I applied for a job at our national trade group, and they want to schedule a phone interview.
But first they want to know if my current boss (who chairs a committee at the trade group) is supportive of my applying there.
Of course I haven't told anyone I'm even looking for another job.
I get that in our small world, there may be some politics and appearances, and they'd be leery of poaching.
But isn't this kind of early in the process to be worried about that?
How should I respond?
Unfortunately, there's no getting around this problem.
Interviews are about minimizing risk for the hiring organization. They would naturally want to check with your current boss who is a ranking official of their organization.
The best answer would be to tell them that "since you're not actively looking for a new position, you haven't discussed it with him. However, when you saw this job opportunity, it looked interesting and wanted to explore it further. You'd be happy to let him know once the interview process is further along."
That said, they've already told him...
Agree with R1; you can also say "my boss is supportive of my professional development and I will let him know about this specific opportunity after the interview process and once I am a serious contender for the position."
Tell your boss. And use the wording R1 said. Then you have no problems.