Last week on "Ask a Manager," Alison Green received a question from a person who's employment verification went terribly wrong:
"I applied for a job and they did a background check and called my ex-boss. She told them she doesn't know/remember me. I worked there for four months, four years ago, but I worked with her directly and there is no way she wouldn't remember me. Plus, I went and talked to her beforehand and said, "they are trying to contact you so please talk to them."
There is no HR department there (it's a doctor's office and she is the doctor). Is this legal?"
Green encourages the person to contact the prospective employer and explain the situation as well as provide W2 documentation from the time of employment.
She also counsels that the candidate speak to the reference directly regarding the verification.
Both suggestions are excellent. Liberty always encourages our clients to provide as much detailed information as possible when submitting employment verifications. It is true that employers don't always remember all of their employees. Just as often, there is nobody left who was employed at the time the candidate was working for said company.
Many small businesses do not have HR departments or databases containing past employment information. Prospective employers should be aware of the difficulty in obtaining verifications from these types of employers and do a little front-end work to insure their background screening company has as much information as necessary to obtain the verification. Accurate dates and phone numbers as well as the address are good starts. The name of the supervisor is also helpful.
Our employment researchers work with these small businesses to obtain the verification by encouraging them to go through their employee records. Many employers are casual about verification, but a good background screening firm will get the most accurate information from them as possible even if they are reluctant to provide it.