A common question on a job application is “may we contact your current employer?” Many job seekers don’t want their current employer to know that they’re on the hunt for a new job–so can you respond “no” without hurting your chances of landing the new job?
We’ll cover whether or not you should allow a company to contact your current employer when doing a background check and what effect your answer has.
May We Contact Your Current Employer?
There is no problem saying “no” to contacting your current boss if you’re trying to keep your job search a secret.
Doesn’t this set a bad impression with a potential employer?
No. Most hiring managers understand that you may not want your current employer to find out that you’re looking for work elsewhere. It could be that you haven’t made a definite decision about leaving and you’re just exploring some other options. They also understand that your job may be at risk if the employer finds out.
How do I explain my reason for not wanting a prospective employer to contact my current one?
Although they would generally not ask for the reason, hiring managers may ask why you don’t want them contacting a current employer. If this happens, you could respond letting them know that you don’t want your current employer to know you’re job hunting yet. You can give them past employers as a reference instead.
Valid Reasons For Not Contacting Previous Employers
There are really only two valid reasons you can mention as to why the hiring manager can’t contact your current employer.
- You don’t want your current employer to know you’re looking for a job.
- The company no longer exists.
Anything other than that will usually be a red flag.
How to Answer “May We Contact This Employer” If You Were Fired
This is a difficult situation, but it’s not the end of the world. You, of course, don’t want a potential employer to contact someone who will say something negative about you.
Here are some potential ways to get around having a hiring managers contact someone due to poor performance or anything negative:
#1 – Will they really speak poorly of you?
Most employers are well aware of the consequences around defamation and want to avoid any possible lawsuits. You may be surprised to learn that most won’t bad mouth you and give specific details as to why you were fired. Try reaching out to the HR department to find out what their policy is regarding inquires about former staff.
#2 – Find co-workers who have something good to say.
Maybe your boss couldn’t get along with you, but surely you can find someone else at your company who did. Just make sure this person knows to expect a call, and that your contact has only good things to say about you. You should also ensure that this person has a high-level title like a manager or supervisor.
#3 – Leave it out
You don’t need to include every position you held on a resume. You can usually leave off a past job that isn’t going to help you land this job; especially if you were fired from the job due to poor performance or some other mistake.
If the position you held was under a year in duration, you can safely scratch it from your resume. If the position was in a different field or industry, you can leave it off. You also don’t need to include positions that you held over 10-15 years ago because it’s likely that positions this dated may not be representative of your current work experience.
If none of the above will work for you and you’re certain that your previous employer will say something negative–just say no. Try to include other references and past employers they can contact instead.
It’s perfectly acceptable to answer no to contacting your current employer. Most employers understand this and usually won’t have any effect on their decision. Make sure you have a back up of other references or employers they can contact.
There really aren’t any valid reasons for saying no to companies you’re no longer working for. This is almost always a red flag as they would think you were let go for some negative reason.
It’s usually okay to answer “no” for “can we contact your current employer.”
It’s not okay to answer “no” for companies you aren’t working for anymore. If you were fired, refer to the tips above.
Good luck with your job search!