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How can I find out if a previous employer has given me a bad reference? I have applied for 29 jobs at a local hospital and never get a call.



Dear Nancy,

I feel that a previous employer has given me a bad reference, and I wondered how I can find out. I have applied to our local hospital for 29 jobs this year and I never get a call back.


Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Norm,

In some states, trying to find out what has been said about you by a former employer is easier if the state allows employees to obtain a copy of their personnel file. In some states, the ability to get a copy of one’s file is limited to a certain time period after the employee leaves the facility, such as one year. If you live in a state that allows this, getting a copy of your file might help you determine if you were categorized as a no-rehire at that facility, or if you had a terrible evaluation placed in your file.

If you do not have the ability to get a copy of your file, you may try to determine what is being said, if anything, about you at the facility by asking close colleagues who still work there. These individuals may be reluctant to speak with you, and, of course, it is just their word about what is being said, but it may be worth a try.

Instead of just applying for a new job at the local hospital and not getting any calls back, you might want to follow up with your application by calling and asking what decisions, if any, have been made concerning your application(s).

You might also want to apply for a position in person. It may be the hospital does not respond to applications they receive but would rather have an applicant come into the facility and fill out the application in person. If there is no response to your application in this manner, calling the facility to follow-up would be important. If you do get an interview and do not hear anything, following up in that instance would be important too.

Last, perhaps this local hospital is not the best choice for you if they treat applicants in this manner. Trying another hospital may be an option.



About Author

Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.

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