To find out if someone has been fired from his previous job


How can an employer find out if an employee has been fired or left on good terms from a previous job at a large company?


asked Jun 18 '11 at 06:18
105 points
  • you could try to contact the previous employer... – Henry The Hengineer 11 years ago
  • It's a very large company, so don't know the person he reported to. Will their HR department give out that information? – Jirad 11 years ago
  • why is my question down voted? – Jirad 11 years ago
  • Probably because it's not specific to startups. (I didn't downvote it.) – Bob Murphy 11 years ago
  • why don't you just ask them why the left the company? – Tim J 11 years ago
  • Are you a hiring manager/principal, or are you just nosy about a co-worker's past? Your comments and questions seem to indicate the latter - if so this question should be closed. If the former - you really need to get some help with understanding what you can and cannot ask (legally) in interviews, etc. from your questions and comments I am guessing you could expose yourself and your company to lawsuits. – Tim J 11 years ago
  • @Tim Why do you assume the worst. This could be a perfectly valid question about a startup. If you want this confirmed, then ask him in a positive tone. – David 11 years ago
  • Because he actually says it in the question: " employee find out if an employee has been fired..." - not: "How can a manager " or "how can I" - And I am not assuming the worts - that is why I am asking for clarification - frankly I am troubled by the lack of comprehension given the responses - it is hard to imagine a person in a position with a legitimate need to know this information to be so ignorant of the legal context and issues regarding the whole question. – Tim J 11 years ago
  • that was a typo. it should be employer. sorry – Jirad 11 years ago
  • I wouldn't be asking if I already knew the answer... and yes I have a startup – Jirad 11 years ago
  • @Tim. Ok. You have convinced me. Thanks. – David 11 years ago

3 Answers


The answer will depend on what country you're in.

Most US employers won't tell you whether an ex-employee was fired. The norm here is that they will tell you the dates when then employee joined and left the company, and won't say anything else at all.

Over the last fifty years or so, many people in the US have sued their former employers for giving bad references. In many cases, it's come out in court that the ex-employee actually had a good work record, but somebody gave them a bad reference because the ex-employee was a different race or religion or gender (which are protected under US law), wouldn't babysit their children for free, was angry because the ex-employee wouldn't have sex with them, etc.

It's not even safe to say good things about ex-employees here. If - for instance, - a company gave good references to white people but not blacks or Asians, they'd lose a discrimination lawsuit.

The damage awards in discrimination suits can be enormous, often running into the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars per incident, as a little googling will show. Wal-Mart is currently facing an enormous gender discrimination suit that may cost them billions of dollars if they lose.

To avoid this kind of lawsuit, normal HR practice in the US is to say as little as possible about ex-employees, limiting it to simple facts with no type of judgment about the ex-employee. Even saying "we fired this person" would be a negative statement, so very few companies would say that.

answered Jun 18 '11 at 12:06
Bob Murphy
2,614 points
  • +1 - that is exactly right. You won't get that information officially - it is far too risky - lawsuits happen that way. – Tim J 11 years ago
  • it seems like a reasonable question from the employer's perspective. how else can you find out if someone is a good employee or not? – Jirad 11 years ago
  • @Jirad: Officially, you can't. I'll address why in an edit to the body. – Bob Murphy 11 years ago
  • You interview them, ask for references and do a background check. – Tim J 11 years ago
  • Would a background check reveal whether someone was fired? If not then what would it tell you? – Jirad 11 years ago
  • @Jirad: No, it won't tell you if they were fired. It would tell you about information that's in public legal records - e.g. whether they've been convicted of a crime, had a bankruptcy, been involved with a lawsuit, had a lien against their property, etc. You can also ask them to let you check their credit report, but that also won't tell you whether they've been fired, or whether they were a good employee, just whether they keep their bills paid and have had any recent bankruptcies. – Bob Murphy 11 years ago
  • @Jirad - Why are you so focused on someone getting fired? Are you that unsure of your hiring process? There are so many other things to consider. Focus on figuring out if they are a good person for your organization - not if they were a bad fit for another organization. – Tim J 11 years ago


Here's something that might work: if you could talk to their supervisor and ask "If this employee would apply for a position with you again, would you hire him". If the supervisor said "absolutely!" then you know you have a winner. If you hear "well..." then you know you shouldn't hire that employee whether he was fired or not.

answered Jun 18 '11 at 14:03
11 points
  • Again, this is something that managers are told to avoid by their HR departments - most will refer you to HR or just confirm dates. It is a legal risk to do what you ask. *for the person answering) – Tim J 11 years ago
  • why is it a legal risk? – Jirad 11 years ago
  • @Jirad: See the addition to my answer. – Bob Murphy 11 years ago
  • @Jirad - If you are in a position to hire someone you REALLY need to get some legal/HR help or read up about this stuff if that question was sincere. You can get yourself into a lot of trouble with ignorance like that. (your interview questions, etc) – Tim J 11 years ago


Is this the previous job or several jobs ago? Ask them why they left in the interview. Are any of their references fromm that company? Where are their references from and do you have reason to believe they are not being truthful in their interview?

answered Jun 19 '11 at 04:37
Jeff O
6,169 points

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