How do I tell my supervisor I'm interviewing elsewhere when I need them as a reference?
November 23, 2011 7:58 AM   Subscribe

I have a job interview next week. Meanwhile, my current supervisor is anxious to start the work plan and budget process for 2012. I feel dishonest committing to projects that I have no intention of carrying out. I need my supervisor as a reference and I can't burn this bridge - how do I tell my boss I'm interviewing elsewhere?

I currently live in a small city in a sparsely populated part of the country. I'll be relocating to be closer to my partner in the next city over. Fortunately, jobs are plentiful in this area, and there are generally more jobs than there are applicants - so if I'm not successful during this interview, there will be more to follow.

My supervisor and I belong to the same small professional organization and he is the head of the examining committee. Though he can't review my application for said professional organization, I desperately need him to provide a solid reference on my behalf. I have held my current job for almost three years, and there is nobody else with our professional designation within the corporation. Given the population of our area, I don't have much choice in terms of who can provide a reference, as they must hold the same professional designation to provide the reference.

I can't emphasize this enough - I have to maintain an amicable relationship with my current supervisor.

I know I am only required to provide two weeks' notice. My supervisor knows I am in a long distance relationship, and he is a kind person - thus why I'd like to approach the situation with as much sensitivity as possible.

How do I tell my boss that I will be taking this interview and intend to move in the very, very near future?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I feel like there isn't any kind of amicable departure that can undo three years of goodwill and history with your current boss. But if you're intent on being as forthright as possible, just tell him "Dave, partner and I are hoping to be living together in [partner's city] in 2012. I don't have a date or even a firm plan yet, but I wanted to let you know while we're planning that I might not see out the year."

Worst case scenario: he fires you immediately and you move right away. But I feel like that's pretty unlikely.
posted by kate blank at 8:05 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would not mention any interview.

I would, however, drop some water-cooler conversation about your LDR from time to time. Hopefully, that's enough for him to realize that your leaving is a distinct possibility -- he knows it's on your mind.

I feel dishonest committing to projects that I have no intention of carrying out.

Right now, you are doing the work as required. And -- no disrespect -- you don't have that new job yet.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:06 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Never, ever, ever tell your current employer you're interviewing elsewhere. That, way more than quitting with normal notice, damages your workplace credibility. You proceed under the assumption you will not get this job, you will be carrying out the currently planned work tasks, and nothing will change. When it becomes clear it will, then you let people know.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:11 AM on November 23, 2011 [14 favorites]

Don't tell your boss anything until you have a new job offer in-hand. Sometimes life can take unpredictable turns, and you don't want to negatively impact your current job in the event that you don't move as soon as you thought, and need to keep this job. If you tell your boss now that you're looking elsewhere, even though you have a good relationship with them they will probably start to pull away from you. You could see your work being given to other people, they may stop keeping you in the loop on plans, you may not be included on projects that you'd otherwise be a part of, etc. (It happened to me.) As far as your boss's budget goes, don't worry about that.... just let them keep budgeting for the projects you would have been a part of, because if it's not you doing the work then it will be the new employee who replaces you. So your boss still needs to budget for those costs, and it should be a wash. If you need your current boss for a reference, do not talk to them about this until you have a successful interview and your new company tells you they will be checking your references (which they would not do unless they are making you an offer.) It would be highly premature to tell your boss anything about your plans right now.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 8:12 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

This may well be irrelevant to your situation, but at the company I work for, managers are contractually forbidden from giving professional references other than "I confirm this person worked for the company between these two dates". I don't know how widespread a practice this is, however if it were to apply in your case, it wouldn't make a whole lot of difference what you did (other than possibly put strain on your relationship).
posted by teselecta at 8:21 AM on November 23, 2011

You don't. Plain and simple. As far as anyone is concerned (yourself included), you work for your boss. If you tell him you're interviewing elsewhere, you might as well quit now. And quitting before you have a new job is hand is a bad move these days.

Employees come and go -- it's a fact of doing business. It's not a big deal if one leaves after the budget. And it's certainly not your responsibility.
posted by cgg at 8:38 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

"I confirm this person worked for the company between these two dates"

I believe that is pretty much the norm these days. And your current boss using your job change against you with the professional organization would be unethical, at the least. As long as you give two weeks notice, or whatever your particular employment situation requires, you own them nothing else, and they should not expect more.
posted by COD at 9:58 AM on November 23, 2011

The job you're currently doing is not inherently your job, so there's no need to feel guilty about the possibility that someone else may one day have that job instead.
Your current boss is planning out next year's projects, and planning out your contribution to those projects, because those are the tasks that have to happen in that project no matter who does them. If you weren't there to do those things, they would still need to be done. If you leave, they will find someone else and put that person's name at the top of the list that was formerly yours, but all the work that you're currently doing right now to make an excellent plan and an excellent to-do list is time well-spent, whether it turns out to be you who's carrying out the plan, or some other person. Whenever they put your name down as responsible for something, that's just shorthand for writing your job title. Don't take it personally. I'm sure you're an excellent (whatever you do) but whoever they hire next will just have to be able to do those things, too.
posted by aimedwander at 10:16 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Unless you work in a field that is totally weird that I've never considered, it is absolutely okay to tell someone you are interviewing with that you cannot offer your current boss as a reference because you have not told them you are leaving. Ask them to respect your need for confidentiality. Professional companies will do this, even in a niche market like you seem to have.

What you can do, though, is offer up your latest performance review. Say something like, "Since I haven't told {my company} that I'm considering a move to {your company}, I can't offer my current supervisor as a reference. But I can offer you a copy of my most recent performance review, which {bossman} did. It conveys very well the value he places on me and my contributions to the company." Then hand over a copy of the review. I've done this before and interviewers have been impressed that I'd taken the initiative and solved this common problem creatively.
posted by juniperesque at 10:30 AM on November 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

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