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How to answer 'may we contact your current employer?'

By Liz Ryan | June 16th 2017

Dolan just got a call from a company she interviewed with three weeks ago. She thought it was a good interview, and she guessed they thought so too.

Now the company’s human resource manager is telling her they want to go ahead with an offer - but they want to talk to her current boss first!

There’s no way Dolan wants them to talk to her current manager, Patricia. If Patricia finds out she is job-hunting, she might fire her on the spot.

Patricia is the reason she wants a new job. She might even say awful and untrue things about her so this other company doesn’t hire her.

What you should do

Tell the HR Manager that you’re in a stealth job search and can’t give permission for her or anyone else from his or her company to talk to your current boss.

It’s an inappropriate request.

The accepted HR practice is that you can get references from any other employer, but not from a job-seeker’s current place of employment.

If they aren’t impressed enough by your background to hire you without a reference from your current workplace, then they should hire somebody else.

Presumably you’ve given them a list of three to five references they can contact. If that’s not good enough for them, they aren’t the right employer for you.

Just because somebody wants something - a reference from your current boss, in this case - doesn’t mean they should get it!

Tell the new company they will have to make their hiring decision without the benefit of talking to Patricia or anyone else from your current employer.

It’s ironic that an employer would feel so hesitant about hiring you that they’d ask you to jeopardise your employment to give them a little more information. They already have a lot more information about you than you have about them!

They have your resume. They can look at your LinkedIn profile and ask you questions about it.

Key skills

They can read recommendations other LinkedIn users have written about you. They can ask you any question they want to ask about your background and your skills.

If all that information isn’t enough for them, maybe they are fearful weenies who don’t deserve you! Finding your voice and your backbone are critical steps for every job-seeker and working person to take.

Whether these folks hire you or not, you will grow new muscles through this experience!

If you do progress to the interview stage, you can address it in person then and say that, despite what you wrote on the application, you’d prefer that your current employer should not be alerted to your search until things reach the offer stage, at which point you’d like to alert them yourself.

You can also say “no” to that question without any hesitation in future.

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