If your job is to ensure that the best possible candidates are being hired, one of the things you’ll probably want to know is why each candidate left his last place of employment – assuming the candidate is currently unemployed. How do you obtain that information?

At the end of every reference call, you should casually ask one of the following questions:

  • Do you know why so-and-so is currently looking for other employment?
  • Would you hire him again? If so, what type of position do you think he would be best suited for?
  • Could so-and-so have stayed with (previous employer) if he had wanted to?
  • Is so-and-so eligible for rehire, as far as you know?
  • What were the circumstances surrounding so-and-so’s departure from (previous employer)?

Next, compare the responses to these questions to the stated reasons for leaving provided on the job application. Some of the more common ways job seekers try to avoid using the word “fired” on a job application is to use euphemisms like “by mutual agreement,” or “reduction in force,” or “company reorganization.”  While any of these responses could be valid, sometimes these kinds of phrases are used as “weasel” words in order for the candidate to avoid saying he was fired.  That’s why it’s so important to ask references why the candidate left.  After all, lying on a resume is, or at least should be, one of the quickest disqualifiers for further considerations for employment.

From the job seeker’s standpoint, using a phrase like “termination – will explain” is probably the best thing to put down under “reason for leaving.”  It is possible for people to lose their jobs for reasons that should not ruin their careers, and they should be giving the opportunity to explain.  The prospective employer should also be given the opportunity to verify the explanation, as well.