Help me land my dream job, part 2!
May 4, 2010 7:54 AM   Subscribe

You may remember me from this question about getting my dream job at a nonproft. Well, the story hasn't ended!

So, as I said in my last question, I'd spill the details if I got the job, and I'd disappear with my tail between my legs if I didn't. I'm sure you all assumed that since I hadn't updated, I didn't get it, but it's not quite that simple!

At this point, one month, 18 hours' worth of interviews, and lots of stress, anxiety, hopes, and prayers have gone on, but things are finally down to the wire. They're checking my references.

There are a couple of things that stress me out about this already -- for example, 2 of the companies I have worked for in the past have gone out of business -- but those things are out of my control.

My major question is about my current place of work. Today, they've sent an email to my manager that blatantly states I am looking for employment, with a questionnaire to fill out about me. He has already read the email. He does not know that I know they've sent it to him.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I was not at work today. The reason I know this happened is because a coworker of mine sat down at his computer to work on something while he went to lunch, and the questionnaire the non-profit had sent about me was open on the screen. We do not know if he has responded yet or not.)

I suppose there is some small chance that he won't bring it up to me, but assuming that he does, what is my best way of answering his question, leaving a good impression if I DO end up leaving for the other job, and making sure my current position stays intact if I do not get the job offer?

I'm sure he will ask me if I'm looking for another job. Here are my options, as I see them, but please add more if I've overlooked something.

1. Tell the truth, that I have been looking for another job since my raise was denied.
2. Tell a lie, that working for this nonprofit organization happens to be my dream job (true!), but that if I don't get this job, I am not otherwise looking for a job.
3. Tell a BIG lie, that I'm looking for another job in the daytime (I work graveyard shift) to supplement my income.

Problem with 1: I usually abide by the idea that honestly is the best policy, but I'm not sure if it is in this case. I'm worried that if I tell the total truth, my manager will start looking for a replacement for me, and I could end up jobless by the end of all this.
Problem with 2: If I don't get the NPO job, I will continue job hunting, and I think it will reflect poorly on me that I told him I would not continue job hunting, yet he continues getting calls checking my references/work history. I'm sure he'll put 2&2 together, and again, I may end up jobless. If I DO get the NPO job, this seems like the most painless way of going about it, but nothing in life is certain except death and taxes...
Problem with 3: Many of our employees have multiple jobs, so while this one is believable, I'm sure it would reflect very poorly on me if I did get the NPO job, then put in my 2-week notice right after assuring my manager I wouldn't.

Are any of these reasonable? If not, what is my best course of action?

Thanks again! Sorry to keep stringing you along, but my real name is attached to my account, and I don't want to make things worse for myself. If I get the job, I still promise, all will be revealed!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total)
It's unfortunate that the non-profit you interviewed with sent a *questionnaire* to your current employer. Hell, it's more than unfortunate, it's an ignorant and arrogant thing to do. Do you really want to work with such a tone-deaf organization?

As for questions from your current employer, if they ask, just say you're always looking for new opportunities. Don't say it's because your request for a raise was turned down. You don't have to give any reason at all.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:00 AM on May 4, 2010

Semi-solution to # 1: keep track of any/all written praise and positive performance evaluations.

(My cousin did this once: she found out that her company was "restructuring" and she asked 3 higher-ups for written references and said she might be looking for another job. She was over-paid because her dad was the owner and they were probably looking for a reason to cut her position, so they obliged and wrote glowing letters. She never intended to look for a new job, but kept the written records in her files as insurance, in case they ever tried to fire her for poor performance.)

Quesion about #3: "put in my 2-week notice right after assuring my manager I wouldn't" - When/why did you assure your manager that you wouldn't give notice???
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:05 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree with KokuRyu, you can always say that working at that type of non-profit is a dream of yours... and leave it at that.
posted by inmediasres at 8:11 AM on May 4, 2010

This "dream-nonprofit" company of yours suddenly seems not sooo dreamy if they are going through the lengths of contacting your current employee while you are still there.....You may want to rethink working there if they are that tone any case...your best approach is to let your manager know that you only applied there because it is your dream job/career...he/she cant argue with that.
posted by The1andonly at 8:16 AM on May 4, 2010

Look, people leave jobs all the time. Even people who are happy where they are look at openings elsewhere. If your boss asks you outright if you're looking, you tell him that this opportunity at your dream employer came open and you applied for it because you couldn't pass it up. If he prods ("So you're not looking elsewhere/more broadly?"), you repeat that this dream opportunity came up and you felt like you owed it to yourself to explore it. Period.

What you don't do is lie outright (as in #3, that you're only looking for supplemental income) or tell him the brutal truth (as in #1, that you're looking for something else because you didn't get a raise). #3 comes back to bite you in the ass later, as you've noted; if he doesn't already realize #1, that you might be looking elsewhere because you didn't get a raise, he's clueless.

And don't lie outright and tell him you'll only leave for this NPO. You don't need to tell him anything beyond answering his question regarding this particular opportunity. You saw this amazing opportunity to do something you've always wanted to do, and you're giving it a shot.
posted by devinemissk at 8:22 AM on May 4, 2010 [5 favorites]

What if you get this job and you had lied? Then you'll look like a bigger ass.
posted by k8t at 8:26 AM on May 4, 2010

Once a prospective employer says they're going to check references, usually there is a conversation about whether such checking will include the current employer. Often the answer is yes, as a final precondition to a job offer. Then it is usually the role of the employee to tell the current employer to expect the reference request. It sounds like none of that communication happened. So the current employer may think that the lack of communication is a little odd.

In my opinion, you should approach your current employer before he has a chance to ask you, and state that you want to let him know that you may be offered your dream job at a non-profit. I would apologize that you hadn't told him sooner, but that you didn't know until very recently that it might go forward.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:29 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

You don't need to do any lying at all. Working for this non-profit is a dream of yours, you saw the opening, you jumped at the chance. Period. Your boss doesn't need to know you're unhappy and looking for other jobs in general.

If you don't get this job and continue looking for other positions, I would strongly recommend asking potential employers not to contact your current supervisor. It's a pretty common request and, like everyone else, I think it's sort of appalling that the non-profit has put you in this position.
posted by something something at 8:30 AM on May 4, 2010

How did they know your manager's name and contact info? Did you give them that info as part of your references? Were you thinking that after 18 hours of inteviews that they would not want to talk to your current employer? What were you imagining would happen at this point? Sometimes in these situations there is a conversation during the interview process about reference checks, and an agreement is made that if the hiring team gets to the reference check point, they will give the interviewee a heads up so they can talk to their supervisor - otherwise no one needs to know about a job search. Tell your supervisor you had an interview at your dream job and they want to check your references.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:37 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another option: instead of waiting around for your boss to tell you he got the questionnaire (agreed with others that it was bizarre for the NPO to do that) and asking what your job plans are, be proactive and go to him first. Say, "I applied for this posting at this NPO that I've always wanted to work for. They'll probably send you a questionnaire about it." You don't have to say that you are actively job searching, or that you want to leave, or your reason for wanting to.
posted by foxjacket at 8:47 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you didn't already ask your boss to be a reference, which is already a pretty lousy thing to do. He could simply respond "I was not asked to be a reference for Person X" and effectively remove you from the running for the position by making you look woefully unprepared.

You need to be honest with your manager at this point because you've allowed him to be blind-sighted by an email with no warning. You should explain the truth (the raise, the dream job) and ask him to refer you. If you lie to him again with regards to your intentions and he finds out, you now look like a person with a pattern of deceptive behavior, which likely hurts your ability to get a future reference and/or continue being employed at your current job.

Manage this quickly and honestly and give your manager a good reason to be a reference for you.
posted by Hiker at 8:57 AM on May 4, 2010

I've changed jobs more often than I care to admit...yet I have never had a potential new employer contact the current employer. I find it quite odd that they did that. Then again, I also find 18 hours of interviews very odd. Maybe if you are interviewing to be CEO of the organization that makes sense. But otherwise....

I hope this all works out like you hope it does. But those two issues are red flags for me.
posted by COD at 9:46 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have never hired anyone without talking to their current employer. If someone didn't want me to talk to their current employer, I would need to know why. Having said that, I do not check references unless I want to hire that person.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:01 AM on May 4, 2010

You are allowed to seek out better opportunities for yourself in life. You are acting in your own self interest...which is exactly what you are supposed to do in matters relating to your job. Its all business. You owe your current employer no other explanation other than:

"I'm actively examining other opportunities."

Whether or not you are doing this need not have anything to do with a rasie being denied. In the future I agree that it would be wise to pre-emptively inform your employer of this BEFORE they receive reference checks. Its direct, honest and up-front - which is a good way to conduct your personal business. Your employer holds no claim on you and there is no need to hide the fact that you are looking to improve your circumstances and make better use of your skills.
posted by jnnla at 11:13 AM on May 4, 2010

Any manager who would respond to a *questionnaire* about a current or former employee is an idiot. These days there are too many liability issues that go along with doing so. (The correct answer is that, yes, he/she worked here from [give dates]. If he/she really wants to go out on a limb, he/she might add that he/she would or would not hire you again given the circumstances.)

That your "dream employer" appears not to understand any of this should make you wary.

But, now that it's done, I agree with those who advise you to come clean with your current manager. If approached diplomatically, it could make for a productive conversation. The only caveat I would offer on this score is, don't make the conversation about what you want, which is a turn off. Make it about the ability, talent and value you bring to the table.

Good luck.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:54 PM on May 4, 2010

Maybe I misread the question, but I got the impression that the OP's CURRENT EMPLOYER sent the questionnaire, not the potential new NPO folks. I thought the OP was saying that somehow or other, HR or someone at the current job learned that OP was looking for a new job and sent a questionnaire to OP's manager.

If this is the case, does anyone have any different answers?

My own would be that telling the truth is your best option here, although it's up to you how forthcoming you want to be. "I'm always interested in learning about opportunities where I might be a good fit" should be a perfectly fine answer. "I love working here and I wish I could stay, but I need to be making more money" might work, too.

Good luck!
posted by kristi at 2:17 PM on May 5, 2010

the questionnaire the non-profit had sent about me was open on the screen.
Kristi, I see how you misread an earlier sentence but this one is pretty clear.
posted by saucysault at 4:29 PM on May 8, 2010

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