A question about resume etiquette. Don't contact my current employer?

My cousin asked me a serious question the other day, and I told him I’d get back to him. He is currently working for a good company but it’s a non-profit and not making the money he should be…he’s college educated and currently in development.

He is applying to another position in town and he has come to a stalemate. He is listing his past employers and he puts his current position on the application. Now the application asks for his current organizations phone number and supervisor.

Well he doesn’t want to tell them the phone number because he doesn’t want his current employer to know he is job searching. So he decided to put the phone number on the App anyway, but he put a note next to it saying: “my career change is confidential to my current employer”

Does this seem odd to anyone? What should he put? What could he have done instead…

He hasn’t sent the app in yet. Any help would be appreciated. :slight_smile:

Most (though not all) applications I’ve seen have an check box that lets you say whether or not you want them to contact your current employer.

If there’s not such a box, I think a note on the application or attached to the application would be appropriate. The comment he used is good, but I would add a second item, along the lines of “Please do not contact at the current time”.

Are potential employers bound by this? I once applied for a job, checked the “do not contact” box, and my previous employer was called anyway.


I think his note was good. In the future, or if he gets an interview, he can state that they’re welcome to contact his current employer after an offer has been extended. If the company is serious about checking references, they will want to make the offer contingent on this reference being satisfactory. A company is generally happy to respect the applicant’s privacy during the selection stage, but probably wants to reserve the right to check the most recent reference before hire.

Frankly, I think he was brave putting his current employers phone number on the application. Better just to write “Please don’t contact current employer”. Most employers won’t think twice about this request.

Bill - I like your blunt approach. I just called him and He’s bringing the App down tomorrow. Maybe he should just put “Please do not contact current employer”

Any hiring personnel out there lurking around…or anyone with experience?

I’m in HR Mgmt…ditto what Bill H. says.

This is fairly standard in the business world…I can’t believe any potential employer would have a problem with this.


I am aware of a number of cases where a potential employee was told not to check reference from their current employer, they did anyway and the candidate then got fired and sued the potential employer for lost wages, etc. and won.

The specifics for the two cases I’m referencing are quite different but the overall elements of each case are:

  1. I’m applying for a job with Company X
  2. I tell Company X they can check references but not with my current employer Company A.
  3. They do anyway
  4. I get fired from Company A and don’t get hired at Company X
  5. I sue Company X for damages and win

My firm, like most large firms, will not provide references. We will only confirm employment. I believe this has become extremely common, mainly because of lawsuits like those mentioned by Mr. Obvious.

As someone who has been involved in hiring people for about 20 years now, I can tell you that my working assumption, unless otherwise instructed, is that we should NOT contact the current employer. I also generally assume that even at such point that we can contact the current employer, we ain’t getting much info.

I know lots of managers who share the opinion that references are useless. The firm won’t respond, and the person cherrypicks 3 personal references from people who swear the potential employee can walk on water.

Just reiterating Bob Cos’ post. My firm also avoids references, only confirming dates of employment. Some people get round it by asking their managers to provide “personal” references about their work capabilities. Slightly dubious, but some companies appear to accept them.

I never put references on my CV or application. If specifically requested, I will list names and companies, but no contact details, and with a note asking politely to confirm before contact.

I spent a number of years in HR, and on the rare occasion something looked a little hinky and we needed to confirm the current job, we would call and pretend to be from a credit bureau, like we were working on a car loan or something. Never had any problems.

Thank you all. Very good information. He ended up putting " Please do not contact my current employer at this time"