Dear Matt: I was downsized from my previous job. When I applied for a position with a company in direct competition with my former employer I was offered a job contingent on a background check. I have a solid work/personal history with nothing negative, so I am confident I passed what they were looking for. However, my previous employer didn't respond to the request for employment verification. Now, I haven't heard another thing about the job. What should I do? I think I deserve the courtesy of an explanation.

Matt: This may come as a surprise, but it is not unusual that a previous employer would not respond to an employment verification - especially after a layoff.

"There simply are not enough hours in the day," says Krista Cavanaugh, a technical recruiter for Digineer in Plymouth. "It might be helpful to ask another person who works for that employer to vouch for you - at the very least write a letter of recommendation."

You got to the point where the company wanted to do a background check, so they did appear to be serious about hiring you. But unfortunately, sometimes open positions suddenly become closed beyond your control, even if they were interested in you. There could have been budget cuts, changes in staff (did the person you interviewed with leave the company?), a hiring freeze, or even unexpected tragedy that can have a trickle-down effect that prevented them from moving forward. Did you ever call the person you interviewed with, or anyone in human resources? That could have cleared up any questions on why you didn't hear back.

"In this highly-competitive employment market, it is poor form to offer positions and not follow through - contingent or otherwise," says Cavanaugh.

Did you share everything with your potential new employer? Were there any skeletons in the closet from your previous job or personal life that could have showed up on a background check that hurt you? If you hid anything in the interview process, they probably found out. Did you have a non-compete? Did you have any poor relationships with vendors or contractors that worked with your old and potentially new company? Would those people say anything bad about you? This is a good time to remember how important it is to develop strong professional relationships not only with co-workers, but with others who you interact with on a daily basis.

If you've been honest with them, they should be honest with you. If they are not, then be thankful because this isn't a company you want to work for.

Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. The first Sunday of each month this column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to