I received an email question from a business acquaintance today having to do with disclosing contact information to contract/temp agencies during her job search.
"I was filling out an application for a job and they are requesting not only the phone number of my former supervisors but their e-mail address. What is the typical policy about them contacting former bosses? I was surprised because I thought they could only contact HR to confirm that I worked at a particular company. One person no longer works for a company, but the other two still do work where they are at."
There are two pieces to this question. The first is the actual application (online or paper). This is the legal document that organizations use for EEOC/Affirmative Action tracking. She was asking about the former employers section which includes your title, job duties, supervisor name and title, pay rate, etc.
For the purposes of *employment verification*, you should include the corporate phone number for this area. These days most organizations have fairly strict guidelines about how questions can be answered. Usually, they will confirm (or deny) that Jane Doe worked at XYZ job from A date to B date, was paid $1.23 and is/not eligible for rehire. This is the information you *want* them to have.
But if you provide a former manager/supervisor's contact information, they could contact your current or past manager and ask them questions about you that skirt Human Resources. If it is a current manager that doesn't know you are seeking a new position, obviously this is a bad way to find out. The other reason you don't want to provide direct contact information is often an agency will use it for a sales call. Obviously if they are hiring you for a temporary role, then the company you are coming from has similar roles. Believe me, finding out you gave this contact information to an agency can really annoy a former supervisor, regardless of your positive relationship with them. In the case above, don't worry about whether or not a former manager is no longer with the company.
If you worked a temp job at another company, the information you want to use is the temp company and the name of your recruiter or employee rep as your supervisor, NOT the client company. You can indicate the client company on your resume, but the application should reflect the company that actually issues your paychecks. (Again, this is *legal* document.)
The second type are your business references; these are people that you have asked to attest to your work. These should be the people that will sing your praises to a potential employer and let them know how awesome you are. Business references should be recent (the last 2-5 years) and should include at least one supervisor or manager. If you had an exceptionally good temp experience, you could ask an individual manager if they would be willing to be a reference.
You should ask them what method of contact they prefer (email or phone call), and when you know they will be contacted, let them know that you have used them as a reference. Give them a head's up of what the position is (or general type) so that they can think a bit about what they want to say. These are the same people you might ask to give you LinkedIn recommendations. The question often comes up as to whether or not to provide business references on an online application. I usually tell people that are leery that it is fine to put in the box "References provided upon offer" and then fill in the phone number with something like 425-999-9999 (as this often is a required field.)
I find it helpful to keep a .txt version of my full employment history and references handy. This may or may not be the same as your resume (for example I have a part-time retail job that I used as one of my most recent employers, but isn't on my resume.) You'll want their full mailing address, general telephone number (switchboard or HR line), your title, the month/year to month/year of your employment, your pay rate at hire/separation, manager/supervisor name and title. That way it's easy to copy/paste or print up if you are applying in person via paper application.
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