Have you recently been terminated from your job? If so, you may be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. Some people are hesitant to apply for unemployment for fear of how it might look to future employers. Employers do tend to look at gaps in a candidate’s job history as part of employee background checks. Job seekers sometimes worry that collecting unemployment for months at a time might reflect negatively on their initiative and drive.
The question is, can an employer tell that you were receiving unemployment payments by running a background check?
To start, let’s look at the process that goes into applying for unemployment. If you have been unemployed due to company cutbacks, you can file for unemployment. You may also be eligible if you are fired, but only under certain circumstances. For instance, someone fired “for cause”—such as for sexual misconduct—is not eligible for unemployment. Someone terminated for lacking the skills necessary for the job at hand, meanwhile, might be eligible. If you quit your job, you are not eligible for unemployment.
Your previous employer will always be notified if you file for unemployment. Unemployment offices must verify information about you before they can grant your unemployment claim, including your hiring date, termination date, reason for termination, and earnings. Your previous employer can contest your unemployment claim if they don’t think that you are eligible—such as if you quit or if they fired you for cause.
Most employee background checks are not designed to find unemployment information. The most common pre-employment background check is a criminal history screening, which has nothing to do with unemployment benefits. Employee background checks are searches of public record information, and unemployment benefits are not part of the public record. It is illegal for unemployment offices—or any other government agencies—to disclose information about unemployment benefits that you may have received.
However, this fact doesn’t mean that a prospective employer won’t ever learn about gaps in your employment. The average hiring manager will likely care less about you receiving unemployment benefits and more about your employment history. From the moment when you submit your resume as part of the job application process, your work history will be under consideration. Many employers utilize work history verification checks to make sure that their candidates are honest about past employers, job titles, job responsibilities, and employment dates.
While employee background checks can’t show unemployment payments, they can show gaps in your work history during which you were unemployed.
Where does this fact put you? To employers, the most important factor is honesty. Resume lies are relatively common, but being dishonest with an employer and getting caught in the lie will typically cost you any job opportunity that may have been on the table—no matter how minor the lie.
Telling the truth about your work history and explaining gaps in your resume truthfully will reflect on you better than lying about it will. Perhaps you weren’t working because you were caring for a sick loved one, or maybe you were laid off during a global economic recession—employers will often show some empathy for such circumstances.