When to Spill the Beans About a Job Search

By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, November 29, 2007 12:00 AM

I recently went on an interview and had to list references. I listed my current job. Will the company I interviewed with contact my current job? How will my current employer feel about me going on an interview and not informing them that I was looking for another job? Will my current employer bad-mouth me to the company I interviewed for?

If you listed your current employer as a reference, then there's a strong chance that your manager or human resources department will be contacted. With that said, I suggest that you let them know. They might be taken aback that you did not tell them about your job search, but they'll take the news far worse if it comes in the form of a telephone call from a stranger.

Those who are lucky enough to have a good working relationship with their supervisor can usually ask for their endorsement during a job search without fearing resentment or reprisal. Others get around the problem of current employer references by listing a co-worker familiar with their performance or a trusted person of greater seniority in the organization.

If your current employer doesn't know that you are looking, and you absolutely do not want them to know, then the usual protocol is to list alternative references from past jobs. You can safely say during the application process that you would prefer that your current employer not be contacted for the time being. Believe it or not, it is not unusual for someone to be looking for another job unbeknownst to their employer.

Before your prospective employer makes the decision to hire you, however, they might insist upon obtaining some feedback from your current employer. Usually, applicants are well-advised to prepare a short list of people who could satisfy that request.

I can't predict whether your current employer will speak well of you. I can only say that, if you have done a good job and continue to do so throughout your job search, most managers will be happy to provide a positive and helpful reference.

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Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail lilymgarcia@gmail.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered. The information contained in this column is not intended to be legal advice.

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