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I have a pretty good job. My work is stimulating, there is a strong career path, and clear room for advancement. I'm not actively looking for a new job.

However, I also frequently receive inquiries from former bosses, supervisors, and coworkers asking me if I am interested in opportunities at their companies. Occasionally (maybe 1-2 a year) someone does mention something interesting, and I apply.

I am concerned about handling references with these jobs. My professional references are generally supervisors or managers of past/current projects. In an active search, I would talk to them about my intentions and ask them to be a reference. That seems a bit strong for my situation: I am not actively seeking. I don't want to alarm people by making them think I am unsatisfied or preparing to leave.

What is the best way to handle asking for references in this kind of situation?

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What is the best way to handle asking for references in this kind of situation?

When I was in the same situation, I just asked previous coworkers to be references who were not my active supervisor or current coworkers.

I also talked to the company I was interviewing with to confirm that they would not contact references until they were planning on making me an offer. After some discussion, I essentially raised this issue to those contacting me about an opportunity.

However, I also frequently receive inquiries from former bosses, supervisors, and coworkers asking me if I am interested in opportunities at their companies

I would recommend asking some of these people if they are willing to be a reference for you in the future. You could do so pretty casually and it'd be a natural conversation, particularly when they ask you about an opening they have.

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What is the best way to handle asking for references in this kind of situation?

You talk to them about your intentions and ask them to be a reference, just as you would in any case.

And you specifically tell them that you are not actively seeking but when you find something interesting you apply.

There's nothing unusual about asking someone to be an "ongoing" reference. Although I'd suggest that you would be better served and more effective prepping your references about the specifics of each potential reference check, there is no rule requiring that you do so.

You references would be able to talk about you in general terms. But if asked something specific about you in relation to the particular job, they might stumble if not prepped. That's a risk you may or may not want to take.

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    I would expect that most of the ex-bosses and colleagues who are contacting you about joining them at their new jobs would be more than happy to be a reference. – JasonJ Mar 2 '17 at 20:54

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