Do You Know What Your Former Boss Will Tell Your Prospective Employer?

Marcy was anxiously awaiting input on her application for an RN position at her local hospital. Her interviews had gone well, encouragement had been offered, and then…no callbacks of any kind from the hospital. When she called them for a status update, she was merely told that she was no longer being considered and that the hospital “had made other arrangements”.

Should Marcy have been concerned about her references? Is the scenario described here, a common one?

Simply put, the answers are “yes”, and “yes”. Many job seekers can relate to gaining initial interviews – followed perhaps by a 2nd or 3rd interview as well – and then having the “trail go cold” after initial encouragement had been offered by the prospective employer. Too often, this scenario is the result of negative feedback obtained from one (or more) of their reference checks.

While some believe that employers are less likely to check references than in years past, the opposite is almost certainly the case. This is due in part to the fact that our economy is currently favoring an “employer’s market” – potential employers can be (and are) increasingly “picky” as they typically have a larger pool of qualified candidates to choose from. Related to this, they are more inclined to conduct “due diligence” by checking out not only an applicant’s HR reference (the traditional venue) but a former supervisor(s) as well. Their motive: an awareness that HR personnel receives more training and emphasis in confirming only employment dates and titles, whereas supervisors – who knew the applicant personally – tend to be more inclined to verbalize their impressions of the candidates. Prospective employers are eager to get kind of candid feedback when they can get it, and realize it is more likely to be forthcoming from a candidate’s former supervisor than their HR representative.

Some employers even use this knowledge as a tool during the initial application or interview process. Candidates might be asked, “What was your bosses’ name at your last place of employment?” or even “What would your former supervisors say about you as an employee?” either on their application form or during the interview. Realizing that the employer might contact their former supervisors or co-workers, candidates might think twice before embellishing their employment history or performance.

In summary, the job seeker should plan on any prospective employer conducting a reference check on both their most recent supervisor and HR representative at their most recent place of employment (at a minimum). If you’re less than confident that their input about you will be either favorable or neutral, consider having a professional reference checking firm document exactly what they will say about you. Remember this: your employer’s input will either confirm – or derail – your prospects with future employers.

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About Allison

Allison & Taylor Inc. and its principals have been in the business of checking references for individuals and corporate accounts since 1984. We have successfully built our brand and corporate recognition and have been recommended by industry specialists such as The New York Times award-winning author Martin Yate (“Knock ‘Em Dead Résumés”). Numerous articles have been published about our business in newspapers and magazines including The Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, Glamour Magazine, New Woman, Worth, National Business Employment Weekly, The Detroit News, and The St. Petersburg Times.