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The trials and tribulations of employment verification

I’ve just clicked send on my letter of resignation. Doing it in person wasn’t an option as my bosses are in NJ and I’m in MA. It was scary as hell to click that button because today was the end of a long stretch of serious mis-communications related to verifying my past employment and a significant portion of my brain is in a state of denial that the job offer is finally finalized. Because a few of you still haven’t heard the details please allow me to explain what has been happening over the past few weeks. If you don’t know me and don’t care about the problems I encountered getting my new job because of HireRight please just take this simple piece of advice and then stop reading: ALWAYS keep some pay-stubs from your past employers. ALWAYS keep your w2s / 1099s and ALWAYS keep in touch with your past managers.

You see, my new employer uses a company called HireRight to do their past employment verification checks which normally isn’t an issue. The recruiter I was dealing with said that she had a couple failed dot com companies on her resume and it wasn’t a problem for her. HireRight called the one company I had a number for and stuck my social security number into some database for the other two recent employers, other than my current one, and came up with bupkis. When the easy way failed they asked me to provide w2 forms or pay-stubs from those employers which is where things started going wrong because I don’t have any. Not only haven’t I been keeping them, I generally shred anything I don’t need that has information that could be used to steal my identity (not that it would get anyone very far). I’m not even going to go into how amazingly stupid it is for a company whose job is to prove someone isn’t lying about their work history to prove their own work history. If I was less ethical I would have just photoshopped a fake w2 and faxed it to them. If I had of known the shit that was going to follow I may have anyway…

Now, before you ask… no, I have no fear of being audited. I owe the IRS a fair amount of money and have been dealing with them for a while to pay it back. They are awesome. Yes, you heard me right. The people at the IRS kick ass, and I have talked with a lot of them. I know that they have accurate records on me and if they did randomly audit me things would come out essentially the same as they already are. No I wouldn’t be able to prove anything but they would only be able to charge me for what they’re already charging me for….but all of that is irrelevant to the story I was trying to tell you.

So, after a week of HireRight twiddling their thumbs my new employer decided to take matters into their own hands and asked for a list of people to contact and w2s or pay-stubs from past employers. I’m not sure why they asked for those as they already knew I didn’t have them from the BS with HireRight but anyway… Their application form which I had filled out already included the standard space for three references and an indication that at least one should be a manager. So I listed three references one of which was a manager. The first problem was that, for reasons unknown to me they either thought I hadn’t listed a manager or they thought that since the one one person I listed as a manager was mentioned as also being a coworker he was unable to act as a manager reference. I don’t know which and I don’t care. They also said they wanted a second manager’s reference. Which meant I needed to do some serious sleuthing to track down some contact info I didn’t have.

The next problem was that when they contacted Autonomy about my employment at Virage (a company they bought). Autonomy claimed they had no record of me even though I was definitely on the Autonomy payroll for a while. I think they probably talked to the wrong office but I’ve been in contact with the correct office and I can’t get a response out of them either confirming or denying my having worked there. They also called IBM, who I had indicated had bought a company I worked at called iPhrase. IBM claimed they had no record of me either but I was never on IBM payroll and this didn’t actually surprise me too much. This is pointed out to me and everyone agreed that this was an issue that had to be addressed.

I pointed out that two of my references were coworkers at Virage / Autonomy and that if they trusted them to be truthful about their experiences working with me it logically stood to reason that they trusted them to be truthful about the fact that I actually did work with them and thus they had two points of verification of my employment their even though neither were “official” whatever “official” is in this context. I offered them the contact information of a coworker at iPhrase / IBM as a form of verification there and politely suggested that I would kick Autonomy’s ass and see what I could do about IBM.

They then called my references which was fine until they talked to the person I marked as a manager. You see I said he was my manager, and separately I said he was a coworker at Virage and could confirm I worked there. They, understandably, combined the two data points and assumed he was my manager at Virage. So they asked him, “Were you Kay’s manager at Virage?” to which my friend honestly replied “no”…. They didn’t think to ask him if he was my manager anywhere else and he assumed the conversation would just get around to that point later, but, alas, it did not.

I then received a letter saying, essentially, “Why did you claim someone was your manager who wasn’t and why don’t the companies you claimed to have worked for have any record of you?”…. THAT was the start of a VERY stressful day for me. Let’s summarize shall we?

  • Two companies claim they have no record of me

  • I have no w2 or pay stubs proving that they’re wrong.

  • The person I claimed was my manager told them he wasn’t.

Insert hyperventilation and depression here. “There is no way I’m getting this job.” I think to myself. I wouldn’t hire me with that list.

I wrote them a letter explaining about his being a manager and asked him to e-mail them a note explaining the situation in terms of his conversation with them. I suggested that if we could get to a point where everything was approved except needing one more manager reference I’d happily call up my former manager at my current employer but was hesitant to do so because he still comes into the office one a month and I didn’t want it getting back to them. Given, I think if I asked him he wouldn’t mention anything but I’d feel like crap once a month when he stops by to grab mail and shoot the breeze with us knowing that we both knew I wanted to leave but that my fellow coder in the office didn’t. I also attempted to point out that in the worst case scenario MA was an employee at will state and as such they wouldn’t be stuck with me if it turned out I was full of shit. Apparently I came off as preachy / snotty / something I wasn’t aiming for.

As luck would have it my friend from iPhrase knew how to get a hold of iPhrase’s Director of Finance and even better, he remembered me! [Chris I SO owe you.] He offered to talk to my new employer and explain that IBM only bought iPhrase’s assets not the company. So IBM had absolutely no reason to have any record of me. Furthermore iPhrase doesn’t even exist as a shell company. I have a feeling he said something else convincing because my new manager’s conversation with him seems to have been what turned the tide. Then I finally got a hold of my manager at iPhrase who was willing to be act as another manager reference and was obviously a person of authority to confirm that I actually worked there. I’m not sure if they ended up talking with him or not.

The new tally stood at:

  • Two companies claiming they have no record of me

    • One we now have an explanation for and two people (one the Director of Finance) willing to attest to my having worked there.

    • One who we now have three people, one of which was my manager, willing to attest to my having worked there.

  • I still have no pay stubs or w2s

  • The person I claimed was a manager has been able to convince them, truthfully, that even though he wasn’t my manager at Virage he really was my manager at other places. He actually remembered one I had forgotten. I’ve known him for 17 years and have worked over, under, and beside him on many occasions.

It’s still not as glowing as you’d like but if you look at it logically it’s reasonable to believe that I actually worked where I claimed I did.

Today I received an e-mail saying they had the “Green Light” to hire me. I’ll be starting on the 2nd. I responded with:

A) Holy Crap!
B) Holy Crap!
C) *checks for solar flares*
D) (see A & B)

I also let them know how thankful I was that they were willing to stick with me and hire me after all that bullshit. I recognize that they are taking a bit of a chance. Tim, Catherine, anyone else who was involved: THANK YOU!! From the bottom of my heart.

The downside is that I’ve obviously started this new adventure on the wrong foot. The upside is they’re getting someone absolutely determined to prove her worth and that they didn’t make the wrong decision.

I am ecstatic. I am thrilled. I am absolutely bouncing in anticipation of this new position. The challenge I’ll be helping to tackle really has my mind buzzing. My new manager has known from the beginning what my major concerns are and how I feel about the process of managing software. And as if that wasn’t good enough my new employer is a fifteen minute stroll from my house, I will actually be paid a decent wage, and every developer there gets their choice of mac or pc laptop in addition to a nicely decked out desktop.

No, I won’t tell you what I’m going to be working on. It’s a secret. And I’m going to avoid mentioning my new employers name for a while because I’m cautious like that.

To anyone at my new employer who may be reading this: HOLY FUCK! I AM REALLY EXCITED TO BE WORKING WITH YOU AND I CAN’T WAIT TO START.

P.S. I am still going to track down my records at Autonomy because I may need them in the future and it’s bullshit that they claimed I hadn’t worked for them.