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Background: Recently laid off from current job; fortunately have plenty of great references from my current place, but am on the job hunt now.

I've come across a couple applications that have a format like this under their "Employment History" section:

Company phone: _______

Direct supervisor name: _______

Ok to contact? [Yes/No]

Does this mean they intend to contact my direct supervisor at my previous jobs (e.g. for a reference), or just check that I was actually employed at those places/times? (If there's an obvious answer.)

To me, the format makes it a bit confusing: the "company phone" part sort of makes it sound like the latter (to me, at least), where they might just contact an administrative person to check that I was an employee. However, putting the "ok to contact" field right after the "direct supervisor name" one sort of makes it sound like they might be looking to contact the actual supervisors.

I've reached out to one former supervisor, just in case, who thought it was kind of weird to need references from so many years past (though they still kindly offered to give a reference anyway).

I've had good relationships with all my former supervisors, so recommendations would probably not be a problem, I'm mostly just curious if there's some "common knowledge" here that I'm missing, and whether I'm generally going about this the right way. (My instinct is to contact my old supervisors for references anyway, just in case.)

Anyway, hopefully all that made sense, and that this hasn't been answered already (tried searching a bit and didn't find anything, but not sure if I just haven't thought of the right keywords or something).

  • So are you basically just asking why employers would request references up front in an (online) application? – Lilienthal Feb 16 '18 at 12:12
  • That is confusing to me also. – paparazzo Feb 16 '18 at 12:16
  • Asking for the supervisor sounds more like a professional reference rather than a job history. With a phone number, they may want to call and verify when you worked there. – user8365 Feb 16 '18 at 15:23
  • @Lilienthal It's not so much the fact that they're asking up front in the application, it's whether they're asking for references (i.e. speaking about me personally) vs an "employment verification" sort of thing. It doesn't matter to me either way, and I'm gonna contact my old supervisors anyway as a precaution, so it doesn't affect any decision-making for me either. I'm mostly just curious if it's clear to anyone/everyone else. – user82927 Feb 16 '18 at 18:19
  • It's also kind of confusing since I've come across this format multiple times, and yet my the former supervisor I contacted found it strange that I was asking after so many years; I guess I'm also trying to reconcile that fact with their reaction. – user82927 Feb 16 '18 at 18:22
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Does this mean they intend to contact my direct supervisor at my previous jobs (e.g. for a reference), or just check that I was actually employed at those places/times?

Yes, most likely they will contact your previous employers, at least the ones you indicated were ok to contact. This assumes of course that you are a viable candidate and they may consider bringing you on.

It is very unlikely, based on my experience, that they will call your references before at least having an initial interview (phone or face to face). However, it does happen.

My instinct is to contact my old supervisors for references anyway, just in case.

Your instincts are spot on. Before using a person as a reference, make sure the contact information you have for them is accurate and that you are comfortable with them being a reference.

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