Background check: deal breaker?
October 27, 2006 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Employment history filter: I am starting a new job after about a year of intermittent contract work padded between various stages of unemployment. Though I never lied about anything, they might uncover that my past year has in fact been really spotty in terms of work (during interviews, we talked about my contract projects, but they didn't ask about specific dates or durations). Does this make me screwed?

FWIW, they really like me and vice versa. I am mostly just excited to be done with contracting but slightly worried that my really unimpressive past year might raise red flags during an employment history check. My questions are:

1. What can they find out about my contract work?
2. Can they retract an offer that I have already accepted based on what's inside that work history?
3. What recourse if any do I have if this happens?
4. Should I be worried at all, or am I just being paranoid, since my record is otherwise pretty much spotless?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total)
1. They can ask for references, so yes. The people they contact will probably tell them the periods you worked for them.
2. Yes. Most standard employment agreement allows teh employer an out if they find the applicant wasn't truthful. I wouldn't worry about it unless you said you were working the whole 18months and in reality only worked 18 days.
3. Be upfront so it doesn't happen. Unless you've already said you were working continuously, you don't need to worry about much. Have a good story about what you did during the times when you weren't working. Again, don't lie, but did you do anything to improve your personal or professional life during the off periods. When I was off, I spent time learning a foreign language and improving design skills. I also watched a lot of TV but I didn't disclose that part.
4. You probably are too worried. Unless you were in jail during the times you weren't working, relax.
posted by birdherder at 10:30 AM on October 27, 2006

like you said, it doesn't sound like you have lied about anything.

I personally have periods on my resume where it says "freelance web developer." In reality, I was home watching tv most of the time. But if I say I was building websites for individual customers, how could anyone ever conclusively disprove that?
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:52 AM on October 27, 2006

It sounds like you already have the job. Unless they made the offer contingent on the results of a background/employment check, I wouldn't worry about it Even if they did make it contingent on the results of an employment check, they probably won't be too concerned about something like this, so I still wouldn't worry about it overly much.
posted by willnot at 10:59 AM on October 27, 2006

If you said you were doing contract work, I think most people understand that is going to include extended periods of time not actually doing things. I don't think you should worry about it, just like I think people should not worry when their resumes don't depict them as tireless drones, but as real people with gaps and changes of direction in their life and career.
posted by bluejayk at 11:04 AM on October 27, 2006

To be honest, whenever I see "contract work" or "freelance work" on a resume, I assume it means unemployed but "catching odd jobs here and there". As long as you didn't tell clear-cut lies about the situation, I don't think it is likely to be any kind of deal-breaker. The only thing that would concern me when we checked out references would be bad outcomes at the contract jobs, especially ones where they broke off the relationship because they weren't happy with you.
posted by Lame_username at 11:49 AM on October 27, 2006

It's presumed that contract or freelance isn't 8 hours a day, five ways a week, 50 weeks a year. That's what makes it contract or freelance.

You've been offered the job, don't sweat it.
posted by orthogonality at 12:49 PM on October 27, 2006

You're starting a new job, they like you, they're thinking, "Yay, this great new employee!" The details of your past contract work are not in the slightest on their mind. I'd just focus on keeping the good feelings going by being solid, hard-working, and all that blah blah blah you need to do to establish yourself the first few months.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:11 PM on October 27, 2006

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