Should You List Your Current Employer As A Job Reference?

Elizabeth Witbeck

Should You List Your Current Employer As A Job Reference?

It’s important to think about who you will use for job references. The companies you interview with will want to see a list of people you had a long-term professional relationship with, which they can contact for a reference.

Many job candidates wonder if they can use their current employer as a job reference. Perhaps a candidate has been working at a company for a significant period of time, and their current manager knows them better than anybody else. Maybe this position is the first one a candidate has held in their field.

There are several reasons a candidate might be inclined to list a current employer as a job reference. But this is a risky method to take, as outlined below.

Does your employer know that you are leaving?

It’s going to be quite a surprise if the first time your employer hears about your job hunt is from a different company, when they are contacted for a reference check. Have you told your manager that you are planning on leaving your position? You do not have to divulge all of your life plans.

But it is important to have honest discussions with your manager about your role at the company, where you see yourself going, and how long you anticipate staying. That way everybody is on the same page. Get an idea of how your manager feels about the situation.

It is not a good idea to list a current employer as a reference if you have not already clued them into the fact that you are job hunting. Tell them about your plans to leave the company, and the reasons why. Ask them if they can provide you with a positive letter of reference in regards to your employment at the business. If they tell you they could not give a positive reference about you, then do not include them in your references.

How will they react?

You and your manager may get along like best friends, so you think you will be fine telling them you are planning on leaving the company. There are different ways this may go. Some people truly do have managers that wish them the best of luck and give them a positive reference.

Other people find that managers act differently towards them once they have announced they are on the lookout for a new job. The manager might see it as being disloyal to the company. They may look at you as being short-time staff, who is only there temporarily until you finally get a job and leave them. Your boss might stop giving you projects or investing in you, because in their mind you will be out the door at any moment anyway. Sometimes people get fired immediately after announcing their job hunt.

There is no way to confidently know which way this conversation might go. You might make a guess based on what has happened in the past in your company. When other colleagues have announced their new jobs:

  • How did your manager react?
  • Were they supportive or bitter?
  • What kind of relationship do you have with your manager?
  • How do you believe they would react?

Other references

Perhaps the best way to negotiate the risk of getting your employer involved in your job search is to avoid it altogether. Many people consider adding their current employer as a job reference, believing it is the only person they have who could be used as a reference. Get creative. There are many people who you can use as a reference for a job. Here are a few people that you can use for references that you may not have considered yet:

Other jobs: Think about all of the people you have worked with prior to this role. That all counts for something, too. Even if it is not in the same industry, they can still give you a reference. These people can vouch for your experience.

Volunteering: Even if you don’t get paid, volunteering comes with numerous benefits, like valuable relationships with organizations in your area. Think back to people you volunteered with and ask for a positive letter of reference.

Internships: If you spent the summer doing an internship, you can ask the company you interned with for a reference. They have seen your work up close and personal.

Professors: If you have recently graduated from college, you can ask professors that you were close with for a positive letter of reference.

Religious and community members: People in your community can give you a letter of reference. If you are active with your church or other house of worship, ask your religious leader for a reference. Ask politicians and other town leaders who have worked with you for a reference.

Keeping your job search confidential

Most companies do not ask for a set of references right away. This is something that is asked for near the final stages of the interview process. There is no need to worry about references until they are asked for, although it is a good idea to plan ahead. When you are finally asked for references, you can tell the hiring manager to not contact your current employer.

Also, you can tell the hiring manager that your job search is confidential and that other people are not aware of your intention to look for a new job.

About The Author

Elizabeth Witbeck

Elizabeth Witbeck works as a college consultant and educational entrepreneur. She launched the first business in the United States that sends care packages to first generation college students, and also helps prospective college students on their applications. Her interests include education, poverty, and working with youth.

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