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Building off of the situation in this previously asked question...

I am in the process of interviewing for other job opportunities. My boss is aware that I am most likely looking for other work because of the current lack of pay. He has been very cool about it because he empathizes with my situation. He tried his best to get me more but upper management wouldn't budge. Note that this is also my first job in the software development field and I currently have 18 months of experience.

I'm at the point where I am speaking with a recruiter and he has asked if I would be able to obtain a reference from my current employer. Despite being good friends with my boss, I am not comfortable asking him to be a reference. This is because I recently asked if he could speak to upper management about becoming a full-time employee. I've always been seeking new employment but opportunities haven't really shown up until recently. If I do find new employment, I intend to give him one month notice as a courtesy because he has been an excellent supervisor.

Now, I do have a recommendation letter from him that he updated recently for a scholarship award that I actually won. Is it wrong (or even illegal) to pass this on to the recruiter as a reference? Would a recruiter even accept this? I wouldn't change anything in the letter because I'd want it to be clear that this was used for a separate occasion. However, I'd really like to have some evidence of my abilities and personal character from a professional I've worked with and not just professors that I've studied under.

  • Why aren't you comfortable talking to your supervisor? It seems like he understands your situation and wouldn't take offense, especially since he's trying to support you in your current organization. As a perspective employer, I would want a letter of recommendation tailored to seeking a job, not a scholarship. – Thomas Owens May 10 '16 at 17:29
  • @ThomasOwens well really only because i just recently asked him about going full-time. I feel guilty, I guess, about asking him. I don't want to burn any bridges and also while this is a recommendation letter for a scholarship, it does speak about my character and performance in the workplace. – terbubbs May 10 '16 at 17:31
  • Your recruiter is a bit naive. Letters of recommendation for jobs can carry legal liability. That's why many companies only confirm dates of employment when asked for references. It's a lousy by-product of our overly-litigious society, but it's the reality, right now. wisbar.org/newspublications/wisconsinlawyer/pages/… – Wesley Long May 10 '16 at 17:50
  • @WesleyLong interesting to know, I do want to say that the recruiter did not ask for a letter of recommendation, nor did I state that he did in the question. He simply asked for a reference if possible. – terbubbs May 10 '16 at 17:55
  • I was inferring that you were going to use that letter in place of your request for a reference. If that was incorrect, my apologies. Your recruiter, though, needs to read that article I cited. – Wesley Long May 10 '16 at 17:57
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I would not recommend "repurposing" a recommendation letter from a scholarship into a letter for employment.

First, they are not the same audience, so while it may get the job done, it could be better.

Second, and more important, you want your references to know ahead of time that they may be getting that phone call. If your manager already knows that you're looking, he can be a great ally in your hunt. If he already knows anyhow, then at the very least, tell him what the recruiter asked, and ask him if you can reuse the scholarship letter for this. It sounds like he'll say yes, and he may even offer to update it for the new purpose. At the very least, he won't be surprised when he gets the phone call, and can be prepared to answer strongly on your behalf.

Changing jobs, especially when it's your first job and you're hitting that "enough experience" mark, is the way of the world, and good managers understand that.

Again, I encourage you to talk to your manager about it first.

  • You have a really good point. Think I'll just talk to him. – terbubbs May 10 '16 at 18:50
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Your situation could be different, but this is my experience.

I've never had to give references until after at least one interview. There are a couple of reasons for this.

  1. Employers see a lot of people and they don't need to pester people they aren't even planning on hiring.
  2. Nobody wants repeated reference calls and nobody wants to make them either. It's a lot of work that nobody really wants to do until it becomes necessary.

I especially have never just handed reference information to recruiters. I generally don't know them and I don't even think about trusting them by encouraging them to pester my former bosses. When they need the references, they'll ask. Having said that, I did have one recruiter who asked for 2 references before even submitting my resume. I told her not until after an interview and we parted ways. I wasn't missing out because no opportunity is so good that I'll change my standards and it's very common for employers to work with multiple recruiters anyway.

When the time comes, have a talk with your manager and ask for the reference then. If he genuinely understands it he'll help you out.

EDIT: though I didn't directly address it, I agree with Kimo. Don't repurpose your reference. It actually looks a little suspicious and invites the question, "why won't he give you a current reference?"

  • You have a lot of good points. I'm in a situation where I have spoken with the recruiter and he has two opportunities for companies I know of that are looking for someone of my experience and knowledge. Should I be suspicious that he is just using me for other people to contact about recruitment? I will add that we have connected on LinkedIn where he first contacted about these opportunities and he seems reputable with other IT professionals. – terbubbs May 10 '16 at 18:39
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    I'm paranoid but not that paranoid. :) Every reference of mine has been email or phone. You could ask why he needs them even before an interview and explain that you don't want to bother your references when it's not even necessary yet. Depending on your experience, he may be trying to validate that you aren't BS'ing your resume so you don't waste his time. I don't think he's necessarily fishing, but anything's possible. – Chris E May 10 '16 at 18:46
  • Good point! One of my professors only gave me an email to use anyway. I think another will want to have this recruiter as a connection too. I think I will just speak with my manager. Anyway, I appreciate your insight. – terbubbs May 10 '16 at 18:49

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