Workplace Prospective new employer wants to contact my current employer

ZumbaGal

Member
May 17, 2013
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0
I need advice quickly! Apologies for the length.

I was offered a job this week at University A (we'll just call it that). It's a university with an outstanding worldwide reputation, and I'm very interested in the position.

I'm currently employed, but have been considering leaving for quite some time. My current employer is unaware that I'm looking to leave. In fact, they just offered me a promotion a week ago during my annual review. The promotion will continue my career down a path I'm really not interested in pursuing (and keep me at a lower salary than I can afford to live on any longer). I asked for some time to think about it, knowing that my interviews with University A had gone well and could potentially lead to an offer.

So, the offer came and University A has asked for references. They want several references from my previous employer AND one reference from my current employer. Basically, it's a contingent offer. As long as my references come through, the job is mine.

I have not officially accepted the job. I told them when they made the offer last night that I was very uncomfortable with having them speak with my current employer, not because I have nothing to hide (they want to promote me, after all!), but because when I give them my two week notice it's going to come as a huge shock. I'm afraid that something negative might be said about me in the aftermath due to emotions running high. Obviously, I would give my two weeks notice before they receive a call.

This morning I emailed University A with a list of references containing only former places of employment and gave them the go ahead to call those individuals. I asked if we could speak on the phone further about my concerns with them contacting my current employer. When we spoke, I again expressed my concerns with having them contact my current employer and offered to email them my most recent performance review as an alternative (filled out last week during my annual review by my supervisor). HR person at University A was understanding and told me that the performance review could work. He said that they really do prefer to speak with the current employer, though, even if it's a few days after I've given notice. I'm guessing it's just some sort of protocol because they've been burned in the past?

He did say, though, that if the situation is really sour after I give my notice and I really don't think it's a good idea for them to talk to my current employer, they would work with me--it's not an all or nothing proposition. He mentioned that these phone calls are always very brief.

My question is: Is this normal??? University A is not some rinky dink operation with HR people who don't know what they're doing. I've never been in this situation before and find this all very strange.

Honestly, I think that after my supervisor recovers from the initial blow that she'll be fine to speak with them. It's not like I've done anything illegal/unethical/etc. while employed there. I get the impression that this is more or less what University A is wanting confirmed. Still, it just feels...risky?

Anyone here in HR who can offer some insight?
THANK YOU!
 

Irishgal

I run with scissors
O.G.
Apr 22, 2006
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Long and Low Farms
Are you in the US? In the US the only info the employer can give is dates of employment, salary range, and role within the organization.
I know there are HR pros here that may add more.
Congrats on the new opportunity.
 

leechiyong

Member
Sep 3, 2013
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13,856
There's employment verification and references. For your references, if you gave direct leadership contacts from previous employers, a good alternative may be to find another person in the company who you trust from another vantage point (peer, a manager is not directly yours, someone who reported to you). So long as they can give concrete examples of working with you, it should be sufficient.

I'd think that University A should be understanding of not wanting to give your direct leaderhship's contact information if for some reason things did not work out. I'd clarify with them if this is a requirement if you haven't already.
 

Vegas Long Legs

Traveler
Nov 13, 2006
11,009
10
Are you in the US?

JMO - This thing about getting a reference from a current job is way out of line. I ended up turning down an offer in 1998 cause of this. The new job was much more money bennies etc but I couldn't risk my current job being a single home owner. The gentleman that hired really wanted me to join the team but HR & I could not come to an agreement on this. 'Bird in hand is worth 2 in the bush.' As usual, everything worked out great. My life went in a much better direction.
We are a small business & we would let go anyone immediately if any HR called us to get a reference on a current employee. The loyalty is gone, time to move on. We have had employees leave, always wishing them well. (Still have contact with a few.)

HR is suppose to only get certain info. One of my friends who was HR president for a very large company belonged to a bunch of HR organizations,. She said HR people would call each other all the time at home or talk after meetings about candidates.
 
Oct 20, 2008
4,197
1,452
manhattan
Are you in the US?

JMO - This thing about getting a reference from a current job is way out of line. I ended up turning down an offer in 1998 cause of this. The new job was much more money bennies etc but I couldn't risk my current job being a single home owner. The gentleman that hired really wanted me to join the team but HR & I could not come to an agreement on this. 'Bird in hand is worth 2 in the bush.' As usual, everything worked out great. My life went in a much better direction.
We are a small business & we would let go anyone immediately if any HR called us to get a reference on a current employee. The loyalty is gone, time to move on. We have had employees leave, always wishing them well. (Still have contact with a few.)

HR is suppose to only get certain info. One of my friends who was HR president for a very large company belonged to a bunch of HR organizations,. She said HR people would call each other all the time at home or talk after meetings about candidates.

Wow, so you don't think an employee should look for a better position at all when working for you? There are many reasons to want to leave a job and not all of them make an employee disloyal.
 

Midge S

I meant to do that.
Jan 14, 2012
2,081
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Right Smack in the Middle
I agree with the idea that they are looking for a reference from someone who you work with currently. A former manager, a mentor, someone with whom you could trust with the confidentiality of it.

It is very commonplace to NOT contact a current employer. I would find it odd if they really had the intention of talking to HR, or someone you did not want them too. I have a feeling this is going to resolve itself for you.
 

ZumbaGal

Member
May 17, 2013
23
0
Thank you for all of your responses.

I am in the US.

Just to give an update, I spoke with my husband about the situation the night after I posted this thread. We both decided that until I have a formal written offer in hand that I should not give them permission to speak with my current employer (at that stage, what would be the point anyway?). There are a few individuals at my current employer (not my supervisor) who *might* be okay to speak with University A, but the situation makes me very uncomfortable. The staff where I current work is very small and, quite frankly, quite unprofessional. This is part of the reason I'm leaving. There's a tendency for people to take things very personally, and I don't want to stir the pot and have word spread that I have one foot out of the door.

I think my main concern is that while they say the offer is contingent on references, until I have a formal offer in hand it's not 100%. What if I give them the go-ahead to contact my current employer, and then in the days I'm waiting for the official offer letter to be produced University A decides not to fill this position (for whatever reason)? I've heard of things like this happening, so I don't want to in any way jeopardize relationships at my current job without 100% confirmation from the prospective employer.

Anyway, I emailed the HR person at University A basically stating all of this (minus the stuff about the unprofessional nature of my current office and that being a reason for my departure) and attached my most recent performance review. I just had my annual review one week ago, so the information is all very fresh. I asked them if this could be used as a substitute for speaking with my current employer.

I heard back, and they said they thought that using the review would be fine. They had already spoken with one of the other references I'd provided and were waiting to hear back from the other. This was all on Thursday. I didn't hear anything yesterday.

So, long story short, I'm waiting to hear the latest. Hopefully I'll know more on Monday.

University A is a really prestigious place, so I'm guessing they're just trying to be very careful in making the correct hire. I completely understand, but also want them to understand where I'm coming from. I can't end up without any job!
 

Vegas Long Legs

Traveler
Nov 13, 2006
11,009
10
^^^ you made the right decision! Good luck! Glad to hear they were some what flexible.

Wow, so you don't think an employee should look for a better position at all when working for you? There are many reasons to want to leave a job and not all of them make an employee disloyal.
Oh I knew this would happen. :lol:
No - that is not what I said at all. Trust me thinking this way is not having a very big awareness level. There are tons of 'better' jobs out there. No delusion here on thinking we have the best place to work.

Have told people that worked for me, wow I'm happy for you cause that is a better job than I could ever offer you here. With small businesses, there is usually limited opportunities. People are blind if they don't see that.
One of our warehouse managers was accepted into the Electrician program. DH & I were thrilled knowing they would be gaining a career. Rather than just filling our orders day in & day out. Really hated to see this one go. Not surprised they were accepted into this program. Sharp, very likable & a wonderful worker.

I've trained many & given many first jobs to see these folks succeed in life. I'm happy for them. DH calls me the cheerleader cause he says I'm always happy & encouraging for all.

I still think this practice of calling a current job for a reference is disturbing. I would never do it. I think that it possibly wouldn't create good feelings at a current job. What if that employee was up for a promotion they weren't aware of? Seeing that they are looking for a new job might second guess that decision on the inside of the current position. I can see getting a reference from a current coworker. As long as that coworker knows to not talk about it with anyone else.
 

leechiyong

Member
Sep 3, 2013
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13,856
University A is a really prestigious place, so I'm guessing they're just trying to be very careful in making the correct hire. I completely understand, but also want them to understand where I'm coming from. I can't end up without any job!
Sounds like they are willing to work with you, which is great as I'd be concerned with accepting a position where they weren't understanding about something like this. Best of luck!
 

Vegas Long Legs

Traveler
Nov 13, 2006
11,009
10
What do you mean when you wrote:



Would you immediately let go of an employee if you found out that they're looking for another job?
Your perception is obviously not anywhere near my reality.
It looks like you just want to try to turn around what others write, who you don't know from a hole in the ground & to try make them a bad guy.
Seen it 1000's of times on TPF, not going to play. Someone wants to think the worst of others, that is their problem.
 
Sep 17, 2009
1,140
4
Are you in the US? In the US the only info the employer can give is dates of employment, salary range, and role within the organization.
HR is suppose to only get certain info.
Just as an FYI, this is not correct. Technically (and legally), HR or any reference you use can give out any information for references that they please (subject to obvious privacy restrictions). So if you have a prior employer who disliked your job performance, they can inform a prospective employer of this information, either by giving their opinion of your job performance, stating true facts that cast you in a negative light, stating that they would never rehire you, etc. That being said, most HR departments (under the advice of their legal team) will not state more than dates of employment and the employee's position, so as not to subject the company to defamation suits, etc. But an employer is certainly not prohibited from sharing negative information.
 

Designed_One

Member
Oct 22, 2013
661
4
In my experience this is very common practice. Not that you have anything to hide, but when employing people I am very sceptical when they are unable to provide a reference from their current employer. I would never call someone without the persons permission and only contact the person they approve me to call. I would expect that prospective employee would have given the referee a heads up and that my call would not be a shock. I'm in Australia though and that is whats common here.
 
Oct 20, 2008
4,197
1,452
manhattan
Your perception is obviously not anywhere near my reality.

It looks like you just want to try to turn around what others write, who you don't know from a hole in the ground & to try make them a bad guy.

Seen it 1000's of times on TPF, not going to play. Someone wants to think the worst of others, that is their problem.

No, I'm not trying to turn you into a bad guy. I just thought your position was extreme so I wanted to understand how/if you go about actually applying it. I tend to like to get into the details of things once they catch my attention.
 

redney

Lovin' Life!
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Apr 21, 2006
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In my experience this is very common practice. Not that you have anything to hide, but when employing people I am very sceptical when they are unable to provide a reference from their current employer. I would never call someone without the persons permission and only contact the person they approve me to call. I would expect that prospective employee would have given the referee a heads up and that my call would not be a shock. I'm in Australia though and that is whats common here.
Agreed. Usually, though, the employment offer has been extended in writing to the candidate, and the offer is contingent upon the reference check with the current employer.

This way, the candidate has the security of having the job in hand if their reference from their current employer is a good one.