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Are you getting ready to re-enter the job market? Be aware that employers are being far more conscientious about conducting background checks and calling references. If you’ve ever left a company under less than positive circumstances, you might be worrying about how this might affect you. Here’s what we can tell you about some of the most common concerns:

  • First, it’s not true that companies can only legally share dates of employment, salary, and your job title. They are allowed to say that you were fired or terminated for cause if that was the case, and they can give the reason. They can also say that you left without proper notice, or that you worked sporadic and unreliable hours.
  • However, because of libel and slander laws, companies are usually careful about what information they provide when confirming employment or giving references. They have to be scrupulously honest or the company can be subject to lawsuits. Basically, they can only say what is factual and can be proven.
  • State labor laws do vary, so if you’re concerned about what any former employers might say, check your state labor department website for information about laws that limit what employers can disclose.
  • Especially if you have been fired or terminated, you may want to find out what information your former employer is giving out when asked to verify your work history. You can do this three ways:
  1. Call yourself and hope they’ll be honest with you. And if you discover they do give out more information than the basics, it can’t hurt to ask whether they can modify what they say.
  2. If you left under difficult circumstances, ask someone you know to call and check your references. That way you’ll know what potential employers are being told.
  3. Use a reference checking service to check on what’s being revealed to  employers.
  •   Whatever you find out, it is valuable to know what the company is going to say when asked about you, because it’s important there aren’t major discrepancies from your story to that of the employer’s. If you say you were laid off and the company says you were fired, you’re not going to get hired.
  • As for reference checks, they can confirm or deny your value as an employee to a potential employer. So in this case, make sure that you:
  1. Know what your references are going to say, and that they know all the facts. Get agreement on key achievements and resume highlights and discuss what they’ll say if someone calls.
  2. Choose references who will come off as serious and professional. Don’t ask a friend who might kill your chances by cracking jokes or telling tales about your feelings for your ex-boss.
  3. Have current contact information for your references. You don’t want the potential employer to call one of them and discover they moved on 2 years ago.

Still feeling a bit unsure about jumping back into the workforce? Don’t hesitate to call us here at Smith Hanley. We’d be happy to help you in your transition!


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