When just a "yes" or "no" won't suffice on a job application
January 2, 2015 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Employment history section on a job application asks "May we contact your previous supervisor for a reference?" and has a yes or no checkbox. My supervisors at my last two jobs are no longer at those companies either. How should I answer this?

After being out of work for some months, I have an in-person interview next week for a job I really, really want. Yay! However, there is one thing that really worries me. My contact sent me the company's employment application to fill out and send back (or bring with me to the interview), and in the employment history section, it asks "May we contact your previous supervisor for a reference?" with a yes or no checkbox and nowhere to explain the answer. (There is also a separate section on the application to provide references.)

At my last job, my department was completely restructured a couple times (the personnel completely turned over since I started two years prior!) My supervisor there actually left two months before I was let go, and her position had not yet been filled. I am still in touch with that supervisor and my previous supervisor at the company (the person who hired me) on LinkedIn, and am planning to list at least one of them in the reference section.

At the job prior to that, both my supervisor and our manager were laid off a few months after I was, after the company lost a major piece of business. I lost touch with them, but I am in touch with former coworkers at that company.

Needless to say, I have no idea how to respond to the question! My fear is that if I check "yes" and the company calls and finds out that those people are no longer employees, it's going to look like I'm lying. However, if I check "no," it's going to look even more suspicious, like I'm trying to hide something.

posted by SisterHavana to Work & Money (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Say yes and provide the mobile phone number for your references.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 10:06 PM on January 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Fill out the form, then attach a separate sheet with up to date contact information for your references.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:09 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe check "yes" and write "see references list" and include separate references for your former supervisors with their contact information, or whoever you have kept in touch with/asked to be a reference. References are the last step before an offer usually, so you have some time to explain later if you feel it's necessary, but I think they'd use the info you provide them.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:25 PM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would take this at face value and answer "yes". At some point in the application, if that is just a check box yes or no, there has to be a place to list those previous supervisors and/or provide references. Or, put a note that says, "See attached" next to the yes check box and then attach contact information as well as your supervisors title when they were at your company.
posted by 724A at 10:34 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you MIGHT be overthinking this just a little. Once you leave a job, are you required to keep up with where your former supervisors are employed? No. Leave the job and move on. If both of your previous ones have moved on for whatever reason, so be it. I see it as a non-issue that you could potentially have had no way of knowing about. I couldn't tell you what my previous supervisors are doing these days and don't really care. If you are good at what you do, then just click yes and forget about it - if they can find the person and they'll give you a good review, then all is good.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:46 PM on January 2, 2015 [13 favorites]

SisterHavana: “My fear is that if I check ‘yes’ and the company calls and finds out that those people are no longer employees, it's going to look like I'm lying.”

They're not asking whether it's possible to contact your former supervisor; they're asking if they have your permission. If you've lost contact with a former supervisor, it's not lying to simply give the last good number you have for them (that is, the company's number) and let them do what they wish with it.

As far as your more recent supervisor goes – what you want is for them to contact the supervisor, but you don't want them to have to go through the hassle of discovering they're not with the company anymore.

Here's what I would do: get the mobile number for the former supervisor, if you can. List that number first, so that the company you're applying to will call it first. Then, if you can, list your former company's phone number as the second number. This actually isn't lying or misleading anyone – a direct contact for your former supervisor is probably preferable anyhow. And the fact that neither of you work for that company anymore can come out naturally in conversation that way.
posted by koeselitz at 12:46 AM on January 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just say yes, it's not asking for their phone numbers right? Don't over-complicate it. In most industries they're not really going to interview them, at most they'll call the company and make sure you were an employee and weren't fired for cause.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:13 AM on January 3, 2015

In the references section just provide the company number. At worst they'll call, find out that supervisor you listed is not there anymore and then shrug.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:15 AM on January 3, 2015

You are over thinking this. Just say yes.
posted by imthebadgerdamnit at 3:16 AM on January 3, 2015

Agreeing that you're totally overthinking this. Companies deal with this stuff all the time and your situation is hardly unique. It's not your fault that your former supervisors are no longer employed there and not even your responsibility to know that.
posted by octothorpe at 3:51 AM on January 3, 2015

They don't even necessarily want to speak to your immediate supervisors, in fact in your previous employers eyes from a legal standpoint they probably wouldn't be allowed to. They will likely only talk to HR and verify your employment and title, and whether you are a candidate for re-hire (ie, were you fired for cause?). Just check yes.
posted by vignettist at 4:36 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

The answer is Yes. Then they call HR and confirm the dates that you worked there.

If they want actual references, there's a separate place for that. The question is asked usually in the case of your current job so that they don't inadvertently call your current employer to tip them off that you're looking for new work.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:11 AM on January 3, 2015

Just say yes.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:24 AM on January 3, 2015

Yes, and provide your references. This mostly allows them to call HR at your previous employer, who will say, "Yes, SisterHavana was employed here as [title] from [year] to [year]." It proves you aren't lying about your employment history.
posted by Kurichina at 7:29 AM on January 3, 2015

« Older How do I create a countdown list (ie: reverse...   |   Home hair colour and covering minor grey streaks:... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.