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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

hirng manager knows my current boss

A reader writes:

How confidential is the whole application process? My issue is the following: I would like to apply for a job posting, and through linkedin I was able to find out who the hiring manager is and I found out that they have a direct connection with my current supervisor. Obviously, I would not want it to get back to my supervisor that I am job seeking. Is this anything I need to worry about?

Maybe. It depends on how well they know each other, which you probably can't tell from Linked In.

If I get a resume from someone who used to work for someone I know but doesn't currently, I'm going to call my contact and ask about them. (I want to know if they're great, if they're crazy, etc.) If I get a resume from someone who currently works for someone I know, I'm going to keep it quiet, because I don't want to jeopardize someone's current employment (and if this is someone I end up wanting to hire, I certainly don't want them hating me for outing them to their boss).

But not everyone plays by these rules. There are undoubtedly people who would call up the contact -- especially (and maybe only) if they're close -- and say, "Hey, guess what, Susan Jones is looking."

So there's some element of risk. On the other hand, there's always that risk. You've probably sent off plenty of other resumes without worrying about whether they'll end up with someone who happens to know your boss, but it's always possible. You just happen to know about the connection in advance this time.

But another option, if you wanted to be super cautious, would be to call the hiring manager and say you're applying for a position with her, saw that she knows your current boss, and would appreciate her discretion in regard to your application because your boss doesn't yet know that you're looking. All but the biggest jerks will honor a direct request like that. Good luck!


Cassie said...

I was in a similar situation - except that I was applying for a position within the same department (albeit it was a higher position so it would have been a promotion). When I submitted my application w/ cover letter, I asked that they keep my application confidential. And on the application form, I put "no" under "can we contact your current employer?".

About a week after the interview, the HR manager called me and told me that they were close to making me an offer - but that they would like to make sure my current boss was okay with it. So I called my boss (I was out of the office that week) and told him that I had applied and they were close to making an offer.

So they did keep my application completely hush-hush as I had requested.

To some extent, the fact that they wanted to check with my boss before they made the offer irked me. It wasn't that they wanted a reference - the people on the interview board all knew my work, I had two glowing recommendation letters, and two more references within the department. I do realize it's a little ironic that I told a couple of other people in the dept that I was applying, but did not tell my boss until later.

Richard said...

@Cassie: I'd be irked by that behaviour too! Like you said, there was no reason to call for further references, and if your current boss wasn't 'okay with it', and they didn't hire you as a result, it would lead to some awkwardness further down the line in your current job.

In fact, the entire 'checking if your current boss is okay with you leaving for us' seems ridiculous on all fronts: There are procedures regarding adequate notice periods and such so that they can find a suitable replacement, and the new company already wants to hire you.

What would happen if every employer called the current employers of their applicants to check if they were 'okay' with them leaving? What if your boss knew you were good, and never wanted to lose you? There'd be no way to change jobs without quitting and being unemployed until you found another, more suitable position.

Suzanne said...

This happened to me several years ago. I didn't know the hiring manager knew my boss. She was able to determine that from my resume. She called him to see what kind of employee I'd be. He told her he didn't want to lose me. The worst part was my boss was the one who told me they weren't going to offer me the job because he told them not to. In the end it turned out for the best when I left for a better position about 2 months later.

Richard said...

And how angry were you at your boss as a result? That kind of behaviour by a superior would have me steaming!

I'm actually quite surprised there isn't any legal recourse in these cases.

Anonymous said...

I once worked for a boss (Exec. Director) that loved me. He helped me out a lot and gave me glowing recommendations for promotions. However, once he found out that one of the promos was going to remove me from his dept., he made it clear he would refuse to offer any input either way about me.

He did not want me to leave. Eventually I did. I later found out he told the HR Rep. that he loved me and hated to loose me but would never stand in my way. That was THE recommendation that helped me get the job.

To this day (YEARS) later he is still a great reference due to his honesty and integrity. He also still asks me to come back and work for him. Good managers are good for a reason. If they act with integrity and realize you leaving is nothing personal against them, many try and do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

I had originally asked this question, and Alison provided some good feedback. I would have had no hesitation in applying before LinkedIn was around, so why should it be any different now. But Cassie brings up a good point to ask to keep the application confidential in the cover letter. I might just try to do that as well. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

As a previous poster stated, good managers are good for a reason. A manager should want to help their quality employees move up in the organization, advance their careers, or seek opportunities to improve themselves professionally. Personally, I think it lacks a lot of integrity on the part of a current manager to actively attempt to block this from happening.

It doesn’t matter if it’s because the current manager thinks that person is so wonderful they couldn’t stand to lose them or any other reason. Trying to prevent someone from advancing their career just so you can keep them around in their current position isn’t very ethical in my opinion.