You've applied for a job. Prospective employers begin a background check. They call the references you've listed and sweep the Internet to see what they can learn about you.

They hear, "Are you sure he gave you my name?" Or, "Let me get the legal file to see what I can say."

Those are the kinds of responses heard by professional reference-checking companies. Could your previous employer or references be saying similar things about you? You should find out.

Jeff Shane, an officer at the reference checking firm of Allison & Taylor, says long-term job hunters may be suffering because their references are worn out from over-contact, inaccessible or negative.

You should check in with your references periodically to try to find out whether they're ready, willing and able to say nice things about you. Or reference checking firms will do that for you, often for less than $100. They'll call up your references and do the kind of background check that employers do. Then they'll tell you what they found.

Another company, DirtSearch, digs into your online footprint to tell you what employers might find on LinkedIn, Facebook, credit reports and criminal records. Often, some of what turns up is wrong or not about you. You need to know this and take steps to set the record straight.

Even if you're not in an active job search, it pays to do an occasional digital checkup on your own. Put your name in search engines. Cast a critical eye on Facebook posts and networking sites. Get rid of questionable photos or comments in online forums.

Erik Knight, owner of DirtSearch, also reminds people to avoid checking in online or posting from bars, strip clubs or other entertainment venues during work days when you are in an active job hunt. What's a prospective employer to think if he tracks you every day at the local casino?



To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to Follow her online at and


(c)2013 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services