“JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.
Dear J.T. & Dale: One common question I’ve been asked during interviews is whether the potential employer can contact my current employer. I never know how to answer this. One concern is that if I give permission, my current employer could find out I’m looking for a new job. At best, this would make for an awkward work situation, especially if I don’t get or accept the new position. At worst, I imagine it could get me fired. However, if I don’t give permission, I’m concerned that I take myself out of further consideration because the employer might think I have something to hide. What’s the correct way to handle this? Should I let them contact my current employer? – Eric
DALE: Unless you are in some unusual situation, such as a company that is closing or a facility that’s relocating to another city, you do have something to hide – and it is that you’re looking for another job. Any decent prospective employer would take this into consideration. So, the answer is no, they can’t contact your current employer. However, you needn’t put it in such stark terms. You would mention that you currently have a great relationship and wouldn’t want to do anything to risk that, and then refer the potential employer to references from prior companies, or perhaps a current co-worker who knows that you’re looking.
J.T.: I like the idea of emphasizing your current great relationship, but I’d use it to say “yes” rather than “no.” Here’s the right response: “Yes. You can contact my employer. However, I would ask that you do not do so until you have extended me an offer and I have accepted it pending a good recommendation. I worked hard to develop my relationship with my current company. The only reason I’m looking for a new job is they do not have the growth opportunity I desire. Therefore, I am completely OK with you talking to them should I make the cut and accept an offer with you, just not until then.”
DALE: Very impressive. That is the right answer. It offers you protection from immediate contact while making you look even more desirable to the new company.
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