reference check job searchSo your job search is in full swing and you are thinking about references. And you want to know what exactly can a past employer say about you during a reference check? Do they have to follow any legal restrictions? Can they discuss past performance reviews? What about that project you screwed up because you misunderstood what your manager wanted?

The legal answer is that they can say whatever they want, as long as it’s true. Frightening right? Your chances of landing that job could swing on a single sentence by one of your past employers. But before you panic, the reality of the situation is much different.

Most companies do not give out reference checks other than offering some sort of basic employment verification. “Yes, Joe Smith worked here from Jan 2007 to March 2010.” The reason for this is that they want to avoid the possibility of defamation and slander lawsuits. So the easiest approach, and the one that is in the best interest of the past employer, is to have a blanket ‘no reference checks’ policy…good or bad. Some companies are even taking this a step further by utilizing automated employment-history checks. This is an automated phone line that only gives dates of employment and title.

Another question that is often asked is, “Can a company call one of my past employers without my consent?” The answer is yes, but they probably won’t get any information. Again, the past employer does not want to put itself at risk. So before providing any basic information, a past employer will ask for a signed consent form from the company.

So don’t fear, your past blunder probably won’t have an affect on your current job search.

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