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I want to leave my company (tech industry, software development) and find a new job:

  • is it common that other companies in my sector will require a reference from my current employer?
  • if they do, when do I ask my current manager? I might not receive offers if I cannot provide the requested references. But asking to my employer before I actually have an offer will reveal I want to leave.
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  • "is it common that other companies in my sector will require a reference" - I doubt this can be answered without a country tag. Commented Nov 4, 2023 at 9:25

4 Answers 4

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is it common that other companies in my sector will require a reference from my current employer?

Can't speak for common, but saying in response "I don't want them to know I am job hunting" is answer enough in my experience on either side of the process. Just another day in the office. You could reach out to your previous boss/coworkers, see if they would be willing to give you one if you want to show something - it does go a long way even if it's not very recent.

if they do, when do I ask my current manager? I might not receive offers if I cannot provide the requested references. But asking to my employer before I actually have an offer will reveal I want to leave.

That's exactly why you don't.

Just move on from the job advert that doesn't appreciate the hardship this could put on you to unveil your job hunt, as that's not someone who shows much understanding/care for your side of the process. There will be other offers.

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I want to leave my company (tech industry, software development) and find a new job:

  • is it common that other companies in my sector will require a reference from my current employer?
  • if they do, when do I ask my current manager? I might not receive offers if I cannot provide the requested references. But asking to my employer before I actually have an offer will reveal I want to leave.

This is a United States based answer.

Companies want to do two things regarding work history and references. They want to know those job history claims made on the resume are real. If they are doing an official background check they will also check to all jobs, even those not listed on the resume. The 2nd thing is they want to talk to people who worked with you.

There is no need to provide references on your resume, you don't even need to include the phrase references available upon request. Everybody expects that you will have references, and they aren't needed until much later in the process.

Regarding your current employer. In my experience we assume that contacting the current company will put your job at risk. There are ways to prove the current employment using tax forms and pay stubs. This verification step isn't done until after the offer letter with the starting salary is accepted by the potential new employee.

If I was to contact the current employer I would take all their comments with a grain of salt. They have the perfect incentive to not be truthful. They can praise the employee they want to go, and downplay the one they want to stay.

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Ah, the trickiest part of changing jobs. It's fairly common for companies to ask for references, common enough to be worth securing them before you start searching and definitely before you leave the company if you are taking time between jobs.

If you are certain that a manager or coworker would be willing and able to give you a positive reference, then you should ask them ahead of time. If you think they would be malicious enough to try to tank your job at the company when they think you're looking for other work, then they're not a good reference anyway.

You could try to push things back with a "references available upon request" line on your resume, and then when the new company asks for requests, you can ask if you can push them back until further in the interview process since your company doesn't know you're leaving yet. But this would also gamble that when the time comes, you can actually find someone who will give you a reference.

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This answer is for working in tech in the United Kingdom but may apply more generally.

References (usually two) are commonly required as part of, or after, the interview process, i.e. once you've cleared the first hurdle(s) of the job application process. Employers don't want to waste time checking references for people they might not want to make an offer to. However, when you are asked for references, you should have some contact information ready to give.

Depending on your workplace and how it is structured, and depending on the places you're applying to, you may be able to give references from coworkers who aren't your direct manager. It's common for e.g. a tech lead to be used as a reference even if they're not your line manager. I've also used more senior developers who I've worked closely with on my most recent project as references in the past.

The key is to find someone (or several someones) who you can trust to keep this information confidential and who can give a meaningful reference. Especially in the tech sector, a more senior person who you work with regularly will be able to give more meaningful references than someone who manages you but doesn't have daily contact with you.

In a pinch, you can also use past managers or coworkers, assuming you have a previous job that's not too far in the past. Generally I would say to have at least one reference from your current role if at all possible. However, hiring managers are people rather than robots and if you have a nonstandard set of references but a good reason for it, you can simply explain that. For example, if the job you're applying for involves mostly working with a specific technology, you can give references from a previous job where you worked more closely with that technology.

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