I could tell you, but then...
September 7, 2018 12:12 AM   Subscribe

A former colleague wants to use me as a reference for a job application. I would love to tell potential employers how awesome she was. However, I recently changed jobs too, and joined a stealthy startup. Is there an accepted way to handle giving a recommendation when you have to be cagey about your current role/title/employer?

My management has explicitly asked me to be discrete in what I reveal to others, up to and including the name of the company.

My best thought is to have my former colleague list my title as "[Former title], [Former Employer] (Prev)" and give my personal email. This is all meaningful information, since I worked with her in that role, but I'm worried that using a personal email could throw up red flags, though, which is the complete opposite of what I want to do for her application!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
When I've given potential employers lists of references from old jobs, I have never listed the people's current jobs - it wouldn't be relevant to do so. All that matters is the role they played when we worked together.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:15 AM on September 7, 2018 [18 favorites]


Using your personal email address for a reference is totally normal. After all, you could be unemployed at the moment. The experience you had working with your colleague is still relevant.
posted by neushoorn at 3:44 AM on September 7, 2018 [6 favorites]


A personal email address is very ordinary for a recommendation. People move on from companies all the time.

And as showbiz_liz says your current sitaution has nothing to do with your recommendation. If someone asks just say you’re at a startup in stealth mode.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:32 AM on September 7, 2018


In some cases I've written a recommendation like this on LinkedIn, which explicitly ties it back to the role I was in when I worked with the person. That authenticates my credentials for writing the recommendation too. Presumably if you're in stealth mode at your new place then it's not on your LI profile so it might be an option.
posted by crocomancer at 4:51 AM on September 7, 2018


Nobody's ever asked me where I worked currently when giving a reference, though I have once (uh, some years ago rather than in the current climate) sort of shamelessly used a friend at Facebook for a rental application personal reference because I knew it would impress the landlord.

Use your personal address and if it happens to become some kind of pressing question just say, "I know this sounds ridiculous, but I can't say. It's a super-secret startup thing, all will be revealed in a few months." If it's a casual question, just say you're freelancing right now.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:30 AM on September 7, 2018


Yeah, just nth-ing that this is incredibly common. I was called for a reference check for someone I supervised at a previous organization and the hiring manager never asked me about my current job. They don't care about what you're doing, they care about the person they're hiring.

If you want to be extra, extra careful about this, just make sure your LinkedIn profile is set to public and lists you as having worked in the position where you worked with the former colleague.
posted by capricorn at 6:55 AM on September 7, 2018


References aren't supposed to dazzle -- some people might care what your title is, but they're not contacting you to get a high-prestige person to vouch for your friend. Every time I've spoken to an employer when a former coworker listed me as a reference, they wanted to know what my role was, what role the former coworker had played, and information on how they functioned in that role. What you're doing right now is unimportant because the person you're acting as a reference for isn't in your current workplace.
posted by mikeh at 9:24 AM on September 7, 2018


My best thought is to have my former colleague list my title as "[Former title], [Former Employer] (Prev)" and give my personal email. This is all meaningful information, since I worked with her in that role, but I'm worried that using a personal email could throw up red flags, though, which is the complete opposite of what I want to do for her application!

Nah, this isn't a red flag at all. It is very common for people to prefer using personal email to give references like this. It's not company business, after all. If for some reason the employer is chatty enough to ask you what you do now, you can just say that you're a freelancer/consultant with clients in the [foo] field.
posted by desuetude at 9:43 AM on September 7, 2018


I think the question of whether the personal email is okay has been cleared up, but I would never give a current colleague's work email address as a reference contact - given that work email can be monitored. So giving a personal email is standard. I've also given references and only been asked about how I worked with the person, not what I'm doing now, they don't care about that. When I've listed references, I usually include something like, Jane Smith, manager at Tea Pots Inc. cell phone: xxx email: xxxx.
posted by john_snow at 11:30 AM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


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