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Old 02-02-2012, 11:47 PM
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HR types: 'May we contact this employer?'

On job applications, prospective employers ask 'May we contact this employer?'.

1. What is the purpose of this question? Simply to verify that the applicant worked at a place during the time s/he says s/he did? Can they ask about job performance? Can they ask, 'Is this person re-hirable?' Do they need a person's permission to verify employment?

2. What repercussions are there if an applicant checks 'No.'?
Old 02-03-2012, 12:02 AM
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They want to find out if you were canned for cause (or left under a cloud). For your current employer I would write in "Call me to discuss" (unless current employer is aware you are planning to leave). It used to be that employers in certain industries would collude - might not offer more $ than current employer.
Old 02-03-2012, 12:06 AM
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Pretty sure that all they're allowed to do is confirm your dates of employment and whether or not you'd be eligible for re-hire.
Old 02-03-2012, 02:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Hazle Weatherfield View Post
Pretty sure that all they're allowed to do is confirm your dates of employment and whether or not you'd be eligible for re-hire.
They are allowed to say anything they want. But if they say bad things about you you may be able to sue in civil court for damages.

The only employeer that I have seen "May we contact this employer?" refeereed to was my present employeer.
Old 02-03-2012, 02:19 AM
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They ask "May we contact this employer" for a current job because they don't want you to lose your job if they find out you are looking for a new one. Especially if it's a competitor. If you answer no for a past job, it will raise suspicion.
Old 02-03-2012, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
They ask "May we contact this employer" for a current job because they don't want you to lose your job if they find out you are looking for a new one. Especially if it's a competitor. If you answer no for a past job, it will raise suspicion.
This is the case. If you are just exploring options... Let's say, you find the salary elsewhere not as competitive, or you are taking a long shot, applying for a difficult-to-land but exciting job, or exploring options if the asshole from accounting gets to be your boss according to the rumours. In the end you might settle for where you are; do you want your current employer to know what you are doing?

Oddly enough, some employers are petulant and might use the fact against you from then on, especially to deny you promotions. "Why give Bob the manager job, he could leave tomorrow?"

Plus, the prospective employer may call dozens of applicants' employers, but only one will get the job. What happens to the others? They have to live with it at their current job. Why would you make numbers 2 through 10 on your short list hate you, if it turns out they may be the top choice next time you advertise a position?

As for past employers (although I have not seen this in that case) it could be anything from you know they will not give a good reference to you don't want them to know where you are and what you are doing now.

Last edited by md2000; 02-03-2012 at 08:48 AM.
Old 02-03-2012, 09:38 AM
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I'm an HR type.

Yes, they want to contact your previous employers to check references, verify your employment, and get any additional information they can about the circumstances under which you left. For your current employer, they will ask if it's okay to contact them because they don't want to put you in an awkward position.

Upon receiving such a call, most savvy employers will only confirm whether or not you worked there and what your dates of employment were. It's a bad idea for a former employer to give any information about your performance or the circumstances of your separation, since it opens them up to lawsuit if you blame them for you not getting the job.
Old 02-03-2012, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Skammer View Post
I'm an HR type.
Since you are, could you speak to the last point the OP brought up: What repercussions are there if an applicant checks 'No' for a past employer?

I've had many an application ask that for all employers, not just the current one. I get why you might not want your current employer knowing you're looking until you have to, but the past ones? I've wondered about this. What would you think if you saw this?
Old 02-03-2012, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Skammer View Post
Upon receiving such a call, most savvy employers will only confirm whether or not you worked there and what your dates of employment were. It's a bad idea for a former employer to give any information about your performance or the circumstances of your separation, since it opens them up to lawsuit if you blame them for you not getting the job.
I've heard that the other side of this is suing if an employer gives a glowing recommendation for a turkey. I know this has happened for an internal transfer, I'm not sure why it would for an outside job, unless a boss felt sorry for someone.
Old 02-03-2012, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
I've heard that the other side of this is suing if an employer gives a glowing recommendation for a turkey. I know this has happened for an internal transfer, I'm not sure why it would for an outside job, unless a boss felt sorry for someone.
I hear this too, but does it really happen with any frequency? Employees suing past employers for bad recommendations, sure. But one employer suing another for a good recommendation (and not some omission of grievous wrong-doing)?
Old 02-03-2012, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by TroutMan View Post
I hear this too, but does it really happen with any frequency? Employees suing past employers for bad recommendations, sure. But one employer suing another for a good recommendation (and not some omission of grievous wrong-doing)?
I've never seen many instances of any issues with recommendations - I just know that my company has a policy against giving any because of fear of it.
Anyone have examples of law suits based on reasonably controlled negative recommendations, not things clearly over the top?
Old 02-04-2012, 12:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Dr. Righteous View Post
Since you are, could you speak to the last point the OP brought up: What repercussions are there if an applicant checks 'No' for a past employer?

I've had many an application ask that for all employers, not just the current one. I get why you might not want your current employer knowing you're looking until you have to, but the past ones? I've wondered about this. What would you think if you saw this?
Add me to the list of those interested in this question. I'm at a point where in another year or so, my options are going to be either to make lateral moves that may result in some additional skills/experience but little or no additional pay, or to get into a supervisor type of role, which I don't want to do because I basically work for a disorganized clusterfuck managed by a bunch of "Ron"s. However, it is a stable job so I don't want to rock the boat by letting them know I'm going to be exploring options elsewhere.

The thing is, I've been there almost six years. Odds are my previous employer, who I left on less than ideal terms (the job wasn't they claimed, and I was getting maybe half of the hours I was promised. There was a discussion involving their lips and my rear end.) may not even remember me. The employer before that, where I was for about a year, no longer exists. It's one of those cases where contacting them is pointless or impossible.
Old 02-04-2012, 01:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Dr. Righteous View Post
What repercussions are there if an applicant checks 'No' for a past employer?
The same repercussions as if you check 'Yes'. You may not get hired. As I stated before, if you check 'No' for a past employer it would raise suspicion. You could try to explain the reason why you checked 'No', but your explanation might not be believed. If you check 'No' for a current job, they may not hire you because of a policy or preference not to hire people whose current employer cannot be contacted. With the exception of government work that follows legislated guidelines, companies can use any criteria they want in the hiring process, so long as they are not discriminating against a protected class (or violating any other laws, and the restriction on information is not any law I've ever heard of).

BTW: I have hired and fired people, and set hiring policy. The no information policy is a risk aversion strategy, and I doubt has a practical basis if accurate information is supplied. But when the decision was solely mine, I did not hesitate to give positive reviews if justified. If I was managing someone else's business, I would have to recommend the risk averse strategy, because that's what managers are hired to do.

Last edited by TriPolar; 02-04-2012 at 01:18 AM.
Old 02-04-2012, 06:36 AM
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H/R director here and there really aren't no repercussions as long as I can verify your references elsewhere.

I am out to hire a stellar employer, I'm not on a power trip. I also understand how petty managers can be. I have one great employee Sarah. She worked in the warehouse and was excellent. She applied for a transfer to retail division and her warehouse manager acted offended, like she personally betrayed him.

The girl is in college and will only make a quarter more in retail, she just wanted to do something different. The manager is just lazy and didn't want to lose his best employee. So I understand how an manager internal or external can make your life miserable.

As I said on other threads, it's like pulling teeth to get anyone to give a reference. This is why I go with background checks and a personal reference. This is why I also advise CHECK YOUR REFERENCES. I have had cases where a reference just won't bother getting back to me and I had to go with someone else.

As to lawsuits, yes we got sued and never lost, since I've been there anyway. Usually it's a lawyer looking for us to be scared and to back down as it'll be too much bother to fight. But my company is huge and has a stable of fancy lawyers.
Old 02-04-2012, 08:47 AM
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A employee would sy "don't contact current employer" because if they don't get the job, they may want to stay there without telling their (vindictive?) employer they were considering leaving. For the company hiring, a person who already has a job is likely (all other things being equal) either lucky or more competent than a person who is unemployed. Half the fun of being an HR type is figuring out which. Still, ruling out someone because they are employed, possibly in a (worse?) company than yours is not the way to build the best team.

You aren't contacting the previous employer. You are contacting a person there, who may be an impartial HR type from another department or who may be the horrible boss they quit to get away from, or the boss carrying a grudge that they left, or an impartial HR type reading a report and rehire rating from that boss. While the employer might not give an outright bad reference, there's a lot that can be implied by tone of voice and choice of words.

I always get a kick out of the concept that the boss may feel it was cruel and unfair of you to quit with only a few weeks' notice, but this same company would think nothing of heaving you over the side the moment the economy gets bad. Scott Adams, the guy who writes Dilbert, mentioned about PacBell once, where employees were laid off one day and rehired by a subcontractor to do their same job for half the pay.

Similarly, a friend of mine was laid off after 10 years in a downsizing in not the best of circumstances. He was the expert (although no engineering cert) in the process. When they suddenly needed help, they called him a few months later to do a contract job. He told them, "My rate is $100 an hour". They said they "could not pay" that high a rate. His reply was that if they didn't get him, they would pay someone to fly in from Europe and pay them more than $100 an hour. (This discussion would probably translate into $200/hour today) They refused to pay, he was not worried that their plant was screwing up without him, and eventually someone flew in from Europe.

IMHO he was totally in the right. It was just a bunch of arrogant engineers who did not think an chem grad rather than an engineer was worth $100/hour. Do you think he would get a good reference from them, despite being a good employee for 10 years?
Old 02-04-2012, 08:13 PM
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So, if the answer to the eligible for rehire question is no, is that problem? Some ex bosses are dicks and wouldn't rehire Jesus for a walking on water job.
Old 02-04-2012, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Marconi N. Cheese View Post
So, if the answer to the eligible for rehire question is no, is that problem? Some ex bosses are dicks and wouldn't rehire Jesus for a walking on water job.
Or how about this: Let's say someone is doing a great job, but x occurs. Death in the family, relocation, sick of the employer, whatever. The person quits without the required notice. Assume the company has a policy of not re-hiring someone who fails to give two weeks notice. So the person did a good job, but is ineligible for re-hire because s/he broke the 'give two weeks notice' rule. What then? In this case it would not be an ex-boss who was a dick, but more of a 'technical violation'.
Old 02-04-2012, 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Or how about this: Let's say someone is doing a great job, but x occurs. Death in the family, relocation, sick of the employer, whatever. The person quits without the required notice. Assume the company has a policy of not re-hiring someone who fails to give two weeks notice. So the person did a good job, but is ineligible for re-hire because s/he broke the 'give two weeks notice' rule. What then? In this case it would not be an ex-boss who was a dick, but more of a 'technical violation'.
Well, I have a tough time seeing how quitting because you're "sick of the employer" is only a technical violation of a notice policy.

If someone had to quit without notice and had what we considered a great excuse, like an illness or a death in the family that required their attention or the like, we would likely have made an exception. If someone walked away without a word, or simply said they were sick of the job, then we would not make such an exception.

If someone marked not to contact previous employers (not the current one), I might wonder what was up with that. If they made a note and it seemed plausible, it wouldn't hurt much if at all. If they marked ALL of the employers that way, I would not hire that person.
Old 02-05-2012, 05:33 AM
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A lot of companies have strict guidlines and even I've been shopped while in H/R, so it pays to stick by the rules of the company.

If the rule is "Give notice or you're not eligible for rehire," that would make you ineligible.

I have "bent" the rules a few times and frankly it always has come back to bite me in the, well you know...

Fortunately the notice thing isn't much of an issue as we "walk" our management, meaning the day they give notice, they leave. The punched employees are only expected to work out their remaining schedule. Usually the rest of the week.

If I felt someone was a great candidate, I and I got a reference saying, "Not eligible for rehire," I certainly would give that person a chance to explain. Stuff happens, people get fired, H/R types understand. As long as you're not fired for stealing, physical violence or something along that lines, and you have a reason that has a reasonable explanation, a "good" H/R manager will hear you out.
Old 02-05-2012, 07:46 AM
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A friend of mine is going through just this experience right now. He was looking around, because the asshole they placed in charge of his department is setting several impossible and contradictory objectives for him. The prospective employer contacted his current firm, and now things don't look good.
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