I'm looking to apply for a position advertised on an employers website. They only accept online applications answering their specific questions. One of the forms is for references, of which one must be your current employer and is mandatory at this stage.

I have no doubt my line manager, or indeed MD of the company would have any issue giving me a good reference however I do not wish to alert them that I am looking at another position until I am certain I would like to go ahead with it and I have an offer.

So my question is: When are references normally checked in these circumstances? If not before an offer is made and/or accepted (pending references), why make them mandatory at the beginning of the process?

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    If you're applying through a website, it might just be an oversight that the references field(s) are required to submit the form. Maybe they didn't think about applicants in your situation. I would start by contacting the company you want to apply to via email to ask them if this is really necessary, and what alternative means of applying might be available. (Make clear that it's not about not having references, just wondering if you really need to give them up front.) – Steve-O Aug 17 '17 at 19:52

This would be a red flag to me. It is fine to require references up front. It is not acceptable in any way shape or form to require that a current employer be one of the references. People can lose their jobs when the current employer gets contacted by another company for a reference check and then you might not even get the new one. I would pass on this position and probably drop them a note saying why.

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    This is a HUGE red flag. Do not give current employer information period the end. – Mister Positive Aug 17 '17 at 20:41

Most applications I have ever filled out have current employer as a required and normal field, but also have a question like "Is it OK to contact your current employer/supervisor".

References are a fairly normal requirement, however I have frankly only ever had my references contacted once in 40 years.

Requiring a reference early in a process from a current employer with no provision that they not be contacted until an offer is made, hmmm, that would not be typical and might well be enough of a red flag to simply stop considering that organization. They are already demonstrating that they do not consider your rights and fall-backs a priority and are completely willing to poison your current relationships. That is not a good starting point.

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