Question & Answer
October 02, 2012
I've been invited for a second interview, but the firm has contacted my current employer for a professional reference. I've been put in an awkward position and not quite sure how to move forward. I really don't have the time (no more sick or vacation days) to attend the second interview. What should I do?
The first thing you should do is thank your lucky stars that you havent been let go just yet. The second thing you should do is wonder why this potential new employer is behaving in such an unprofessional, unethical manner.
Lets just get one thing clear right away they understood that you are currently employed, right? They also understood that you were interviewing on a confidential basis, correct? Just out of curiosity, are you working with a headhunter? If so, get in touch with him or her and make sure s/he understands the impossible position this firm has put you in. Wait, did I say impossible? That doesnt begin to explain what they have done to you. Not that I am suggesting anything here but there have actually been lawsuits filed when firms have done this before and jeopardized candidates current employment.
Now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, I am not certain that you need subterfuge in order to attend future interviews. Since your employer now knows you are interviewing, your absence is going to be especially noticed whether or not you have sick days coming to you.
The best thing you can do at this point is just to accept the fact that you are out of paid sick or vacation days and that you will have to take the time off without pay for subsequent interviews.
However, you are correct you are in a terribly awkward position. Your firm now knows you are looking to leave their employ and this generally signals the end of your career with them.
But before we get into that issue lets first talk about the firm that did this to you. Do you really want to continue interviewing with a firm that has put your future and your career with your current employer into such jeopardy? What caused them to do such a thing? Was this just a careless mistake and they are now fawning all over you to make this up to you or are they acting as if this was their right to check on your references before you gave them permission to do so?
More importantly, why do you want to continue interviewing with a firm that has jeopardized your position with your current employer? I know this is a very tough job market but unless this firm can come up with some very acceptable justifications (wow! What could be acceptable justifications?) as to why they did this to you, you need to tell them that you will not be returning for a second interview.
Heres the bright spot in this mess…you have not been let go by your current employer. You must be a star associate within their ranks because ordinarily this kind of disloyalty results in immediate termination. So, perhaps your firm doesnt want to lose you…is this a possibility? There is one great way to test this theory and that is going to be with the assigning partner since no doubt s/he is now aware that you have been interviewing elsewhere. When new assignments are doled out, should you find yourself without any work I would suggest that you double your interviewing efforts because that would signal that the firm does not want you to work on any client matters since they believe you are liable to quit your job at any time. However, if you are still being given good assignments then this means that the firm is doing anything and everything to keep you.
How did you find out that your firm was called as a reference? I wonder if you have been lucky enough that the person(s) who was called has kept this confidential. If so, you need to sit down and have a heart to heart conversation with this individual and let him/her know that the interviewing with this firm has now come to a quick and final conclusion and you will not be going back there. Let this person know that you will be forever indebted if this "reference check" could remain confidential. Maybe you will get lucky.
Nevertheless, I advise you to keep your eyes and ears open for other opportunities. Once your "disloyalty" has been exposed, it is forever known and will be in the back of the minds of the partners who know about it.
And the next time you decide to go out interviewing make sure several things are clear:
1.Your resume has written on it, "References provided upon request."
2.You (and your recruiter if there is one) make it abundantly clear to each and every firm where you are interviewing that your search is highly confidential
3.No references are to be checked until you provide them and give the okay
I hope your current position remains secure until you do find a new opportunity. And hopefully you found out long before it is too late that this other firm is not a place where you would want to be associated. Best wishes!
Ann M. Israel