My reference said What?!

If you think you’re getting unfair bad reviews from former managers, there are steps that you can take to confirm that your future employers are getting an accurate picture of you.

Many universities and colleges have policies that dictate that potential employers who call past employers only can glean a former employee’s title and dates of employment. This policy is in place mostly to protect employers from lawsuits.

But, not all universities play by the rules. And, some institutions may be so small that they don’t have a human resources function. Professional human resources departments are trained to answer these types of questions correctly.

If a potential employer ends up speaking with people who are not trained, or are not impartial and professional, what should be the final step before landing a great job could end up being the final step before the “Dear Applicant” letter arrives in your email.

And, many times, tone and other behavioral indicators when reference checking can end up being subtle red flags to a potential employer.

So what’s a candidate to do?

Some advice sites suggest that you have a professional-sounding friend make calls to your former employers to check those references. While that idea is on the right track, it can easily go wrong. For one, anything that your friend uncovers may not be legally admissible in the event that action needs to be taken. And, those subtle flags may be lost on a person who is only trying to do their good buddy a favor.

Professional background-checking companies provide a variety of services which may go far in saving a job seeker from repeated frustration.These businesses not only conduct professional checks of your former employers’ responses to reference calls, but some can offer help if you need to pursue legal “cease and desist” action.

While we all would like to think that our former employers would follow their own policies, and the law, tools do exist to make sure that your future employer is getting an honest picture of you.

Kimberley Sirk is a North Carolina-based writer and editor with government, higher education and big-brand healthcare public relations and marketing experience.

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