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I applied for a position in a competitor company. They are now interested in me and wish to conduct an interview. As part of the "standard" process, I'm asked to provide reference letters and an authorization for the hiring company to check my employment history.

My question is how to handle this nicely so I maintain good relationship with both companies.

  1. I have good relationships with my current manager; they like my work. Resigning would probably be a surprise.
  2. Moving to a competitor is an option, not a necessity.
  3. I intend to announce me resigning only after I have secured a better offer. If the interviews go badly (or I don't like the new offer for whatever reason), things should turn out like nothing has happened.

Do people usually ask for reference letters from their managers at the beginning of a job search? Or only after they have received a (maybe "conditional") offer?

  • See this also: References from Current Employer – mcknz Aug 11 at 10:01
  • I'm asked to provide reference letters and an authorization for the hiring company to check my employment history. - It seems odd that they'd ask for reference letters from your current employer. Is that what they asked you for? A reference letter can be from a trusted colleague, ex-colleague, etc. – joeqwerty Aug 11 at 13:24
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  1. Put your notice in due time. Keep doing your job as good as always till the end.
  2. It's your choice and only yours unless there is a non concurrence clause in your contract.
  3. Good.

You can ask reference letters from previous employers/managers, as in prior to you current job. If your prospective employer ask for a reference from your current employer, respectfully decline, saying that you haven't put your notice in yet and prefer to wait until you secure an offer letter.

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    +1 It would be pretty weird to ask for reference from existing employee, I had those offered to me, but I would almost never ask for the simple reason that most employees look for new jobs in secrecy. – Tymoteusz Paul Aug 11 at 9:42
  • @TymoteuszPaul I've been asked for a reference from my current employer in the past, but they completely understood when I told them that I'm unwilling – Bitsplease Aug 11 at 17:25
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Do people usually ask for reference letters from their managers at the beginning of a job search? Or only after they have received a (maybe "conditional") offer?

In my experience, employers do not ask for or expect reference letters from current managers.

Most hiring managers/recruiters understand that obtaining references from your current employer is problematic at best.

If the employer insists on such a reference (which could jeopardize your current job), that's a red flag, and probably an opportunity not worth following up on.

I'm asked to provide reference letters

Reference letters can be from peers, leads, former managers, or others who have worked with you from a position of authority. It's to provide some objectivity regarding what you say you have done and what you are like as a person and potential employee.

and an authorization for the hiring company to check my employment history.

The hiring company will likely only confirm your employment at your current place of work, by contacting HR, rather than your manager(s) directly. This is common practice for other services, such as a financial institution who needs verification of employment/income.

As you say, the most important thing is to wait until you have a signed offer letter in hand before giving notice. That way, if you don't find something new, you can continue on in your current role in the same status as before.

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  • The hiring company will likely only confirm your employment by contacting HR My concern would be there is no guarantee that HR would not leak the info, especially if they see the request comes from a competitor company. HR works for the company, not the employee, so I'd rather not take that risk. – mandy Aug 12 at 5:52
  • @mandy The request would come from the third-party agency, not the competitor itself. I do not have direct experience with this, but I doubt the specific reason for the verification request would be disclosed. This will need to be done for any job you apply for, competitor or not, so it's not really something you can avoid. You can't request that a company not verify your employment. – mcknz Aug 12 at 17:55
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Normally you only provide references after you accept a position and hand in your notice. Before then you can tell them that you have references available.

They should normally check your employment history after you accept an offer as well. The offer will be conditional on your references and employment history checking out.

That way if you don't accept or don't get the role no harm is done to your current employment.

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