Asking for references from coworkers at your current job
May 10, 2016 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Pretty much everyone I've worked with closely I still work with at my current employer. How I do I navigate the process of asking for references when looking for a new job?

Through my roughly 10 year career, I've been with the same small, tight-knit group of people from the CEO/CTO level on down, moving from startup to startup. Now we all work for a slightly larger company, but I am looking for jobs elsewhere. The reason is to relocate to a different part of the country, both to live more affordably and to be closer to family, so I don't have anything against the job or anyone I work with. Nobody I work with knows I am interviewing at other companies.

Things are going along well in the interviewing process, and the question of references is starting to come up. Most are saying they will not be checked until passing the final interview stage.

There are a few people I've worked with who are now working elsewhere, but I haven't worked with them nearly as closely as the current group, and I think they wouldn't be able to give references as good as those on the core team I've been with.

I'm in Silicon Valley, and job hopping is common. Should I just not worry that much about this and just go ahead and break the news to a select few, and ask them if they can serve as a reference?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, ask your most trusted colleagues. Hopefully your direct supervisor is one of them, because it's very hard to get around your supervisor being one of your references.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:35 AM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Get on LinkedIn, set your Privacy profile to NOT share profile updates with anyone. Then ask your references to write recommendations you can display in your profile.

This will fly under the radar of nearly everyone, especially management and HR at your current job. Explain to your close friends that you simply want to beef up your profile.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:42 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

You don't break any news to anyone until you are in final stages (essentially, offer is coming as long as references check out.) Your situation is very common, don't worry about it. Don't ask in advance before you know the offer's coming, though.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:50 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Why not check in with your less-close former colleagues now working for other companies. Who did they ask for a reference? How did they go about that without setting off any alarm bells on the home front?

My career skills have gotten SO MUCH BETTER since I realized that you can pick the brains of colleagues at your level or who have gone through the same thing you're dealing with.
posted by Sara C. at 9:54 AM on May 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

As a hiring manager, I consider recommendations on LinkedIn to be almost completely worthless -- the person who the reference is about has the ability to see the reference and even decide whether it gets published or not, so their friends have no incentive to be honest. I also tend to see a large number of LinkedIn recommendations as being a slightly negative signal -- it generally means the person either pressured their friends into writing recommendations, or was laid off.

fingersandtoes and rabbitrabbit have the right idea. If your colleagues are sane, normal people, this shouldn't be a problem.
posted by phoenixy at 9:58 AM on May 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

I agree with rabbitrabbit - and tell them why you're looking for other jobs. Something like "I love working here with you/everyone, but I'm looking to be closer to family, can I list you as a reference and can you keep this between us?"
posted by filthy light thief at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2016

I've also applied for jobs and only given references from former employers, not my current employer, and have explained to hiring managers that I'm doing so because I'm concerned current employer will fire me if they find out I'm looking. References can also include former employees of current employer. I haven't had any problem with this approach.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2016

My experience both in hiring and in applying is that people will respect a request to not contact your current employer or supervisor. It's also totally unremarkable to have some quiet conversations with trusted coworkers to say you are applying and would like them to be references. It is best to have a current or former supervisor on the list, but not always possible.

However, my experience is also that despite everyone promising discretion, including you, your references, and the place you are applying, word will often get around. Sometimes because people blab, but also because of small mistakes (like hr calling a reference via the front desk rather than directly) or just from hints (like you dressing nice on interview days). So have a plan in place for how to handle it if it does become public before you are ready.

Unless it is the norm in your field I wouldn't use open references posted on linked in or anything else more public than having trusted people lined up to be contacted.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:28 PM on May 10, 2016

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