Does anyone work in HR? Couple of questions

snookumsAugust 8, 2006

So as you may remember my dh has been looking for a new job for the past few months. He likes his job a lot but he needs to make more $$ and the commute is insane. He took this job after he was terminated from Disney last summer. The only official reason he was given was "dissention of staff" and if you remember his boss was just riding him HARD, put him on probation for things like his blackberry chirping during meetings, and dh finally had enough with this woman and they agreed to part ways. They gave him a hefty severance. He got his new job right away (within 3 weeks).

So the past few months he's been on a lot of interviews, some on his own and some with the liason of an executive head hunter. In all those interviews he's been one of the final candidates w/ great companies for great positions. But he hasn't been the chosen one for any of them. In each situation the reason has been different - the other guy had a little more of this or a little more of that. Fwiw, my dh is in IT but is currently a COO. He's VERY experienced. And, he's never not gotten a job he's applied for - all have just fallen into his lap (ie, they seek him out). This is very discouraging to him and he's very frustrated.

So dh was thinking out loud and mentioned that possibly Disney is saying something that is turning potential employers off. He can't just leave it off his resume as he was there two years and he was a VP - it's critical to his qualifications.

So what I want to know is what legally they can say when a potential employer calls to verify employement there. What might be the typical questions and what might be the typical answers? What are they not allowed to say and what are they allowed to say regarding his termination? I'm thinking of calling Disney posing as a potential employer just to see what they say, and that might give us some indication if dh's comment is right.

Fwiw, we know that this woman (his former boss) won't say anything - she's VERY by the book and from what we heard refused to discuss the situation with any other employees after he left, but the inquiry calls would to go HR at Disney corporate, not her.


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If inquiry calls go to Corporate, it's very likely they will just respond with the most basic dates of employment, position titles, and not much else. Some companies have an "Is this employee eligible for rehire?" question on termination paperwork, and this can be a question potential employers ask. But usually not at the VP level... Giving a bad reference can result in lawsuits, and Disney Corp's too smart to let that happen.

Does the headhunter have any information?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 5:03PM
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No, he did ask him (the headhunter) that, but apparently it's the hiring companies, not him, that do those reference/resume checks.

He did sign a contract agreeing not to sue in exchange for the severance, if that makes a difference.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 5:16PM
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Sweeby is right. No way would a smart company say anything. WRT the question of being eligibile for rehire, that generally means, did the employee rob you blind. Nothing more than something really major.

You are worrying too much about that.

Something else that might be going on is plain old age. DOn't know how old your DH is, but maybe the jobs are going to the younger applicants? That's very common.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 5:44PM
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I'm not in HR but I work with HR alot, hire lots of people, etc. What I've been told is same as what Sweeby says - you verify employment, title, dates, that's about it. We're all highly conscious of frivolous lawsuits.

The other thing to realize is it's a small world - as you've said yourself several times about your DH's industry. My DH just interviewed someone who worked at another company where he happens to know some people. He made a casual call to the person he knows to see what he could find out - he found out quite a lot - that the individual was involuntarily terminated. That of course always raises a red flag. In his case he may hire the person any way but he's digging very deep with the candidate to try to get an honest assessment of what went wrong.

I don't think I'd rule out a highly qualified candidate soley based on information received from a previous employer. If I really liked the person in every other way, I'd talk to them more about what went on at the other company and if it seemed like just a bad fit (which happens) I'd go ahead and hire them.

Does he have good references - references from his previous employers including Disney? People who will talk to his prospective employers? It's also possible they're ruling him out because he's already looking for a new job with short tenure at the current one. Was he at Disney for a long time? What's his employment history look like overall?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 5:53PM
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Oops - I see now. Two years at Disney - less than a year where he is now? This would be a red flag to me. Why does this person keep changing jobs? What's to make me think this person will stick around here if I hire him? Am I going to invest in the cost of hiring a new employee only to have him start looking for something else in a few months?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 5:57PM
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I work for a very large company. You would recognize the name if I told you. Anyway, they have a policy of only confirming dates and title. The only way you would get more would be if you (the applicant) provided someone's name and they gave a reference (which is against company policy, but people do it I'm sure). Since you only would give the name of someone you are sure would say good things, there is no risk for the applicant.

What is your DH saying to the companies about why he left Disney?

Chances are the other people were just a better fit somehow.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 5:58PM
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He's 36. So not too old for the positions he's looking for - if anything he's too young.

He was at Disney two years, and in September he will have been at this current position for a year. He knows that it seems flighty - it is really - but at the time he took the job, he took it because it was a job and that was something he didn't have. We didn't plan on it being long-term unless they came through with pay, which they haven't. Prior to Disney, he was at his previous employer 6 years and prior to that place, 8 years. So I think that speaks volumes.

He is being open about the situation with Disney and his former boss. He knows better than not to be. Overall the bad fit situation explains it. I mean, the things she would get upset about are almost amusing - the (company-provided) blackberry chirping, him going to lunch with a vendor to close a deal rather than have the meeting in the conference room, STUPID things like that, and nothing he did offically "wrong" moreso than he just got on her nerves. And she also reprimanded him for taking time off for my fibroid surgery in March, and THEN he asked for 1 additional day to be at my side during my breast surgery in July. (He did have both the vacation time and the sick time, fwiw, and plenty of it). As IF I planned these two surgeries as a way to get him to take time off work? Then she didn't want him to take sick time to be at my side, saying he couldn't - but in CA, you can take up to half you sick days for a family member. So he went over her head to Disney about it (he was right, she was wrong) and she was peeved about that. And then the whole vague dissention of staff thing. She said she felt they were losing respect for him. No wonder when she kept going to them to ask them what they thought of him, no wonder when she'd override the tasks he'd give them - no wonder they felt dissent. He had a month left of his probation when he left - he basically went to her and said it's over now, this isn't going to work, after she tried to give him a "VP of Project Management" position for the remainder of his probation. The writing was on the wall. He felt it was a hostile work environment and just couldn't stand it another day. He knew then that he would be terminated no matter what he did, and chose to take the money and walk out the door. They gave him a nice severance in exchange for his silence and agreement not to sue. He questions every day whether or not he should have turned down the offer and sued.

Anyway, I'm rambling... So he is being totally open about all that. Of course they want to know. Some of them even know this woman and know what she's like. (Like was said above, it's a small industry) They also want to know why he wants to leave his current position, and he's saying A) the pay B) the commute C) he wants to get back into direct IT.

In the past couple of weeks he was interviewing for 3 positions. Was told he didn't get two and the third he hasn't heard but thinks he didn't get it (because he hasn't heard).

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 7:29PM
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Snookums - I really don't think Disney is squashing everything for him. My take on it is that either he's just not the right fit for these positions (they truly just liked someone else better for whatever reason) or they think he is a flight risk. The latter could be especially true if he is going through a headhunter who will be getting paid a hefty fee by the prospective employer with probably a very limited guarantee on the candidate.

How's he getting away with all these interviews at his current job? Weren't they suspicious and didn't they call him on being out there looking for a new job?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 9:16PM
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Yes - he is insisting on late afternoon/evening interviews (4:30/5 pm ish), or dinner interviews, and so far, all have been accomodating. Funny thing now that he hasn't left for another job his boss seems almost apologetic for calling him out on it - even though he was right.

He's taking the last week of August off and we aren't going anywhere (no $$ for a vacation) so hopefully he'll be able to fit some interviews in then, as well. All we can do is just keep plugging along, keeping his options open. Hopefully something that is the right fit will come along.

Funny thing that with the hotel company that he had all those interviews for and was in the final two, they told him that he was a better fit for the team but that the other guy had "larger" project management experience. What can you do? But the guy from that company has referred him for another job (another COO position) and that is the one that he hasn't heard yet. And I am still pet sitting and hopefully will do some subbing this school year. If, by next spring, things have not changed, I have to go back to work full-time, without a doubt. Until then, we will keep plugging along...

    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 1:31AM
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I wondered the same thing when I left a job many years ago. I found a company that would check your references and report back to you. I don't know if this is the same company, or not. I believe it cost me around $60 to find out what my previous employer was saying about me.

Here is a link that might be useful: My References

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 4:53PM
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He is being open about the situation with Disney and his former boss.

That could be the issue. No matter how bad/wrong a previous boss or job was, it can be deadly to mention it in an interview. Some thoughts of the interviewer could be:

>He can't get along with people.
>What's he going to say about this job when he leaves?
>He's a whiner.
>He can't work through personality conflicts.
>He's not sharp enough to know you don't badmouth a prior boss/job.

I'm not saying your husband is bad mouthing exactly, but you have to be really, really careful about how the situation is presented in the interview. I am actually in that situation right now. Like your husband, I felt that I had to be honest, but there was no way I could say the whole truth. My ex boss was totally unreasonable, the work was unfairly distributed, and the culture at the place was just horrible. The morale was the lowest I've seen anywhere, and when people found out I resigned, the responses were one of the following: "I'm jealous", "I don't blame you one bit" and "Take me with you".

Anyway, what I did say, which is true, is that I was promoted to a director's position but not allowed to direct. I had presented several ideas to make my department run better, and they were flat out rejected. And these were well thought out ideas with data to back them up. I told the interviewers that it was very frustrating for me. I also noted that I gave 30 days notice, *which they accepted*, and that is unusual. Typically they walk you right out the door the day you resign.

I am scheduled for 2 more interviews, which is a good sign, but I still worry about having to tell them why I left, even though I think I put it in as positive a light as I could. I'm hoping the fact that I wanted to better my department and that they kept me for the full 30 days will help.

Sorry to digress into my story, but I thought it might help.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 8:50AM
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Weed - that info does help - it is such a sticky situation and a really fine line on what to say and what not to say. Generally his boss was a chronic micromanager. It's hard to word your way around that.

clg - that website is interesting - question - do they find anything out that you couldn't do yourself posing as a potential employer yourself? You don't have to give your social security number, do you? (something we won't do) Did your results help you out?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 2:41PM
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From someone in IT I'd say that Disney is hardly the concern. The grapevine is the bigger concern. The longer I'm in IT the more I realize that it is worse than most hair salons - EVERYONE knows everybody's business. People I don't know - know who I am and what I'm doing. It's as gossipy as any industry and I'm consistently reminded that it's a Small Small world - please excuse the pun.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 10:19PM
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I second weed30 on not being explicit about why he left. Your DH was right to leave, but by telling his interviewers all about it, he may inadvertently leave his interviewers with an impression of him as "that guy who had the conflict with his boss" rather than "that guy with the skills we need for the job."

I think that he should come up with a one-sentence reason why he left his previous job. For example, mine was "I want to shorten my commute." That was a true statement, but not the laundry list of reasons why I left my last job. After he gives his one-sentence explanation, he should transition into why his skill set would be great for the job he's interviewing for.

I forget what movie this is from, but

"Eliminate the negative, accentuate the positive!"

Best of luck to your DH!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 10:37AM
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There are a few red flags in the writeup you've given snookums.

For one thing, as weed and others have correctly pointed out, its not done to summarize the conflicts he had at Disney or anywhere else. Its not that He knows better than not to be [open about situation with boss], its more whiney than honest.

Secondly, if he's mentioned to anyone about the "stupid conflicts" about the boss being irked that he went to lunch with a vendor to close a deal ... uh no! He should not reveal that to ANYONE and hopefully that doesn't live on his record. If you have heard about the problems Delay and others have been having, they are right up along these lines and these are not new rules they are bending. They are mostly along the lines of going to lunch to close deals (admittedly some of them were lunches in Bermuda or something). Anyhow, government jobs and certainly even the R&D jobs I'm in which involve working with govt. agencies, expressly forbid one to accept so much as a sandwich or a pin from a would-be client. (E.g. Meeting at lunchtime? Setup the meeting and the lunch in the office.). As a result, unless a meeting is taking place in some place you have to travel to in which case you submit an expense voucher showing the meal and any incidentals, you jolly well convene in offices! Otherwise, all sorts of allegations can be levelled about taking favors in exchange for deals. Now Disney may not be government but BECAUSE they are such a big company, I fully expect that they have very similar rules in play about lunch meetings held outside the office. I know GE, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and even my little (He does need to come up with a good reason for why he left Disney and why he's looking to move from here. And they should all be positive - personal, career growth sort of reasons.

You DH may be very qualified, however, - and I hope you don't take this the wrong way - he may not be quite up to the very high-up corporate management jobs he is looking for. May I suggest that your DH go through a book on management skills and "do"s and "don't"s? He may well be revealing himself to be very bright but too green for the jobs he is interviewing for.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 11:29AM
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