How Do You Answer: May I Contact Your Present Employer for a Reference?

There are many questions that are common during a job interview. One, in particular, can be tricky to answer: “Can we contact your current employer for a reference?” What do you say, and how can it impact the impression you’re making? Future Force, one of the area’s leading office staffing agencies, has the answers you need:

The Downside of Saying “Yes”

You want to be able to say “yes,” but if you’re like most candidates, you’re still actively employed. If the hiring manager contacts your boss, then they will find out about your job search. Worst case scenario, this could result in a too-early termination for you. Best case, it will make going to work awkward and uncomfortable.

The Downside of Saying “No”

Yet, you might think just flat out saying “no” is a red flag for employers. If you don’t want them to contact your current employer, then there must be a reason and their mind will go to the worst possible one first. It’s why, when you get this question, it can truly feel like you’re between a rock and a hard place.

But there is good news. All you have to do is let the hiring manager know why you don’t want them to contact your current employer. Simply explain that you’re still on the job and want to keep your search as confidential as possible. They will respect and understand your situation.

However, do go out of your way to give them references they can freely contact, including your past bosses, managers and peers. At the end of the day, the hiring manager wants to verify that you have the skills and abilities that you say you do. Giving them a well-rounded reference list, even if it excludes your current employer, should do that.

Some other tips for giving good references to a hiring manager:

  • If they don’t provide you with a specific amount of references, give between three and five with the majority being from past managers. They hold more weight.
  • Prepare your references ahead of time by giving them details about the job and the different projects you worked on together that will best demonstrate why you’re a fit for it.
  • Thank your references for going to bat for you even if you don’t get the job. Also, offer to serve as a reference for them in the future.

If you’re looking for a new job, but can’t seem to find one that’s a good fit for you, turn to Future Force. As one of the most experienced office staffing agencies around, an award-winning one, in fact, we know who’s hiring and how to get your foot in the door, so you land the job you want. Search our jobs now to get started!

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