Background Checks


One problem prospective employers occasionally encounter when attempting to verify previous employment is the company where the candidate said he worked is no longer in business.  Depending on how badly the prospective employer wants to verify that the candidate really did work where he said, it often takes some creative thinking to accomplish the task.

When a candidate claims to have worked for a business no longer in existence, the prospective employer can say something like, “Surely, you’ve kept in touch with some of the people you worked with.  Could you give me the name of two or three people who worked there whom I could contact?”  If for some reason, that’s not an option, the prospective employer can ask the candidate who his immediate supervisor was – that’s a name he’s bound to remember – and enlist the candidate’s help in finding that person and asking him or her to serve as a reference.     Most of the time, people who have worked together for any length of time will have become friends and stayed in touch – even it’s only through the exchange of Christmas cards!

One thing a prospective employer can do is ask the candidate to bring in an old pay stub or a W-2 that would ordinarily contain the name and address of the now-defunct company.  Another course of action is to contact the Chamber of Commerce in the town where the company was located to see if someone there can confirm that the company really existed during the time the candidate claims he worked there.  With a little luck, someone with the Chamber may even know where some of the former employees can be found.

If the candidate offers the name of a previous manager as a reference, but claims to no longer know where that person is – because the business closed – perhaps someone with the Chamber of Commerce will be able to help locate that individual, in addition to confirming that the company was really in operation when the candidate said it was.

Another source of information may be the local newspaper.  Most businesses will have, at some time or another, run an ad in the paper, or helped sponsor some civic activity, or made the news for some other reason.  If nothing else, there probably was something in the paper about the company closing!   The point is, if the company really was in operation, a little imaginative detective work ought to uncover the fact without too much difficulty or inconvenience – and with the help of the candidate – uncover some appropriate people to serve as references!

Finally, if a candidate can provide names of people who could be references but no longer knows where any of them are, there may be no choice but to rely on other references from companies where the candidate worked either before or after working at the business that closed.  One question that can often be asked of references is where the candidate worked before coming to their company, or where the candidate went after leaving – depending on the circumstances.

Occasionally, with a little luck, a reference may say, “Oh, so-and-so worked for the XYZ Company, but they’re out of business.  His boss was so-and-so, and now he works at the ABC Company.”  So, previous or subsequent references may be able to fill in some of the blanks about the candidate’s employment at a company no longer in business.  All that’s required is some imagination, and a little luck!