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Can I refuse to let them talk to anyone from my current employer?
September 29, 2011 8:05 PM   Subscribe

I got a new job! Yay! But I have to fill out a consent statement... and I may have exaggerated a part of my job history...

Note: I have received the offer letter, and I've signed it, and so has the employer. It is conditional on being bonded and a background check. I will easily pass bonding, as well as any background checks with respect to criminal background, credit checks, etc.

However, in the consent statement, I have the following options:

i) I give you consent to contact my current employer.
ii) Please do not contact my current employer at this time.
iii) I give you consent to ONLY contact the references provided below.

Option 1 is not appealing, and I will not do it no matter what.
Option 2 is ideal, but I don't know if it will halt this process altogether.
Option 3 is possible, and I have two people I trust to provide references.

The exaggeration: I had a job. Let's call it job A. It's a skilled job, and I did it for a year. I got job A as a promotion from job B. Due to stress and an unenjoyable environment, I asked to be moved back to job B within the same company. I have been back in job B for three months while I looked for a new position.

So I got the new position with my resume saying I am currently in job A, but I left out that I took a step back to job B.

So... if I pick option 2 above on the consent form, will I be okay?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is all a little confusing, because typically reference checks (as distinct from background checks) are done prior to making an offer. I don't think those options would be on the consent form if they were going to yank the offer based on you choosing one of them.

I don't know that for a fact, and I don't know what state or country you're in. But you said, "It is conditional on being bonded and a background check." and neither of those things have much to do with contacting references.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:09 PM on September 29, 2011


I may have exaggerated a part of my job history...

May have exaggerated? You mean definitely lied. Saying you're currently working at a job that you're not currently working at is a lie. That is not a grey area. So the only ethical course is to choose option i, appealing or not.
posted by John Cohen at 8:18 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your old employer can't say anything bad about you, if that's something you're concerned about, because it is a lawsuit risk. If new employer asks "How was Joe Shmo as an employee?" your old company will either say "he was great!" or "Yes, Joe Shmo worked for us from X date to Y date." I don't know that it's typical for them to ask what your duties or title were, since they are looking for your ability, work ethic, etc.

Since they're already made you an offer, it's likely that sending you the consent form is more a matter of company policy than that they're actually planning on contacting your previous employer. Be careful about not consenting for them to contact your old employer -- this can be a red flag. Is there a way you could ask someone about the consent form in a way that wouldn't arouse suspicion?

Also, it's probably better that they find out your exaggeration now, rather than later. You can probably get away with it with good PR (I'm assuming here that they want you based on your skills, and this few months wouldn't somehow be a life or death difference). If they find out a few months down the line because you're not living up to expectations or something, they might not be so happy about it.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:22 PM on September 29, 2011


No, because it means that you are suggesting that it might be okay for them to contact your employer at a future time, and that sounds not okay to you. go safe and pick option 3 to control your message..
posted by anitanita at 8:24 PM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ethics aside, reference checks as part of a post-hire background check are cursory at best. In the cases I have had to go through a post-hire background check they have verified dates of employment and nothinge else. The biggies are the criminal background and credit check.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:25 PM on September 29, 2011


doublelune, many hiring folk do ask about the job/title of the person they are hiring.

One of the reasons why is that it may go into the compensation decision - you have x years of experience, so I will hire you at y salary. It might be a red flag to say that you don't want them to contact your old employer, but you can explain that your current employer doesn't know that you are looking. That's okay, as long as one has 1 or 2 other people can serve as references for you. It's a crap shoot if they find out. Several organizations I know would terminate a person on principle if they did find out, regardless of how fabulous they are....so the question is how likely it is that the hiring folks will find out.
posted by anitanita at 8:30 PM on September 29, 2011


Your old employer can't say anything bad about you, if that's something you're concerned about, because it is a lawsuit risk.

I don't know where people get the idea that people employer can't or won't say anything bad. Some are wusses and won't, but that doesn't apply to everyone.

Almost anything or nothing can be a lawsuit risk these days.

But about the original question, it might be best to come clean yourself, the sooner the better.
posted by maurreen at 8:51 PM on September 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Coming clean" is admitting you lied, or at best, exaggerated. How can that end well? That is the worst option. They clearly are invested in hiring you. You should pick option 2, and see what happens. Even if it raises a red flag, they aren't going to drop you on the spot if there's a problem -- they may press you to reconsider your choice, at which point you pick 3.
posted by blargerz at 9:08 PM on September 29, 2011


Do #3. The presence of these options infers (but does not ensure) that the choices they're offering you are not going to cost you the position. Do you have previous to current employers they could contact? Usually the HR process understands and respects an applicant's desire not to contact the current employer, because they don't want to compromise your current position. so #2 would be okay but #3 is better if you can make it work.

So yes, you can refuse to allow them to contact your current employer, and it probably won't negatively affect your chances. But you've got to give them somebody they can call as a reference.
posted by ulotrichous at 9:18 PM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since they already gave you an offer letter, I would just go with. Number 2 or 3.
Plenty of people don't want a potential employer contacting their current employer. Who would want their current boss to know they're looking for a job elsewhere?

Do you have a co-worker you can give as a refence if you chose number 3?

I went through the same process as you for my current government job and all background checks and references were checked by a 3rd party company. They called each of my former employers for employment verification only and then called the references I listed for more detailed information.
posted by KogeLiz at 9:36 PM on September 29, 2011


Good god, pick option 1, tell the employer your current workplace doesn't know you're looking and it will be tres awkward if they find out. End of Story. It's not at all uncommon.
posted by smoke at 9:37 PM on September 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


May have exaggerated? You mean definitely lied. Saying you're currently working at a job that you're not currently working at is a lie. That is not a grey area.

Job duties and titles are certainly often a gray area in my experience. On my resume, I describe the actual scope of my responsibilities; this certainly does not match the generic job description generally kept on file with HR. It's not uncommon for there to be some fudging of job title as well -- I've had colleagues who were "officially" hired with a particular job title for budgetary reasons but authorized by their department director to use a different job title for all intents and purposes.

anonymous, how official/formal was this transition back to Job B? Was your pay affected? How much HR paperwork was there acknowledging the change in position? When you moved back to Job B, did you give up all of the responsibilities of Job A? What I'm getting at is this: to an outside observer who doesn't really care that much about the internal politics of your old company, how drastic of a position change was this? (And did HR even bother to record it)

You wouldn't have been looking to leave if you were happy, so the fact that you took some steps to change your work environment within your last three months isn't necessarily a huuuuuge red flag. If you feel like it would come up, you can tell the new company something like this: "In the interest of everything going through smoothly (i.e. making it easier for the person doing the checking), it occurs to me that I'm not sure what HR has on file as my official title, as I had negotiated some changes in responsibility during my last few months there. Just wanted to give you a heads-up, please let me know if you have any questions."
posted by desuetude at 9:43 PM on September 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh, and just go with option 3.
posted by desuetude at 9:44 PM on September 29, 2011


Go for 3 and tell them you don't want your current employer contacted while looking.
posted by xammerboy at 11:13 PM on September 29, 2011


When I had to do this, I didn't want them contacting anyone from my current company. The background check people asked to see my w2s as proof of employment, and that was that.
posted by samthemander at 11:17 PM on September 29, 2011


I guess it depends on how you phrased it, but what you did doesn't sound that unethical to me. Obviously you're going to stress the "better" job you held, even if it's the not the most current one. And it's not like they demoted you, it sounds like you had fine reasons to go back to the prior job.

I mean unless you they specifically asked you "so, you're doing job A now? currently? right now?" and you straight up lied to their face, it sounds fine. They're probably more interested in your experience and skills -- whether you actually did job A, which you did -- than the details about the timeline.

You say you absolutely won't do #1, so do #3. You have people you trust, you can explain the situation to them, and you can work out a way to describe the situation that doesn't sound like a blatant contradiction of what you said and also isn't untrue. I dunno, "yes, over his/her entire time with us here, anon worked in the capacity of both A and B" or something like that.
posted by DLWM at 12:17 AM on September 30, 2011


I may have misread, it looked to mel ike Job A and B were both in the same company? IF so, if you're in the US, employment verification is generally just the date of hire, termination (and they cant' say whether it was voluntary or you were fired), and whether you would be re-hirable... so if it *is* the same company, it might not be an issue.
posted by myShanon at 12:55 AM on September 30, 2011


Your old employer can't say anything bad about you, if that's something you're concerned about, because it is a lawsuit risk.

That is completely untrue.

Your old employer can say as many bad things about you as they like. They can't make false statements - like saying you had a part-time position when you had a full-time one.

They can't make false implications - like saying "A number of thefts took place in Office A while Joe Bloggs worked at Job A. Shortly after the thefts came to light, Joe Bloggs asked for a transfer back to Job B." This would imply to any reasonable reader that Joe Bloggs was the thief, but if they couldn't substantiate the claim that "Joe Bloggs committed a number of thefts in Office A" they can't make this implication either.

They can usually give negative opinions like "Joe Bloggs's performance was unsatisfactory" and get away with it, though in some cases you might have a legal right to challenge this.

Except, oops. You are the one who has made a false statement of fact here, aren't you? Because if you listed your current title as "CIO" even after you had gone back to the job of "Janitor", then that's a false statement. On the other hand, if your company's official title for you when you were doing CIO duties was "Grand High Info Poobah Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops There Goes My Thribble," it would be neither false nor unethical for you to change your title to "CIO" on your resume so that recruiters could understand it. But from the sounds of things, I don't think you did something as innocent as that.

In the circumstances, I guess you could go with Option 3, as long as you don't ask your referees to make false statements. You should also realize that the false statement is not guaranteed to stay hidden no matter what you do.
posted by tel3path at 3:42 AM on September 30, 2011


For the record almost all applications we got asked us not to contact current employer and we never batted an eye. This is a SUPER common request, that is why it is one of the options.

BUT you did basically lie on your application, and this is the problem. I have fired someone after 4 months of employment because they lied on their application (admittedly it was for criminal record, not employment).
posted by magnetsphere at 6:40 AM on September 30, 2011


myShanon writes "I may have misread, it looked to mel ike Job A and B were both in the same company? IF so, if you're in the US, employment verification is generally just the date of hire, termination (and they cant' say whether it was voluntary or you were fired), and whether you would be re-hirable... so if it *is* the same company, it might not be an issue."

Wouldn't a company also verify job title? There is quite a spread in experience between being kitchen helper and being executive chef; surely anyone verifying work history is going to verify position.
posted by Mitheral at 8:23 AM on September 30, 2011


Here's the thing: If they discover, at any time, that you "exaggerated," they can fire you for that. So, you could potentially lose the job now or later. If you're going to lose it, wouldn't it be better to do so now?
posted by maurreen at 10:55 AM on September 30, 2011


Employment listed on a CV is not meant to be completely comprehensive.

I'm not professional but resumes are meant to be padded a bit, i think that's just sort of understood. but that's not entirely what you did here.

if you listed a full employment history then you might have lied, but resumes have be short and for brevity's sake, to make it fit on one page, you didn't list one job twice. you just listed it once. I think that's perfectly OK.

if you're really worried about it, go with option 3. They've given you an out here. there are LOTS of reasons not to allow them to contact the employer. perhaps the person or people you would have worked with are gone. perhaps the company changed management. perhaps you left on poor terms because they were lousy employers.
posted by custard heart at 8:56 AM on October 1, 2011


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