In the US it's pretty common for prospective employers to contact a candidate's previous employers to verify employment (dates and job title, at least). In the US, lawsuits are common enough that it's become customary for employers to say no more than is necessary -- it's harder to be successfully sued if you didn't say much. (Or so I was taught in hiring-related training at more than one company.)

My question is whether this kind of background check will typically reveal if a candidate was fired for cause. Does the investigator specifically need to ask that? Is this information routinely offered? Do employers answer if asked, or decline? Obviously there is some variance; I'm asking about what's typical -- if it matters, in the US for technology companies. This is not a legal question.

I'm aware of this related question, which focuses more about what an employee facing such firing should do at the termination meeting. I'm asking from the perspective of that guy's next potential employer -- are we likely to find out?

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    The previous employer does not need to disclose if you were fired for cause or if were even an employee. Some companies don't share negative information in fear of law suit.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 20:15
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    @Blam I'm not asking what they can do (unless it turns out they can't, which would address my question), but about what they actually do in practice. Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 20:17
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    To my knowledge a company does not need to reveal information to a third party - there is no magic word. You said yourself it's become customary for employers to say no more than is necessary. If you did not file for unemployment that is a hint you were fired. But the state is not going to tell a 3rd party if you are on unemployment.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 20:24
  • @Blam Some states do give unemployment due to being fired for certain causes.
    – Virusboy
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 17:58

1 Answer 1


In most states, At-Will employment exists. It states that I can fire any of my workers for what ever reason I want. Now as an official reason for termination, isn't going to be the same as "I fired him because I am in a grumpy mood." Most companies I've played with, Hard Rock to name one, goes by what Corp. rule I broke that got me fired. However, I have seen in most cases companies do not out right say the reason, for whatever the case may be, will have the prospective employer ask first. Most do ask though, but if in an interview you are asked, it's because they already know.

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    And the simple solution to that is to have someone call the old employer pretending to be a prospect and ask.
    – Chris E
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 21:43

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