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May 18, 2011


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As I ponder an upcoming position change outside of my company I cant help but fear the reference request.

If i give my current management as a reference it will lower my standing and perhaps affect the potential projects i could be assigned.

My next employer would be found 4 years later. I should be able to find a decent reference for that. Any advice on what to do in reference to the last 4 years?

Here's what I've done in the past:

Use past bosses (from 4+ years ago) as well as colleagues who are friends (usually at the same level as you) within your current company. Make sure the latter can keep a secret and will give you a good reference.

I would always explain it to the new company as, "I can't give you a reference from my current employer because they do not know I'm looking for other employment." Any reasonable person will accept this explanation. Then say, "But I do have a couple (or one) colleague who's a peer of mine, who can speak to my skills and accomplishments, and who will be discreet so I have included him on the list."

This has always worked for me.

I always put references that I've asked to be references and who I'm pretty sure will say great things about me. It amazes me that there people that don't. A friend of my sister-in-law quit her job one day by calling in one morning and saying that she wasn't coming in...that day or any day. She then listed her boss as a reference! On top of that, she even had the nerve to call her boss a couple of weeks down the road and ask her to send a pair of shoes that had been left behind. The boss got one reference call and you can well imagine how that went!

I am recruiter and it's hard to believe how often this happens. Just a few days ago a candidate listed her current supervisor as a reference, and he did NOT have very inspiring things to say. It's such a red flag for a potential employer, that A) you haven't performed well in the past, and B) that you're not smart enough/realistic enough to recognize that this person isn't going to give you a glowing review. >

In terms of how to give references if you don't want your current employer to know you are looking - that's really not a big issue. If you're a strong candidate and have the right qualifications for the job, most employer will be happy to speak with current colleagues and former supervisors. In those cases, I'll usually ask for a few more references to contact, just so I can make sure I'm getting the most accurate picture possible. As long as you're up front about it, it shouldn't be an issue. Making me hound you for more references on the other hand, bad sign...

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