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What If You Do Not Want One of Your Previous Employers Contacted?

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One of the biggest dilemmas for any applicant is how to limit contact with a previous employer who views your work unfavorably. Interviewers who can't talk to a former supervisor may wonder what you're hiding. The real issue is how to address the disclosure of negative information. In general, honest candidates fare better than those who try to cover up their past, which is tougher to do as recruiting moves increasingly online.

Basic Ground Rules

Officially, many companies do little more than confirm basic dates of employment. In reality, this rule is broken all the time, according to "U.S. News & World Report" career columnist Allison Green. Employers are also likely to contact anyone who's worked with the applicant. Questions about a candidate's demeanor, history and work habits are fair game, too. The only exception is for protected classes, such as disability, race or religion.

Employers' Responses

The costs associated with poor hiring decisions makes reference checks more demanding in tough economic times. That's why some companies require applicants to verify their whole work history, making it tougher to omit a past employer with an unflattering stance, MSNBC reports. Recruiters also scan social networking sites to determine a candidate's true career progression. If companies only give basic information, the interviewer may still probe for additional details and there's little the applicant can do to stop the flow of information.

Minimizing Negative Reviews

Applicants often can't prevent hiring managers from learning about an unflattering "blast from the past." Honesty is the best way to minimize any potential damage that may result, advises MSNBC. You should let the interviewer know that a bad reference may be coming, and briefly explain the nature of your situation. Not every future employer will heed your defense, but you'll avoid being considered deceptive, which is a bigger deal breaker for recruiters.

Multiple Reference Issues

Some candidates provide multiple references, so one bad review won't stand out as much. However, this approach works only if the positive comments outweigh the negative ones, says "CBS Moneywatch" career columnist Suzanne Lucas. A mixed verdict may prompt the recruiter to go elsewhere. The quality of references also matters. A former co-worker's recommendation carries less weight than one from a former supervisor, who can speak more objectively about the applicant.

Red Flags

Candidates should get permission before listing someone as a reference and brief them on what to say. This approach minimizes the chance of conflicting or incorrect details going out to recruiters, MSNBC states. However, it's best to avoid overly coaching references as this can appear to be a red flag. Other red flags include numerous recommendations on job networking sites like LinkedIn, which may cause a hiring manager to wonder why you need so many.