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Nobody Knows My Name

I've been filling out applications for jobs and have no idea what to put for a job I had during the summers of 2007 and 2008. My boss passed away since I worked for her, and no one else at the company would really know me since there is high turn over. What do I put on applications when they ask for previous job/supervisor? For anyone who does hiring, does it look bad to write down a boss who did not know me? My fear is that a prospective employer will call this person and they will not know who I am. Does that look bad to a prospective employer?"

A. S., La Crosse, WI

No, prospective employers are aware that the current people at a business where you were employed four or five years ago might not have first-hand knowledge of you. Career changes and staff turnover are a fact of business life. It’s important for you to realize that you are not responsible for the fact that your boss from four years ago has since died and that people currently at that company might not know you. What you are responsible for is to provide accurate, truthful information about your past employment.

What alternative do you have: not to report that job on your application? Not a good choice. Doing so causes two problems. First, it creates a hole in your employment history that you may be asked to explain if you get asked in an interview. Second, by having left the information off the application, it gives the impression that you are evading reporting the job. The result: You look less than truthful. A prospective employer is not going to be very interested in you as a candidate if he doesn’t think you are honest.

On the application, in addition to the name of the company, dates of employment, and duties, add the name of the boss for whom you worked. You also can put the name of the person presently in that position, if you know it, and indicate that your boss has passed away. That’s being accurate and truthful. You worked there for two summers, and you deserve to be able to have that work as part of your employment record. Also, while that business may not currently have people who know you personally, it does have employment records that can verify you did work there.

At the end of any employment, it’s a good idea to ask your manager or boss for a “To whom it may concern” letter of recommendation, spelling out your duties and how well you performed them, as well as something positive about you as a person. Keeping these letters as supplements to your resume can negate the situation that you find yourself in now.

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