CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


By Shannon Jackson
Special to The Toronto Sun
Q: I'm at an okay job right now, but I'm thinking of moving on. After getting an interview, they asked for references. I don't want my current employer to know that I am looking for a new job. What should I do?

A: A potential employer will typically want to speak to two or three work references, preferably your direct supervisors, as part of their hiring decision. These are the people who can best speak to your work ethic, attendance, productivity, technical strengths, etc. If you are able to provide a minimum of one or two references of direct supervisors from previous employment, that is usually acceptable, even without your current employer.

If your current employment is your first job, or if you have been reporting to the same person for several years, that becomes a little more complicated. In such a circumstance, I would broaden the scope of your references to include others who are able to competently comment on your work habits: teachers, volunteer leaders, etc.
Send your job-related questions to Diane Janes at, or mail to Career Connections, The Toronto Sun, 333 King St. E., 4th Floor, Toronto, Ont., M5A 3X5

It is completely appropriate to ask that your current employer not be contacted until a conditional offer of employment has been extended, negotiated, and accepted. You can state that by simply saying, "I am a passive job seeker, who is only looking to make a change if the new opportunity is the right one. Because of that, I have not spoken with my current manager as of yet, and am not prepared to share my search status with him/her until there is a conditional offer of employment."

That is to say that, provided the conversation with your current manager is positive, you will be employed at the new company. At that stage, if you are confident in your performance today, you can speak with your current supervisor to disclose your search efforts.

The good news is the potential employer needs your express permission before they can legally contact your boss for a reference. Good luck with your search!

(Shannon Jackson is a hiring expert, with more than seven years experience recruiting for Fortune 500 companies across Canada.)

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