I did something pretty stupid in my last job and it got me fired. I’ve got someone I can use as a reference but I’m really concerned as to what the company’s official position is going to be if my new employer verifies employment, etc.
Today, companies provide very little information to anyone regarding past employees. In many instances this can play to your advantage but the risk of a poor reference from a manager or peer at your last company will always be there.
For legal reasons, most HR departments will only confirm title and dates of employment. Very rarely – if ever – will a former employer or authorized representative of the company say something negative about you or your time there. It opens them up to potential legal liabilities and a host of other issues. Most times they’ll also use a third-party service or their payroll provider to facilitate wage verification.
Now, let’s be clear here – this is how it’s supposed to work but in practice, the letter of the law is not always the case. Good recruiters have an excellent question that usually gets answered when asked that tells them everything they need to know.
“Is the candidate eligible for re-hire by your organization?”
If the answer is yes, you were part of an economic layoff. If the answer is no, you were fired because you did something stupid. Again, this is a question that is typically answered when asked because it’s very cut and dry – there are cases where it won’t be and cases where a “no” answer might mean something different.
There is also the very real possibility of an off-the-books negative reference being provided, typically by a hiring manager. You’ll likely be asked for at least two professional references and these would include HR and your boss from your prior firm. You’ll never know what is said on those calls and it might not always be positive if you left a bad taste in someone’s mouth.
At the end of the day, you could lie and get away with it but there are more than a few ways this could backfire. Honesty might hurt your chances but it also won’t cost you the job completely like a surprise negative reference would.