my interviewer wants a reference from my current boss

This post, my interviewer wants a reference from my current boss , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have been at my current job for about six years and have a good relationship with my manager. But for various reasons I have decided that it’s time to move on and have been looking for something new. My manager doesn’t know about my search.

Recently, the recruiter for a job I was interviewing for let me know that I was the final candidate and asked me for two references as the last stage: my current manager and a former manager. Since I didn’t want to alert my boss that I’m looking, I asked if I could give two former managers as references instead. The recruiter okayed it and the reference checks went well.

The day after the last reference check, the recruiter emailed me with the hiring manager cc’d, letting me know that the final step was a reference check with my current manager. I again explained my situation — my current manager does not know I am job-searching, and to alert her at this stage before a final offer was received could jeopardize my current job (or at the very least, make things awkward if the new job fell through). I offered alternatives: documents as proof of employment, a copy of my last performance review, or speaking with another former manager who still works with me at my current job. The hiring manager then called me to let me know that the only way to move forward with even a provisional offer would be to speak with my current manager – that is their policy. Once that and a standard background check were complete, I would get a verbal offer. In addition, they gave me a deadline of less than 24 hours to move forward or the offer would be withdrawn. This wasn’t enough time for me and I didn’t feel comfortable with the process, so I had to withdraw.

This is … not normal, right? It seems like this policy is designed to put a ton of pressure on the applicant and leaves them at a huge disadvantage. I don’t have anything to hide and I have a good relationship with my manager, but it still felt risky. This was at a large, prestigious, well-regarded company so I was really surprised they would have this policy. Do I need to adjust my expectations and process going forward, or is there any way I could have navigated this situation differently to help me stay in the running?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

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