Career Advice

How To Get Job References In Stealth Mode

When you’re in stealth mode on your job hunt, the last thing you need is a colleague who’s serving as your reference blabbing about your search.

Yet if you’re not careful who you choose, you could end up being outed in a staff meeting or a private conversation with a boss. So when picking an endorser at your current employer, rule out office gossips, anyone who might want your job, or anyone who regularly seeks an advantage for themselves. Some people just can’t keep a secret.

“We absolutely have candidates who ask us not to call their current employer. In those instances we typically ask for references from prior managers at that company who are no longer there and/or managers from prior firms and roles,” said Jennifer Folsom, director of Momentum Resources in Alexandria, Va.  She recruits and places moms and others for flexible and part-time positions.

Former bosses definitely are removed from the office chatter but they may also be removed from your latest accomplishments.  So take them out for a coffee or breakfast and bring them up to date – and offer key words and traits you hope they’ll be able to highlight when a future boss calls.

Use these five tips on managing your references while searching for jobs under the radar:

Make it clear you’re in stealth mode. When you contact current references, ask for their discretion. Be clear that your current boss and co-workers aren’t to be clued in.  Explain that your search may take a while – or that your current company frowns on defections and could try to derail your move.

Make the most of online recommendations. “Track down everyone you’ve ever worked with. Get them to write testimonials for you” on LinkedIn, said Folsom. Let me add: It’s impressive to view a profile and see 21 people endorsing your work.

Make deals to endorse. If a friend from work is looking for a new assignment and you are too, agree to serve as each other’s references. You may even agree to collaborate on keeping the search quiet in the office. And many employers appreciate a peer reference.

Make many references. A personal reference – a friend, neighbor, a fellow PTA volunteer – works as long as they know you well. Also use a reference from your community and nonprofit work – especially if you had a significant role such as leading fundraising campaign. Employers use these to “get a little more insight into the personality and culture, which is all part of the X factor when hiring – fit,” said Folsom.

Make it super sized. “If a job seeker can’t provide their current employer as a reference, it’s incumbent upon the job seeker to go above and beyond on references. Offer four or five without being asked. Provide marketing collaterals, writing samples, sample docs as a “portfolio” of recent work,” Folsom suggested

And if your stealth search is extended because you aren’t chosen for one job, circle back to your references. Update them on your search, thank them for the support and shush them up for a while longer.