Potential new employer contacting present supervisor

Being extremely dissatisfied with my current employer, I’ve been sending out resumes to various companies, hoping to score a new and better job. I’ve been asked to fill out applications for a couple of these companies with references and such, and the question “may we contact your present supervisor?” has me torn. I would really prefer to check no, because A: I don’t really want my current supervisor to know I’m looking elsewhere, because there is no doubt in my mind that she’d find a reason to can my ass because of it, and B: I’m not sure if she’ll have much good to say about me. Up until the past couple months, I’ve been a model employee, but lately my productivity has suffered greatly because of various reasons (not the least of which is a burning hatred of my job), and I’m afraid of what kind of reference she may give me.

There is the option on the application to say they may contact my past supervisors, but not my current. I know I’d get excellent references from all my past supervisors. But, I’m not sure how that would look to the potential new employer. Would it look really bad to say not to contact my current supervisor?

I’d be surprised if it did. If you currently have a job, it’s not at all uncommon to not want your prospective employer to contact your current boss–doing so would let your current boss know you’re looking, and most people want to prevent that.

I recent accepted an offer from a company where I checked “don’t contact” next to my current boss, and I didn’t list him has a reference on my “list of references” sheet. YMMV.

They give you that option because they don’t know the circumstances - some people give their employers a heads-up, others don’t dare shoot themselves in the foot like that.

Unless your current employer is aware of your new job hunt (such is the case in a pre-announced downsizing), don’t authorize any contact between a prospective future employer and your current employer. There are much more downside risk than upside. I’ve never had any issue with a prospective employer when I give references that are not actively associated with my current employment. Former employees of your current firm would make excellent references since they should really have no bias in their assessment of you.

It won’t look bad to say not to contact your current supervisor. Every manager knows that there is a chance he won’t hire you and so he knows he should not screw up your current job.

I’m going to join the chorus here that says it’s perfectly okay to ask them not to contact your current supervisor. In fact, most candidates say they’d prefer us not contact anyone at their current company until an offer is on the table. Even after an offer is made, most references are the HR department (for salary/tenure verification), former employees of the current company, and previous employers.

The only exceptions are the previously mentioned pre-announced downsizing and those who have already resigned and given notice (for example, they are relocating in a few months to follow a spouse). I wouldn’t say those candidates have any advantage over those who’d prefer us not to contact their current company.

Thanks everybody! Now I feel like a dumbass for even worrying about it. :slight_smile:

If you leave this job and are wondering about using it for references, make sure you get someone to call your former supervisor and find out what kind of reference she is giving you. There is always the option of using a reference from a job who isn’t your direct supervisor, as well - a co-worker or a supervisor’s supervisor, if they’re familiar with your work also work fine for references.

Well, what everyone else said, with the addition that many companies do not allow supervisors or other employees to give references, good or bad, to current or former employees. There is a risk of liability no matter what is said. Usually all that is authorized is for HR to state that the person did work there.