How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (2023)

A question you may face on a job application is, “May we contact your current employer?” This may seem daunting, but the person who asked this question likely has a reason for asking.

Here are ways to respond to this question, according to experts.

Joni Holderman

How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (1)

Professional Resume Writer, Thrive Resumes

It’s fine to say “no” as long as you provide excellent references

Many times this question is a routine part of the application process, so it’s not a deal-breaker for the employer. Any reputable company will understand why you don’t want to jeopardize your current job.

Make sure that the references you provide when asked are strong.

That means you’ve contacted them ahead of time and they’ve agreed to provide a reference for you. They should be former bosses or executives, not personal friends. Ideally, you will have a colleague, former coworker, or client who can provide a reference for your performance with your current employer. But if not, that’s still okay.

After you accept a written job offer and give two weeks’ notice at your current job, many new employers will want to check that reference, just to verify the info on your resume is accurate. At that point, it’s not going to endanger your career.

Related: How and When Does an Employer Check Your References?

Petra Odak

How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (2)

Chief Marketing Officer, Better Proposals

It is better to decline and give a list of previous employers to call

When you’re applying for jobs, you probably don’t want your current employer to know. In most cases, it means that you’re unsatisfied with something, be it the pay, the overall conditions, the colleagues or something else.

In my experience, employers don’t take it very lightly when they see that you’re looking around for a new job. It may not seem like it, but they see it as a sort of betrayal.

When they hear from someone that you’ve applied for a new job and the potential new employer wants to hear from you about their experience, they most likely won’t be happy. They are faced with the decision – either give you a promotion/raise/change something or put in a good word about you to the new employer and just let you get the new job.

Whichever way they choose, they’ve just found out that you’re unhappy enough with your job to look for another one. No matter how big or small the company is, someone is bound to take this personally.

In that regard, if you’re interviewing for a job and the person on the HR team asks if they can get in touch with your current employer to find out more about you, tell them to call someone else. It will cause nothing but trouble for you and you’ll end up not getting the job (as your employer won’t praise an employee who wants to jump ship) and you’ll be next on the list when the first round of firing comes up.

In short, give the person who wants your references a list of previous employers to call. It will be better for everyone involved and you’ll avoid a potential disaster.

Dorota Lysienia

How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (3)

Community Manager, LiveCareer

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It’s a tricky question because, on the one hand, you care about getting a new job, but on the other, you don’t want to burn bridges at your current company. Most of us want to keep our job hunting confidential as long as we can.

While there is nothing wrong with saying “no,” you can take a more creative approach when answering this question.

Agree only if you’re considered as one of the top candidates for the position

It’s clear that you don’t want every company you apply for to contact your current employer. The chances that they all will are pretty low, but it’s always better to be on the safe side. That’s why it’s a good idea to allow the company to reach out to your current employer, but only if you’re considered as one of the top candidates for the position. You can say something like:

“You can certainly contact my current employer, but I would kindly ask you to do it only if I’m one of the top candidates for the position.”

Offer former employers instead

Also, there is nothing wrong with offering to contact your former employers instead. That way, you say “no” to one thing but provide an alternative solution that can raise your chances in the recruiter’s eyes. For example, you can frame it like that:

“As my current employer doesn’t know that I want to pursue a different career path, I’d prefer to communicate it to him personally. Maybe you would be willing to speak to one of my previous employers instead?”

Paul French

How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (4)

Managing Director, Intrinsic Search

Your answer should be no

When a recruiter or hiring manager asks to speak to your current employer, your answer should be no. But, you should follow this with a brief explanation. You might say something like this:

“No. You may not contact my current employer because they do not know that I am job hunting. It would be best to contact them after you have extended an official offer of employment, and even then, I want to be the one to tell them that I have got an offer elsewhere.”

It is good practice not to reveal that you are looking for a job while employed elsewhere. This might result in a breach of contract if you have an employment contract.

Your employer is also likely to fire you if they find out you have your eyes set elsewhere. Even if they just want to verify that you work there, contacting your employer will raise a red flag and expose you too soon and cause you to risk losing your job.

All in all, any employer who would jeopardize your current livelihood just for them to find out a little information about you might not be the right fit after all.

Magda Zurawska

How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (5)

HR Manager, Resume Lab

Simply put a polite but firm “no”

For me, this question is a non-starter.

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While it’s only normal and obvious that people apply for new gigs and jobs all the time, until you have received a job offer, it’s in your best interest to keep the search to yourself.

It doesn’t take much foresight to see how potentially offensive it may come off if a company you’re interviewing with were to call your current employer. You’d most likely want to avoid this situation if job security and maintaining good relations matters to you.

On the other hand, all previous employers are fair game and you should be able to provide at least one reference from each of them. Since you no longer work there but have it listed on the resume, there should be at least one person who can vouch for your accomplishments.

All in all, it behooves you to inform your potential future employers that at this point in time, you’re not comfortable with them calling your present employer. Surely, they will understand as announcing to the world that you’re currently applying elsewhere is a “slap to the face” that no one likes nor appreciates.

Magda Klimkiewicz

How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (6)

HR Business Partner, Zety

When you come across the question, “May we contact this employer?” on a job application, you might be unsure how to best answer it. After all, you likely don’t want your current employer to know you’re job-hunting. If that’s the case, it’s OK to say “no,” as hiring managers know people look for new opportunities while they have a job, and they wouldn’t want you to get in trouble.

However, if you aren’t currently employed because your previous employer terminated your contract, saying “no” could do you more harm than good.

For one, it doesn’t mean the company will actually contact your past employer. They are merely asking for permission to do so. Second, a “no” might be counted as a disqualifier by some organizations.

Saying “yes” is your best bet

If you’re nervous about what your past employer will say, you can call them yourself and ask what would happen if another company inquired about you. Keep in mind that defamation is illegal, so your old manager can’t trash talk you to a recruiter or a hiring manager.

Eric Kim

How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (7)

Program Director, LA Tutors 123

Don’t be afraid to say no

Sometimes a simple no will suffice. When applying to a job, remember that you are also trying to get a sense if the position and company is right for you. If a potential employer tries to pressure you into providing a reference from your current place of employment, that should be a red flag and something to keep in mind when deciding if you want to accept an offer.

Most employers understand that the fact you’re looking for a new position is probably not something you want to be advertising at your current job.

For obvious reasons, you wouldn’t want your current employer to think you’re unhappy and make assumptions about your mindset. After all, looking for new employment doesn’t necessarily equate to you being dissatisfied, but it can leave that impression on your manager.

There are, however, situations where it might make sense to say yes. If you’re being laid off for reasons that aren’t for cause (e.g. budget cuts, your position was seasonal/temporary), your current manager already knows that your position is coming to an end. In fact, if they want to keep you, knowing that you are actively searching for a new job may incentivize them to come back with a counteroffer. Of course, this means you need to let your current employer know to expect reference calls.

Assuming they valued you as an employee, they will hopefully put some thought into providing a positive reference in order to provide you with the best opportunity for success.

If you’ve said no to this question (as most of you should), it’s also a good idea to let your potential employer know that your initial no is not final, and you’re open to them reaching out once the timing is right (i.e. once you have an offer on the table). This way, they know that you’re not actively hiding your poor performance at your current job and that it’s simply a matter of being cautious and prudent.

Vanessa Phan

How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (8)

Managing Consultant for HR, Operations, and Private School Testing Prep Divisions, Cardinal Education


May we contact your current employer?” is a very tricky question and one which applicants should be prepared to answer as it could make or break a job application.

However, most recruiters will be wary of asking this question because they understand that if you are still currently employed, then your application is most likely confidential and they wouldn’t want to get you in trouble for doing so.

Explain that your current employer doesn’t know about your application

Answering “no” could be acceptable as long as you explain that your current employer doesn’t know about your application.

Simply say, “I’m sorry, but my employer has no idea that I am applying for this job.” This could open Pandora’s box though. Questions like, “Why are you resigning from your current job?”, “What don’t you like about your company?”, etc. will stir the interest of the recruiter.

Related: What Can Potential Employers Ask Former Employers?

In this case, just be honest while still maintaining the integrity of your current employer. Remember that your response will reflect how you will treat their company later on.

Offer to call another person

You can also offer for them to call another person, like your previous employer, if they want to conduct a background check on you.. Just make sure to call ahead and inform your former boss that such a call could happen at a particular time.

However, the best response, of course, would be to give the green light and say that they can go ahead and call. Replying with “Yes, you may certainly do so.” would seem like you are not hiding anything and that you are confident about your status as an employee as well as your job performance.

For whatever reason, the most important thing is to be honest and straightforward with your answer to this question. This reflects on your work ethic and character as a team player.

Jessica Lim

How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (9)

HR Manager, MyPerfectResume

Prepare a list of references for the recruiter to contact

When asked if it’s ok to contact your current employer, it’s perfectly fine to say no, but don’t just leave it at that. Be honest about your situation and explain why you don’t want the recruiter to contact your current manager.

It’s most likely that your current employer doesn’t know that you are looking for a new job, and you don’t want to alert them unless you have a secure spot in a new company. Though this is something a recruiter can understand and accept, don’t leave them empty-handed, and be sure to prepare a list of references for the recruiter to contact. By doing so, you’ll appear open and honest with the recruiter, and you’ll also show that you came prepared with other options.

Dana Case

How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (10)

Director of Operations,

(Video) Got Questions? God's Answer May Surprise You | Steven Furtick

Fill in the contact gap by providing additional references

This is a question that sometimes appears on job applications and sometimes does not. It’s okay to say no if that is your personal preference. You may, however, decide to fill in that contact gap by providing additional references that the employer may reach out to and speak with.

If possible, try to include a former manager or boss that you worked with and have a good relationship together. The former employer may be able to share insight about your work ethic and behavior, providing the potential next employer with the necessary information they need about you as a possible new employee.

Brian Dechesare

How to Answer: "May We Contact Your Current Employer?" (11)

Founder, Breaking Into Wall Street

It’s perfectly acceptable and widespread for employees to keep their job search from their current employer.

Alerting your current employer to your job search may put your position in jeopardy, and if the potential job doesn’t work out, you could end up in a tense work situation or slowly be pushed out of your job.
Most hiring managers will understand why you don’t want to alert your employer to the job search.

If a hiring manager asks to contact your current employer, say, “I have a great working relationship with my current employer. Though they don’t know I’m looking elsewhere yet, I’d be happy to offer a previous employer’s contacts instead.”

Avoid any answers that may make it sound as if the relationship with your current employer is bad, and redirect with some other helpful contacts the hiring manager can reference.

There are some cases where your employer may already know you’re looking for work elsewhere, depending on your relationship and the reason you’re looking for work. If you’re openly looking for a new job and have your employer’s blessing, speak with them about being a potential reference and use them – that sort of open, strong relationship between employee/manager can make you look like an honest and communicative employee.

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How do you answer when can we contact your current employer? ›

Current Employers:

Most recruiters and interviewers understand that job searches can be confidential and won't contact your current employer until they clear it with you first. So answering “no” to the question, “may we contact this employer?” isn't uncommon or unacceptable.

Can a job contact your current employer? ›

The fact of the matter is most employers will not contact your current employer without discussing it with you first. And typically, reference checks won't occur until an applicant is further along in the process.

How do you professionally ask not to contact your current employer? ›

You, as the applicant or interviewee, just say “I do not consent to any inquiry at my current employer.” Of course, then the interviewer will very likely say “We won't hire you. Good day.”

Do may we contact your current employer background check? ›

Yes, Every previous and current employer stated in the candidate's background verification form is contacted by companies like HireRight, SpringVerify, and Accurate. To verify the candidate, they will contact the employer directly and ask for information.

Should you answer yes to May we contact your current employer? ›

To answer, “May we contact this employer?” you should say yes unless you don't want your current employer to know you're looking for a job or there's some other legitimate reason why they can't be contacted. This shows hiring managers that you have nothing to hide and allows them to learn more about you.

Should you check yes to contact current employer? ›

Summary. 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 backup of other professional references or employers they can contact.

What does may we contact this employer mean? ›

For permission to verify your employment history during the background check portion of the candidate selection process. Employers want to check your work history to confirm that you are accurately presenting your job title, how long you worked with the company, the reasons you left and how much you were paid.

Should you let your current employer know you are interviewing? ›

There are exceptions to every rule, but most employment professionals recommend that you shouldn't say anything to your current employer about your job-hunting.

Can I be fired for looking for another job? ›

Because employees in California are employed on an “at-will” basis (meaning either party can terminate the working relationship at any time for any reason), firing an employee for looking for another job is legal under California Labor Code § 2922 — though there may be exceptions.

How do you politely decline to stay with current employer? ›

Unfortunately, careful consideration, I have decided to decline the job offer. [Give a brief reason, e.g. it's not the right time to leave your current position or you've been offered a more senior role.] I want to thank you for your time and apologize for any inconvenience my decision may cause.

Should I tell my references that they may be contacted? ›

Many hiring managers will let you know in advance when they're going to contact your references. So, if possible, you should give your references a heads-up to let them know who will be contacting them, and supply them with an updated copy of your resume.

Should I tell my current employer about a job offer? ›

Experts suggest negotiating with a current boss if "the outside offer is about 80% of the way to your dream job." It might also help to think of it like dating, and less of a "standoff." If you want to stay in your current relationship, you have to show interest.

Can I say no to a background check? ›

Employers must get your written permission before running a background check from a background reporting company. You have the right to say no, but if you do, you may not get the job.

How do I contact my current employer first advantage? ›

Call our toll-free number: 800-845-6004.

How do background checks verify current employment? ›

Employment Verification

A CRA will contact the employers listed on your resume or application to verify the dates you worked and the positions you held. They may also contact references you have provided to ascertain performance and character.

Should I reply to an email from HR of a potential employer? ›

Whether you're ready to consider a new opportunity, it's a good practice to respond promptly and courteously to any message from a potential employer.

Do I have to answer employer questions? ›

Decide whether you want to answer. You don't have to answer illegal employment questions. Know that the employer can't retaliate if you lie to answer illegal job application questions. (That violates your civil rights.)

What does it mean when they ask for current employer? ›

The answer to the question 'what is a current employer? ' is simply that it is the company where you are working at present. Often, while filling out applications online or in-person, hiring managers may ask to list your current employer.

What does message this employer mean on indeed? ›

When an employer posts a job directly on Indeed, they have the option to allow job seekers who have applied to message them directly. For employers, this can be a great way to hear from highly interested applicants.

How do you contact an employer about a job? ›

Contact potential employers
  1. Avoid nicknames or unprofessional names in your e-mail address.
  2. Keep messages short and to the point.
  3. Identify yourself in a professional manner.
  4. Introduce yourself with something of interest. ...
  5. Be specific. ...
  6. Give your message a descriptive subject.
  7. Finish with your intent to follow up.

Should you contact an employer after applying? ›

Send your follow-up email within a few days of applying for the position. Give the hiring manager or recruiter at least 24 hours to respond to you. You can show your administrative skills by avoiding the urge to call back multiple times a day or send a flood of follow-up emails.

What to say if your boss asks if you are looking for another job? ›

Here are a few options:
  • “… because I'm moving (or changing careers).”
  • “... because I'm worried about my job security.”
  • “… because I want to advance my career.”
  • “… because I had an interesting opportunity come up.”

Should I tell my boss I'm thinking of leaving? ›

Remember, you're not obligated to tell anyone.

At the end of the day, it's your personal decision to tell your boss you're thinking about leaving your job. If you want to prevent damaging relationships or adding more stress at work, it's a good idea to speak up to your boss as soon as possible.

What to do if your current employer finds out you are interviewing? ›

Try scheduling a chat with the manager

Mangrum says that a sound approach is to ask for a sit-down to clear the air. "Calmly tell them you would like to schedule a meeting to explain why you're applying for other jobs and see how they react," she said.

Can an employer tell another employer not to hire you? ›

Even someone you worked for a few years back could prevent you from getting a job if they give a company reason to be concerned about hiring you. Some companies have a policy of not providing anything beyond basic verification information like start and end dates and position(s) held.

Can a company call your current employer without permission? ›

Yes, a potential employer can contact your current employer without permission. While there are no legal ramifications if a potential employer contacts your current employer without permission, this is not a likely scenario.

How do you politely decline a job without burning bridges? ›

Thank you for the offer and the time you've spent getting to know me. After careful consideration, I've made the decision to decline this opportunity. While I enjoyed [SOMETHING POSITIVE ABOUT THE HIRING PROCESS OR COMPANY], I have determined that accepting this role is not the right decision for me at this time.

How do you let down a potential employer? ›

How to politely decline a job offer
  1. Make sure you want to decline the offer. ...
  2. Show appreciation and gratitude. ...
  3. Keep the networking door open. ...
  4. Explain your decision. ...
  5. If the offer doesn't help you achieve your career goals. ...
  6. If you're interested in the company — but not the role. ...
  7. If you've accepted a better offer.

How do you say no professionally in an email? ›

I really appreciate you thinking of me. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it to [Event] on [date]. But thanks again for sending an invitation my way.

Do employers call all three references? ›

Employers typically call all three references that job applicants provide, but there are exceptions.

What do employers do when they call references? ›

Typically, employers ask your references about your job performance and personal qualities, such as whether you got along with your coworkers. Employers use reference checks to ensure job candidates have been honest on their resume, the application, and during the interviews.

Can you use friends as references? ›

Those providing the reference should know you well and be able to give examples that back up statements about your character. While friends and family are acceptable referees, it is better for you to select someone who is not immediate family as their opinion may be construed as being biased.

Can you quit after accepting a job offer? ›

In most cases, you can decline a job offer after you have accepted it. If you've signed an employment agreement, check the legal implications before you withdraw your acceptance. If you can, it's better to have a conversation in person or on the phone to explain why you have decided not to take the job.

Should I tell my boss I got a job offer before accepting? ›

Having a conversation about another job offer can be stressful, but you are in an excellent position to discuss your ultimate career goals and whether your current employer can meet those goals. Job satisfaction and career growth are essential, and it is reasonable to discuss any concerns with your current employer.

What to do if offered a job after accepting another? ›

If you can, call the recruiter or hiring manager and speak to them directly. It might not be easy, but it shows more respect than sending an email. Never back out of a job offer you accepted through social media, and never publicize it after the fact either!

What causes a red flag on a background check? ›

If there is a felony on your criminal record, it could be a red flag for employers. A history of violent crimes, sexual offenses, robberies, or serious drug offenses can make it difficult to pass a background check. However, it can still be possible to get a job even if you have a criminal history.

What ruins a background check? ›

Poor credit history. Failed substance use test. Bad driving record. Negative social media activity.

How do I message my employer directly? ›

How to structure an effective hiring manager message
  1. Lead with your value. ...
  2. Include your job title and last employer. ...
  3. Keep the message as brief as possible. ...
  4. Put your LinkedIn profile in the signature. ...
  5. Don't ask too many questions. ...
  6. Don't send a blank LinkedIn connection request. ...
  7. Don't ask for any of their time.

How do you tell an employer they are your first choice? ›

How to Let a Company Know It's Your Top Choice Without Sounding Too Eager
  1. Opt into the “optional” Start the whole process off right by submitting all your application materials upfront—even the ones listed in the job description as “optional.” Why? ...
  2. Let them know you really want the job. ...
  3. Know your limits.
Feb 6, 2020

Is the first direct contact between a candidate for a position and an employer? ›

Screening interview

This is typically the first direct contact with the candidates. It aims to determine if they have the basic requirements to do the job. This is accomplished by asking questions to find out more detail about their resume items.

Do they call current employer for background check? ›

One of the most common aspects of a background check is to verify past employment. This process is done by simply contacting all current and former employers on the candidate's resume or job application and verifying that the applicant did work there, the date of employment and the position or positions held.

Can employers see your current job? ›

The fact of the matter is most employers will not contact your current employer without discussing it with you first. And typically, reference checks won't occur until an applicant is further along in the process.

When should you contact a potential employer? ›

The Short Answer: Follow up between five and 10 business days. This depends on whether you've applied blindly or were referred to this position by somebody in your network. “If you applied blindly, you are somewhat at the mercy of the company and when—and in some cases, if—they choose to respond,” says Dea.

Can a company contact your current employer without permission? ›

Legally, yes, you can contact references without permission and backdoor reference checking isn't illegal. The decision is up to you, but it's highly recommended that you respect the candidate's request not to contact certain references.

What do you say to your current employer in an interview? ›

Simply state that you have an appointment. If your current employer presses you for more information, then in the worst case scenario you may have to make up an excuse and say that you are seeing a dentist or doctor.

What should you not say to a potential employer? ›

You'll make sure that your awesome abilities and accomplishments—not a totally avoidable faux pas—will be what your interviewer remembers.
  • “So, Tell Me What You Do Around Here” ...
  • “Ugh, My Last Company…” ...
  • “I Didn't Get Along With My Boss” ...
  • 4. “ ...
  • “I'll Do Whatever” ...
  • “I Know I Don't Have Much Experience, But...”

What is the best way to contact an employer? ›

The best ways to contact an employer
  1. Use a professional phone voice.
  2. Avoid unscheduled phone interviews.
  3. When writing a letter to apply for jobs:
Jun 1, 2022

Can you get fired for applying for another job? ›

Typically, yes. Your California employer can legally terminate your employment because you are actively searching for a new job. However, it is essential to discuss the details of your case with a Los Angeles wrongful-termination attorney to determine whether you could sue your employer for the firing.

Can you get fired for interviewing with a competitor? ›

Can you get fired for interviewing with a competitor? Bosses can fire you for many reasons. Workers have some protection, but not much. Any boss can fire anyone for interviewing with a competitor.

Do you talk about your current job in an interview? ›

You should explain your current job responsibilities and duties clearly and in detail to help them visualize the tasks you successfully complete.

Should I let my current employer know I have an offer? ›

Experts suggest negotiating with a current boss if "the outside offer is about 80% of the way to your dream job." It might also help to think of it like dating, and less of a "standoff." If you want to stay in your current relationship, you have to show interest.

Should I tell my current employer I have an interview? ›

Many employees prefer not to tell anyone at their current workplace until they have accepted and signed the offer letter for the new position. You may not want your current manager to treat you differently or think that you are disloyal and are not going to do your best.


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