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I'm working in a company which I like, but there are things that I'm not happy about under current management. So I decided to passively look for another job.

I'm in the middle of an interview process which seems to be going well. They have asked me to provide my references' contact information. I can provide everything for all the previous jobs I had, but I don't want to reveal to my current company that I'm interviewing else where.

How should I tell this to the prospective employer in a way that they don't think I said anything that is untrue?

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    Did they specifically ask for a reference from your current employer? If you're supplying references, you normally pick a couple of people and don't necessarily pick someone from each company you've worked at. If they are asking you to list a contact at all prior employers, there is normally a checkbox on the form for whether they can contact your current employer. – Justin Cave Mar 11 '16 at 20:17
  • @JustinCave, good point. No they have not but if I was doing the interview I would expect to talk to candidate's previous manager/mentor/co-worker. – norbertpy Mar 11 '16 at 20:20
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    A prior manager, sure. Not necessarily your current manager unless you've been in your current position so long that a prior manager's reference isn't particularly useful (i.e. you had a fast food job when you were 20 but now you've been a programmer for 20 years at one place). In that case, though, you'd almost certainly have someone that you worked for that has since left your current employer. – Justin Cave Mar 11 '16 at 20:25
  • @JustinCave, agreed. I'll accept that as an answer if you don't mind putting it down there. – norbertpy Mar 11 '16 at 20:27
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If an employer is asking you for references, you are under no obligation to list someone that works for your current company to be a reference for you. You can pick references from prior employers or people that you worked for at your current company that have since left to work somewhere else. If you've been working at your current employer so long that previous employers can't reasonably be a reference for you (say you were a fast food worker 20 years ago and you're now a programmer that has been working at one place for 20 years), then you'd want to go the route of finding people that have left your current employer.

An employer may also ask for a list of previous employers along with their contact information. If they ask for that, they will almost always have a checkbox to indicate whether they can contact your current employer. It's so common that candidates don't want their current employer to be contacted that it won't reflect badly on you if you deny permission.

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    One thing to note, just because you tick that box or don't provide any details for your current manager, doesn't mean that bad companies or interviewers won't do so anyway. It's incredibly rare and incredibly harmful and disrespectful, but not illegal. – Lilienthal Mar 11 '16 at 22:08
  • it's normal enough not to give a reference from your current company, for the obvious reason, prospective employers understand that. – Kilisi Mar 13 '16 at 5:55

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