A reader writes:
I just completed an application that asked twice if they may contact my present employer. I said “yes,” of course, because I know “no” would read poorly.
Now I’m in a position where I can only guess if they’ll call, and if they do, what I should say to my boss to alert her that, “hey, I applied for a different job and they might call”?
Is this a situation where I tell my boss, or do I just wait it out? I’ve read your post about informing a manager about an interview and handling those processes, but this seems between applying and interviewing, so I’m not sure what, if anything, should be said.
No! Do not do this!
I’ve had a bunch of letters recently from people who have said something similar — “I figured it would look bad to say they can’t contact my current employer, so I said yes.”
It is very, very, very normal to ask that your current employer not be contacted about your job search. So normal. You will not look like you have something to hide by saying no — you will look like a normal person who doesn’t want to jeopardize your current employment.
Most companies understand that candidates don’t want their current employer tipped off to their job search. Usually, they’ll either skip your current employer or contact them only after they’ve decided to make an offer — and they should explicitly seek your permission to do it. And at that point, you should only allow it if they’ve told you that you’re their final candidate and they’ve agreed to offer you the job contingent on that reference.
There’s just too much at stake otherwise. Getting a reference call for a current employee is basically the same as you announcing at a staff meeting that you’re job hunting and planning to leave soon. Some employers are fine with that, but far, far more are not okay with it and may push you out earlier than you’d planned on. Or penalize you through smaller raises (they no longer have an incentive to try to retain you because they know you’re leaving) or less desirable projects (why give you the important work when you’re on your way out?).
As for what you can do now …The good news is that they’re very unlikely to contact any of your references before they’ve even interviewed you. So 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 not be alerted to your search until things reach the offer stage, at which point you’d like to alert them yourself.
And in the future, say “no” to that question without any hesitation.