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Can a Previous Employer Disclose Why You Left?

Whether you have recently been laid-off, fired, or left a job voluntarily, one of the main questions you must be asking yourself is, “What information can my former employer disclose about me?”. The guessing game can be quite daunting, but gathering references is an inevitable part of any job search.

The truth is, there are no federal laws prohibiting employers from disclosing the reason your employment was terminated (from either sides). A typical reference can include your name, dates of your employment, job title, and the reason for your dismissal or leaving. Does this mean that you may not get the glowing reference you were hoping for? Potentially, yes. However, knowing the information we are about to provide you with will help you put a good spin on any less-than-perfect story.

What can the former employer legally disclose?

Before we delve into the specifics regarding what an employer can disclose about former employees, let’s start with the basic employer obligations. An employer doesn’t usually have to give a work reference to their former employees. However, in most cases, it is considered good practice, and choosing not to doesn’t look good for the company.

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Depending on where you are located, the laws restricting employers from revealing information vary. Typically, the list includes responsibilities, performance, professional behaviour, and the reason for said employees contract being terminated.

There is good news, too. Most companies are extremely cautious when it comes to disclosing personal information that could be harmful for a former employee. This is because if the story is even slightly exaggerated, the former worker can sue the employer for defamation. However, when it comes to answering the question, “Was the employee fired?”, they would face serious legal repercussions if they provided a false answer.

What are the chances the company will give out this information?

One of the most important things to remember is not to assume that the company may not reveal this sort of information. Many large corporations have strict policies regarding disclosing personal employee information, which means that getting a detailed reference could be inevitable. Although these internal policies are not necessarily a part of the local laws, these practices will still determine whether the employer will reveal the reason you left the workplace.

There are good news, though. Since these policies are typically to protect the employer from getting into trouble, this means that they will actually work in your favour. Most companies stick to sharing factual, brief information about an employee’s work history; any sort of opinion-based feedback can be considered malicious or too subjective to be considered.

Worried about what the reference is going to be like? There are a few ways to find out whether the employer would disclose this sort of information, or prepare yourself for the tough interview ahead.

If I was fired, how do I make best of my situation?

Getting the news about being fired is never easy, but the first thing you should do is try and remain level-headed. If you feel like your manager is capable of giving you a bad reference, inquire about it in the exit interview. Furthermore, even if this is not the case and the employment simply didn’t work out, ask about the company’s policies regarding sharing former employee information. This way you can prepare yourself for any situation when it comes to going to future job interviews.

Once your employment contract is officially over and you are out there looking for a new job, it’s time to prepare for the interviews. Whether you were let go or chose to leave on your own, it’s important to prepare for questions regarding your previous work. Below are some of the most important characteristics of a good answer to these sort of questions.

Be honest

In a nutshell, lying will do you no good in a situation like this. If you were laid-off or fired, being dishonest about it will not only look bad, but lose you an entire job opportunity. Since requesting former employer references is common practice, you are likely to get caught in this lie and end up ruining your reputation (maybe even in the industry). Moreover, even if this worked during the hiring process, getting caught in a lie may result in the termination of your employment after you were hired.

Be concise

While it’s important to tell the truth about your departure from the last workplace, there is no need to go into a 10-minute long explanation. Whether you quit or were fired, you are not the first or last person to walk through those doors with a history. Even Steve Jobs was fired from his own company in 1985. Keep your answers short, and focus on the lessons learned.

Be constructive

Most employers won’t have a problem with you being fired if your experience was constructive. When asked about your previous job, make sure to have answers prepared that make you look as good as possible. For example, if the reason you left your last job was lack of motivation, make sure to have an answer prepared about why this job will allow you to learn new skills and allow for career growth.

What should I do if my employer wasn’t entirely truthful?

As we mentioned earlier, you are not protected from your employer revealing the reason for your dismissal. However, if the company provides false or exaggerated information as a part of the reference, you must take harsh measures.

In the UK, for example, if your contract states that your company must provide your future employer with a reference, the employer is obligated to do so. If your superior refuses to do so, you have every right to take the company to court and claim damages. Claiming that an employee was terminated if they, in fact, chose to leave on their own, will result in serious legal consequences for the company in question.

In order to sue for defamation, however, you need to provide valid information that proves you chose to leave your position yourself. If the evidence is lacking, take time to seriously reconsider taking any legal action.

How to prepare for the background check results

If you want to be as prepared as possible, run a background check on yourself. This will allow you to prepare answers for all sorts of questions related to your personal and professional history. With a wide range of background check websites available on the market today, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Below, we have outlined the most important features to look for in a background checking site in order to get the most effective and accurate results.

  • Levels of research – The depth of every report is determined by two things. First of all, make sure the website you are using gathers information from as many sources as possible. Secondly, ensure that the sources are relevant and provide up-to-date information.
  • Quick results – In order to be able to prepare for interviews even on short notice, opt for a website that gathers your information as quickly, yet accurately, as possible. Waiting for days or even weeks for the report is inefficient and can easily be avoided with the right tools.
  • Customizable search – To make most of this background check, make sure you can custom search any of the information listed from all available sources. A quality background check tool will allow you to enter custom search parameters.
  • Mobile apps – If you’re looking to save yourself a lot of time and effort, choose a site that allows you to run a background check on the go. A site that is responsive will also allow you to take the report to interviews without having to print out a hard copy.
  • User-friendly software – A good background check report is great, but not if the search tool is too complicated to use. Make sure you choose an intuitive, easy-to-use website, so that you don’t need to worry about managing your searches, reports, and other data.

Now that you are familiar with features to look for in a background checking website, take a look at our top recommendations. It is also important to note that you should allow some room for errors even in the most solid background checking tools. Unfortunately, no one can guarantee 100% accuracy, even though the website below have proven to be some of the best in the industry.

1. BeenVerified

Whether you are looking to find information on your last position or check your criminal record, BeenVerified is one of the most solid choices on the market. This tool covers data ranging from financial records to criminal reports and social media activities, so you will be able to access a wide variety of personal, professional, and academic information, whether it’s for your use only or for a potential candidate.

With BeenVerified, you can choose from two different levels of service: basic and premium. With the basic subscription, you can expect to find criminal records, financial (credit) history, property records, social media presence, and old addresses. With the premium service, however, you can expect to have even more data sources to your disposal, including physical runners who will go to local courthouses and sort through your personal records and archives. These include undigitized court records.

Despite the wealth of results, BeenVerified’s reports are still very easy to understand, and the dashboard is intuitive and user-friendly. The customer support services are available around the clock via email or phone, and the payment methods are quick and secure to carry out.

2. Instant CheckMate

Similar to BeenVerified, Instant CheckMate offers a two-tiered service package and includes data such as criminal records, marriage and divorce records, previous addresses, social media profiles, and more, even at the basic level. If you are willing to pay a little extra, the premium service includes details on credit history, driving licenses, and even weapon history.

Even though CheckMate’s app is only available on Android smartphones, you can access any of your reports with ease from their online dashboard. This includes your search history and any previous reports. CheckMate’s reports are exceptionally easy to read, therefore you don’t need to be an expert to make sense of your reports. The dashboard is also very intuitive, and running a background check on yourself has never been faster or easier. If you ever run into an issue, the customer support line is available at all times and is considered to be one of the most efficient in the industry. Toll-free calls are available to you any time of day, even if it’s an urgent matter.

3. TruthFinder

TruthFinder, as the name suggests, is all about digging into a person’s history, from online presence to social media activity from years ago. TruthFinder gathers information from the deep web, which includes non-indexed sources and archives. The company has millions of records available, and therefore earned its reputation for being one of the most effective tools for researching criminal history, court records, photographs, family information, and more. If you opt for the premium service, you’ll be able to look into education history, voter registration records, weapons, and any other data on licenses.

What’s special about this service is the unique deep web search which digs through personal records that wouldn’t be available through conventional methods. This means that if there is any indication of identity theft, TruthFinder will be able to identify it. This service scours through more online sources than its competitors on the market, but despite this level of research, it is fairly straightforward to use. TruthFinder’s app is available on Android, but iOS users can use the intuitive dashboard through their mobile browsers. Furthermore, the customer support is available 24/7, so if you have any issues, they will be resolved any time of day or night.

EXCLUSIVE DEAL: Want to run a quick, in-depth background check with TruthFinder? Give it a try with our special discounted subscription offer available to our readers only.

4. Intelius

We recommend Intelius for those who want to gather information from all sorts of angles, including address history, sex offender register details, educational history, and more. Intelius ensures that the data is as accurate and comprehensive as possible, so the final reports are always presentable and easy to read. Furthermore, the dashboard, along with apps available on Android as well as iOS, make it easy to use the software on the go.

With Intelius’ intuitive dashboard and user-friendly apps, you will be able to sort through your search history and older reports hassle-free. Therefore, this service is not only one of the most affordable on our list, but one of the most straightforward, without compromising on the depth of research. Customer support is not available around the clock, but the online troubleshooter provides you with most answers to your questions.

In conclusion

Asking for a reference, whether you left voluntarily or were fired, can be stressful. From performance degradation to office misconduct, many factors can affect your former employer’s review, even if your employment was not terminated.

Luckily, making sure that you have all the information before you walk out of the office for the last time will make a huge difference. Inquire about the company’s reference policy, and make sure you get a hint of your manager’s opinion prior to leaving.

Regardless of the circumstances, there are plenty of ways to spin the story in your advantage. Focus on the lessons learned, the skills this new position will allow you to gain, and what you can do for your new employer regardless of your history. While many employers tend to reveal the reason why things didn’t work out, your reputation does not need to be jeopardized as a result.

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