Editor’s note: Jeff Shane is president at employment verification firm Allison & Taylor, Rochester, Mich.

One has only to listen to the media for a reminder of the current strong job market. Employer starting salaries and work/balance accommodations have arguably never been better, and many organizations are practically begging for qualified new employees. And yet, countless job seekers with strong qualifications are falling short in efforts to gain new employment.

For many, there is an unknown, insidious disconnect – namely, their references.

Too many job seekers make erroneous assumptions about what their former employers can (and will) say when contacted by prospective new employers. Some of these assumptions include:

Reality: While many companies have policies dictating that only title, dates of employment and eligibility for rehire can be discussed, their employees at both the supervisory and HR level frequently violate such policies. Due to human nature, providing a reference may be an emotional call for some. How about the boss with whom you had philosophical differences or the supervisor who sexually harassed you? Maybe a boss was just jealous of you? Approximately 57% of Allison & Taylor’s clients receive a bad reference, despite the strict policies in place.

Reality: Most human resources professionals will follow proper protocol. However, in many states it is perfectly legal for an HR representative to state that “No, they are not eligible for rehire.” Or, “They were fired/terminated under adverse circumstances.” Any prospective employer hearing this is unlikely to call you back. Fortunately, there are recourses available if this is happening to you.

Reality: Many companies check references without informing you. They utilize social media forums such as LinkedIn to review your background. Also, you will eventually be asked, “May we contact your former supervisor?” If you ...