I've been pretty happily employed at my present company for 8 years. I am, however, looking at positions of higher responsibility, growth and/or compensation elsewhere. I have not told anyone at my present company that I am looking.

I'd like to include at least one higher-up or a strong peer from my present company among my references. But, I think they'll feel enough commitment to my boss to disclose my search to him. I'm not yet ready to have that revealed. Any tips on how to approach someone for their confidential assistance?

Also, what are the potential ramifications with a hiring company to tell them that I haven't included any references from my present employer, because they don't know I'm looking? It's honest, but it sounds weak to me.

Thanks -- BH

jhack's picture

Horstman's Rule #6: There are no secrets.

If you tell someone, it will become known to all.

Any reasonable prospective employer would understand why you can't provide a reference from your current employer.

Which leaves you without any references...

Is there someone who's moved on elsewhere and could provide a reference?

There are employers who will make job offers to folks, with the understanding that if reference checks turn up something surprising the offer would be withdrawn. That is still tricky, but might be acceptable.


HMac's picture

[quote]Also, what are the potential ramifications with a hiring company to tell them that I haven't included any references from my present employer, because they don't know I'm looking? It's honest, but it sounds weak to me. [/quote]

Not weak at all. Look: until they make an offer to you, they have no "skin in the game" except whatever time they take to interview you. The only risk they take is the risk of wasted time. You, on the other hand, are taking time away from your job, and taking on the risk of word getting back to your employer that you're interviewing. So this isn't weak - it's prudent! And the interviewing company will most likley understand that you're holding off on references from your current employer until such time that the risk makes better sense to you...

Nik's picture

What about former-co-workers? People who left the company (whether voluntarily or laid-off) could be excellent references in place of a current co-worker. I'd provide such references with the qualification that they are FORMER co-workers, but that's pretty close to the same thing.

AManagerTool's picture

Two questions for you.

What to you have to gain by telling someone...anyone that you are looking?

What do you have to loose by having your boss find out?

Answer those two questions honestly....and decide.

My vote = tell no one because the potential cost (loosing your job or being viewed as having one foot out the door) far outweighs any potential benefit (positioning for a power play raise which never works, getting bad advice from a co-worker with an agenda, co-miserating, low value recommendations...etc), associated with telling someone.

Again, your choice...good luck.

itilimp's picture
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I'm in a similar position in terms of wanting more development opportunity. I've been in the same post for 6 years and 3 of those I have been waiting for a supposed restructure which would deliver what I want but my patience has worn thin. A great opportunity has come up that I can take as a secondment at another public sector organisation so technically I'm not leaving my current employer. Who knows, by the time it is over maybe that restructure will be forthcoming!

Due to this I HAVE advised my boss that I intend to apply for the role and would appreciate his support (which he has kindly provided). I asked if we could not say anything to my peers unless I do get the position as I think it would negatively affect relations if they thought I wanted to leave.

That said, if it were not a secondment I would not say anything to my existing boss until I got an offer from another company.

CalKen's picture

This is a great thread to me in part because I had been in this situation at one time and shared the information with people, where it came back to my manager. After that, I could tell that my relationship changed until I eventually laterally moved and eventually to another company.

I know that people have already stressed this but Horstman's Law is very true: there are no secrets.

I would toss in a caveat to tell nobody if you are trying to move up in the same organization and your discussions are part of a healthy networking opportunity. When you talk to managers and others about your desire to take on new roles and grow in your current roles and are open to "the next rung in the ladder", most managers would (in my opinion) jump at the chance to help one of their directs navigate to that next level. There is a small difference between networking and actively looking behind your team and manager's back for opportunities outside of the company but if this is pursued with a good O3 structure and networking skills (a strong network is a MUST) I think it has some merit. Just, please remember that, if nobody else has convinced you, there are no secrets so please view it as such and tell nobody...

asteriskrntt1's picture

Nice advice from the MT community. I may have glossed over this so apologies if someone already stated the obvious - don't provide any references until they are making you an offer.

Then you listen over and over to the references podcast, tell your references your situation and prep them as to exactly what you want them to talk about and say.

Ie, one can stress how organized you were. Another can add how well you work in teams, or how good you are at pre-wiring and gaining buy in for new concepts/projects.


HMac's picture

I'm glad this thread popped back up because my reaction to the title "Letting coworkers know you're job searching" was immediate:



The risks so completely overshadow the gains.

And with regard to the specific instance of asking for references, I agree with those who suggested that you find references elsewhere.