Answering the Interview Question: Can We Contact Your Previous Employer?

If you don’t see this question on a job application and make it to the interview, expect it to come up. Employers want to fact-check resumes and ensure job seekers are truthful with their job experience.

But what do you do if you had a particularly bad manager and you don’t want your potential employer to get in touch with them? Or perhaps nobody you worked with is still at the company, so you wouldn’t get a good reference. We’ve got you covered with these handy tips.

  1. Say Yes, If You Can

Okay, there’s really only one answer to this question in most situations. If you say no, your interviewer might think you’re hiding something, or worse, that you lied on your resume. On the bright side, employers really only ask this to make sure you’re being truthful. Many don’t even contact your previous employer (your saying yes makes that unnecessary), and if they do, they’ll probably speak to Human Resources rather than your manager. However, if you absolutely must say no due to bad blood with a previous manager, make sure you have plenty of online testimonials.

  1. Get Testimonials on LinkedIn

If you’re still worried that a bad manager could ruin your chances of getting the job, start controlling your online presence. When it comes to the working world, LinkedIn is a one-stop shop for your professional reputation. After you’ve connected with a few of your past and current co-workers, managers, clients, and vendors, you can ask them for testimonials. Usually you can start off by giving them a testimonial to entice them to give you one in return. After a few testimonials, you’ll have a profile that shows you are a valuable employee.

If you’re ready and prepared with positive references and plenty of glowing online testimonials, your interviewer is sure to be impressed.

  1. Know the Difference Between This Question and a Reference

Like we said, interviewers only ask this question to make sure your resume is accurate. On the other hand, if they ask for references, that’s totally different. References are people that you provide to vouch for your work ethic, character, or accomplishments. Usually an interviewer will ask for three or so references, and at least one of those should be a manager. The others can be co-workers, vendors, clients, or anyone else that you worked with.

Just make sure to contact your references before submitting them to an interviewer so they know what to expect.

For more in our Answering the Interview Question series, check out:

Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

Tell Me About Yourself

What Are Your Top 3 Strengths and Weaknesses?

Why Should I Hire You?

Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job/Company?

Answering the Hardest Interview Questions

What’s Your Most Impressive Accomplishment?

How Would Your Co-Workers Describe You in Three Words?

Why Do You Want to Work at Our Company?

Do You Like to Take Charge of Projects and Situations?

Have you ever struggled with this question? Did you say yes or no? Why? Let us know in the comments section below!

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