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Should You Let A Potential Employer Talk To Your Current One?

Should You Let A Potential Employer Talk To Your Current One?

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Dear J.T. & Dale: I had a great job interview for a job I’d love to get. I then got an e-mail from them asking for a reference from my current employer. While all my previous evaluations have been satisfactory, I recently received a spotty review. If I let this potential new employer contact my current employer, the response may include negative comments. Also, it could seriously jeopardize my relationship with my current employer. What can an existing employer tell a potential one? – Anne

DALE: “No, no, no.” That, Anne, is your response to the request. It’s wrong for an employer to put you in this bind, and you don’t want to work for the jerks who’d do that to you.

J.T.: I understand why you’d feel that way, but this may well be a great opportunity that she doesn’t want to blow off based on what might be just bureaucratic hiring procedures.

DALE: If the new company merely wants to verify employment, like creditors often do, then no problem. Or, if you’re right and this is just HR bureaucracy, then those great new bosses should stand up for Anne and get the requirement waived.

J.T.: You may be overreacting. Let’s back up and answer Anne’s question about what they can say. Most employers will only give out dates of employment, your salary and (when it’s a past employer) whether you are eligible for rehire. They limit themselves to these facts because offering opinions about you, ones that limit your future opportunities, might result in a lawsuit. That’s not to say that your company might not be honest and say that you got a less-than-satisfactory grade on your last review, but honestly, I don’t think they will.

So, here’s how I’d proceed: Tell the new company they need to make you an offer in writing, contingent upon the reference check. That way, you can go in and be the one to explain it to your employer and ask them to be fair in the reference.

DALE: Whoa. That’s like telling your husband that you want a divorce and then asking him to sing at your upcoming wedding. So, you’re going to get two answers from us, Anne. Here’s what I’d do: Gently decline the request, explaining that you are a valuable employee who will be missed and that you don’t want to jeopardize that relationship until you definitely have a new job. They’ll respect you for that, and if they don’t, you don’t want to work there.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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J.T. & Dale

“JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.