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.