terms with my last manager, and because of that he might have a biased opinion of me. I have other managers, including from my previous job, as references. Usually I wouldn't mention this, but since you work in the same terminal as him I wanted to make sure that if you talk to him, you know there might still be some bitterness lingering that might color his feedback.

Again, I wouldn't do that. The chances are quite small that he will speak to your ex manager, and if he does your strong work achievements and other positive references will more than balance things out. Mention this, and your chances that he talks to him will actually probably go up.

  • Thank you for the effort in your reply! It makes sense and I really appreciate it. In your opinion, as I will be handing in a reference sheet - would it be wise to add text at the bottom, or even mention to the interviewer 'Given the nature of, I ask if you would kindly exercise caution and discretion regarding this with my previos employers.'? Mar 25, 2019 at 8:54
  • No, I wouldn't, since it would raise red flags for the interviewer. You'd be basically advertising "I have a bad relationship with previous employers, and it's so serious I need to warn future employers". If you really really really want to say something, I would then be more precise, and say it in person, since tone in those cases is really important. I'll edit my response.
    – MlleMei
    Mar 25, 2019 at 22:19

It's simple, just mention whoever you find to be a best fit to vouch for you and your experience.

Officially, your future employer has no knowledge of the hierarchy inside your organization, it's up to you to provide the references who can be contacted if needed. Make sure the person you use as a reference actually is a "reference" (just not someone else in the hierarchy who has no direct knowledge of your work and achievements).

Once again, they are only allowed to contact and ask for information to someone who is on the list of the people you provide as your references. They cannot officially just try to "figure out" people from your current organization based on anyone's personal connection.

However, there's nothing that stops someone from having an "unofficial chat" with their "friend" or "relative" and trying to seek info - it's unethical - but also not under your (or anyone else's) capacity to prevent that from happening. However, they can never make this "finding" official.

  • Good point! However the interviewer whom I mentioned before (who knows my supervisor) does know that my supervisor directly oversees me. Therefore potentially causing an issue? Mar 25, 2019 at 7:36
  • @DebbieWilliams Their personal connections do not entail them to conduct any check on you, unless you provide the permission. However, whether they can do that (or let you know they are doing that) is not something you can control. It's illegal and unethical for sure, but unless they make if official, there's nothing much you can do. People know other people all the time .. nothing you can do to prevent that. Mar 25, 2019 at 7:44
  • Reason for DV, anyone? Mar 25, 2019 at 7:45
  • This is a generalized answer and doesn't really fit the OP. The airline world is quite unique especially since when you're changing airlines and remain in the same area/airport/terminal, the staff already more or less know each other. So it's quite easy for the interviewer to find the supervisor of her previous airline and get some info on her. Is it fair? No but it can/will happen. Can the interviewer bring up any info he learned from sources other than her specified references? Why not? All she can do is be prepared to address non-flattering questions.
    – Xander
    Mar 25, 2019 at 7:52
  • @Xander (1) I have updated my answer (2) Airlines or not, I don't think anyone can do a "background check" on me without my permission (unless it's a national security or similar case) - asking someone about me without my consent in a formal capacity is a background check - thus not very legal IMHO. Mar 25, 2019 at 7:55

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