I find myself in a catch-22 type situation. Here is the scenario:

  • I am currently employed normally, at company A. Boss at company A does not know that I am looking.
  • I had a phone interview with company B, that went really well.
  • Company B asks for my references. 'We think you'll be a great match, please send us your references'.
  • One of my references obviously my boss at company A.

... so ... I find myself at a quantum quandary here. I can easily confide in a more senior co-worker whom I have worked with at company A to be my references, but then Company B might ask, why didnt you give us your boss's info?

Or, I could simply give them my boss's info, and then be placed in the awkward position at some point of him asking me that he got a call from another company asking about me - am I interviewing around perhaps?

....So - I am not really sure what the proper course of action is here, or frankly, what I can reasonably tell Company B. Is it normal to ask Company B to not contact my current boss unless they give me an offer? Or maybe this is just the way things are?

Would appreciate some insight. Thank you.

  • @mhoran_psprep Similar yes, but some additional subtleties I am after here. – TheGrapeBeyond May 29 '14 at 13:30
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    So if you dont want them to contact your current manager give them someone else as a reference... What is the problem you are looking to solve? – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 29 '14 at 14:27
  • meta.stackexchange.com/a/194495/165773 – gnat May 29 '14 at 14:48
  • "One of my references obviously my boss at company A". It is? why? – Andy May 30 '14 at 23:30
  • @Andy Well the boss is the one they usually ask about. "List previous managers". I see this on forms a lot. – TheGrapeBeyond May 30 '14 at 23:50

It is super common to be looking for a new job while not telling your current job that you are looking. Your potential new company knows and understands this. If they do not then that is a red flag.

When they ask for references, provide ones from two jobs ago and if you have some trusted coworkers at your current job (or people who have left your current job that you're in touch with), then just use them as references.

To be clear: by no means should you give your boss as a reference if they don't know you're looking. This is normal. In general, you shouldn't give anyone as a reference unless they know you're looking.

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  • Yeah, ... the thing is, for my company-A references, should I just give them a reference of a current senior co-worker that I can confide in, or a ref of my boss outright? I would rather do the former, this way I get a company-A ref, but also do not have my boss know. Is this... 'normal'? – TheGrapeBeyond May 29 '14 at 13:22
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    @TheGrapeBeyond - Yes, by no means should you give your boss as a reference if they don't know you're looking. This is normal. In general, you shouldn't give anyone as a reference unless they know you're looking. – Telastyn May 29 '14 at 13:28
  • Do NOT, by any means use your current boss as a reference. Use former bosses, co-workers, or current colleagues you can trust. – bigdaveyl May 29 '14 at 14:33
  • @bigdaveyl - I've actually had one time where I could use my current boss as a reference, and I know of another case where a friend of mine used their boss. In my case, it was because my boss was just as pissed off at my underpayment as I was. In the other, there were impending layoffs. The boss couldn't keep my friend around, but was happy to provide help in finding a new job. – Telastyn May 29 '14 at 14:40

First, many company forms have a place these days that ask "can we contact your current employer?" because people checking "no" is very common.

Next - if that's not available, use references that aren't your current boss. In any case, the references you use should agree to be your references before you use them, and obviously you aren't interested in telling your current boss that you need a reference, so you shouldn't put his name on the list without his consent. As @Telastyn said - trusted current coworkers or recent former coworkers often work well as recent references, particularly if you've been in the position for a while.

If pressed for your current boss, offer that you'll be glad to use him as a reference after you have a job offer in hand. If they like you, they should be willing to offer a conditional offer, the condition being that they can verify your reference.

Lastly - many big companies offer a hotline or similar that will give a reference for the facts - that you are an employee at the company and you dates of employment. This usually won't go to your boss, and it can be used for all kinds of things (including education applications and credit applications) - so it's fair to get this number and not necessarily be suspected of job hunting.

It's worth it to check what kind of references they are looking for - strictly former supervisors? Are peer referneces OK? Are they just looking to verify employment and education history or is this a professional or character reference? Getting the details on what they will be checking for lets you line up a set of references that's best for you and most efficient for the potential company.

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  • That makes a lot of sense. As far as how they asked, they just asked me in an email, "May you please send over your references". No form or anything. I agree with you though, send only names/refs that I know etc, and that am comfortable knowing that I am looking. – TheGrapeBeyond May 29 '14 at 13:35
  • I've written back to emails like that - "what kind of references do you need? My standard reference set is X, Y, Z (for me... two former supervisors from previous jobs, and a recent coworker)... will that work?" – bethlakshmi May 29 '14 at 13:58
  • I wish I could also accept your answer - great advice all around. Thainks – TheGrapeBeyond May 29 '14 at 16:13

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