So I've been fairly passive about job seeking, but recently a recruiter from a company contacted me. Thus far I'm 3 or 4 interviews into the process and I would accept an offer from this company if it was offered and I think I'm 1 more interview away from this. However, in the mean time, they've asked me for references. They asked specifically for at least 1 current/past managers or supervisors. Problem is, my (only) previous job was a very small startup that's disappeared off the planet. The founder/CEO can not be reached as far as I can tell. So, the only manager I could give for a reference is my current one. Although I assume he knows I'd listen to pitches from companies, he does not know that I've been interviewing with this company. I think he would give a positive reference regardless.

However, I don't want to deal with the whole lame duck feeling at least until I know I have another offer, and I don't want to deal with that general awkwardness/conflict.

Should I just get over it and deal with it, or should I give the prospective employer something like "you can have my manager reference if you can give me a fairly certain offer" or some such?

For reference, the reason I'm looking at this prospective employer is because it matches my career goals and would be higher paying and a few other reasons. It's not really that my current employer is bad. I'd be happy working for them if this falls through, hence why I want to be careful not to upset them.

  • 2
    Listing current manager as reference is extremely risky. There are exceptions but be leery.
    – user1084
    Oct 3, 2014 at 1:01
  • Can you ask for a recommendation letter not in respect to the job, perhaps for a volunteer position or for a professional certification? Oct 3, 2014 at 11:43

4 Answers 4


I would explain the situation you are in to the company you are interviewing with. I'm sure they will understand the situation and how job searching can negatively affect a person's current job. See what they say and go from there.

Is it possible to get references from current/past colleagues? Offer this to the company and see if they will accept it instead of a manager/supervisor reference.

If you really want the reference from your manager then this really depends on your relationship with your manager and his personality. If you feel that you can trust him, I would just ask him and see what he says. There is always the risk that this could negatively affect your current job, but remember that this is a two-way street and that you too have a voice in the professional area that you work in. I highly doubt your manager and/or current company would want a reputation of negatively treating employees who are "found out" to be job searching.
(Note: I'm not suggesting that you go out of your way to bad mouth your manager/company if this does happen!)

Lastly, take heart in the fact that you got this far in the interview process with the company you are looking at. Even if you do not get a job offer and things go south with your current company, chances are that you are doing well as a professional and should be able to find another job if needed.

Good luck!


This really depends on why they want a reference.

Usually, references are taken up to prove two things.

  1. You are who you say you are.
  2. You didn't lie on your CV / resume

In my country (UK) it is quite normal for an employer to extend a job offer which you then accept on the basis of satisfactory references.

I would suggest that you tell the HR / hiring manager that your reference is for an existing employer and that they must not contact them until after you have accepted a job offer.


The reference check is practically the last step before the offer is made.

Simply make sure that you have the same positive relationship with your current employer that you always had. If you decide to leave, make sure that yout current employer knows that it is simply a business decision on your part, where you made the determination that because he is not able to offer some of the opportunities that you are looking for. And that your decision to leave in no way is intended to negatively reflect on your current employer because you would have gladly stayed if he could have offered these opportunities. And that you hope to stay in touch after you leave.


Talk to the potential employer.

It's pretty standard to say "I don't want to tell my boss I'm looking" and you can even point out that they called you. You were happy enough to not be looking actively.

Offer to do the following: - peer references from your current job - any references you can get from your former job - anyone in a position of leadership in any organizations you are part of - even if they are not paid positions

And then offer to furnish a reference from your current manager after they have given an offer. They may make the offer conditional upon checking that reference, but this is a reasonably decent good faith compromise.

Before doing this, make sure that company policy does not prohibit giving references. Many people will ignore this, but many won't and you don't want to be left having offered a reference you may not be able to give.

Having done 3 interviews - when you were the person originally approached - and then being asked for a reference is a whole lot to ask. At least in my field. If they are this uncertain, I'm not sure you owe them favors.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .