I'm looking to get a new job at a rival firm. Should I ask my current employer for a reference?

Mike Marino, Independent HR consultant

Mike Marino, Independent HR consultant

I'm looking to get a new job at a rival firm. Should I ask my current employer for a reference?
A: Unless you are being laid off or otherwise becoming unemployed through no fault of your own, it would be unusual - and unwise - to ask a current employer for a reference. As a practical matter, what if you don't get the new job?

Prospective employers will usually require references, though it is universally understood that candidates will not be providing a reference from their current employer. Nowadays, and for legal reasons, even after you leave a position, it's next to impossible to get anything beyond a "neutral reference" in which anything other than former titles and dates of employment are verified, but past work performance is usually not addressed.

With a written release from the former employee, most employers will also release salary history details. As pros move through their career, it's prudent to maintain contacts with former managers, colleagues, and even clients who agree to be called on as references.

Since it is widely accepted that the neutral reference is now standard, not being able to provide more meaningful references is usually not detrimental.

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