Inquiring Minds: 5 Things Your New Employer CAN Find Out About You-Potential Employers Won’t Tell You If They Find Something Negative

Many a job seeker has mistakenly assumed that their potential new employer won’t be able to find out something in their background that might cost them that new job.  While a new employer is sometimes legally required to ask your consent in searching your background data, if you respond that they cannot do so it will likely eliminate you from further employment consideration.  In some instances, an employer has no obligation to tell you what they are looking for, nor will they tell you if they have found something for which they are disqualifying you.  This frequently leads to a scenario where – after the job candidate has had favorable interviews and encouragement from a potential employer – they subsequently never hear back from that employer or are told the company decided to “go in a different direction”.

That being said, what are some of things an employer might be looking at without your knowledge?

  1. What your former managers are saying about you, even if you haven’t listed them as references.  While corporate personnel are typical instructed to confirm a former employee’s title and dates of employment, there is no law that prohibits a potential employer from asking your former managers more revealing questions about how they regarded the quality of your work performance.  Reference checking firm Allison & Taylor ( reports that approximately 50% of reference checks they conduct reveal some form of negativity from the reference.  While the majority of such negative commentary comes from former supervisors, Human Resources frequently offers commentary indicating a candidate is not eligible for rehire, and the fact someone was fired or involuntarily released from the organization.However, the good news is that there is remedial action available to the job seeker (e.g. through a Cease & Desist letter) when unfavorable commentary about them is documented.
  1. Data you may have posted on social media.  While a potential employer cannot compel you to reveal your social media passwords, they can – and do – view what you’ve posted to popular sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Note that many of your posts, tweets, etc. may go back many years, long since forgotten by you – but still out there and accessible by a prospective employer.
  1. Whether you’ve ever been fired If you have in fact been fired from a position, you have no obligation to bring this fact up unsolicited.  However, if you are specifically asked then you run a significant risk if you deny it as either falsifying your job application or lying during an interview could be grounds for termination at some later date.A good idea would be to proactively determine if your former employer is, in fact, going to offer potentially damaging commentary about you.  A reference checking company could help you confirm whether your former supervisor(s) or Human Resources department is offering any unfavorable remarks about you.  Clearly, such information could be useful in guiding you on how to proceed with prospective new employers.
  1. Whether you’ve declared bankruptcy.  Companies that might consider you for a financially related position may be particularly interested in determining this.  Note that an employer can easily determine this through the use of a background check, accessed with your social security number.  (Note that you also have the ability to identify such information by ordering a background check report on yourself.  Such a report will also identify any criminal history, licenses, etc.)
  1. Your salary history.  A prospective employer is free to ask about your salary history/current salary.  Some employers also make a practice of asking for proof of current salary if the figure you offer strikes them as particularly high.

Clearly, it is in your best interest to be aware not only of data an employer can access about you, but steps you can take to proactively identify such information about yourself.  Take initiative in managing this often-overlooked employment aspect and “never assume” that your potential employers aren’t doing likewise.

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Are you protected by your old company’s policy to only confirm the dates and title of employment?

Our experience is, that with a little pressure, most managers break company policy and speak their mind to either help or hurt a candidate’s chance at another job. Who from your past job will help you or hurt you – you need to know.

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Do you have a separation agreement with your past employer? Is it being honored?

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You’ve put time and effort into your resume, developed your network of possible employers and recruiters, worked on your interview skills – but have done nothing but typed a list of your references. Don’t leave this crucial area to chance. References are the final factor in who gets the job offer. Your past employers – anyone you reported to will be contacted. Do you know what they will say? will find out what is really being said about you.

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