Employment History

Employer’s Guide to Employment History Checks

Employment History

According to a 2022 survey by StandOutCV, 55% of workers in America say they’ve lied on a resume at least once. Five years earlier, a 2017 survey by OfficeTeam put that number at 46%. It’s clear that dishonesty during the job application process still runs rampant. Rooting out those falsehoods is the purpose behind today’s employment history checks, which could lurk almost anywhere in a resume.

While untruths may appear throughout a resume, including in the education section, both surveys found that the most common falsehoods concern previous employers. StandOutCV found that 55% of respondents said they’d falsified information about their work history. Job seekers are often dishonest about their work experience and past job duties or responsibilities.

Such high rates of dishonesty put employers in a challenging position. Employment history is a critical consideration during the hiring process. Employers often prefer those with a work history that reflects an established ability to get the job done. Yet it’s clear that applicants may often embellish facts about their responsibilities, job titles, and more. Some may even make up positions from whole cloth. How can employers make informed hiring decisions if candidates lie about their previous positions?

The answer is to use employment history background checks as a primary component of your applicant screening process. By conducting these verification checks, employers can confirm that their candidates have the experience they claim. With the right approach, this process helps employers provide job offers to the people best suited for the position. Let’s dig deeper into what these checks are, how they work, and what best practices you should follow.

What Are Employment History Checks?

Employment history checks work differently from criminal background checks. There is no official, searchable database of where people have previously worked. Though a few private companies have attempted to create such services, they are still voluntary—so there is no way to confirm if the results are complete.

Instead of relying on a database, employment verification involves manually checking the candidate’s work history to confirm a resume’s accuracy. Background check companies that provide this type of verification will call the employers listed on your candidate’s resume. Then, they validate your applicant’s information with a former manager, HR administrator, or other authority figure.

It’s possible to verify most of the information typically included in the work history section of a candidate’s resume via an employment history check. This part of the resume usually includes:

An employment history check verifies whether an organization listed on a resume employed that individual. It confirms the accuracy (or falsehood) of the facts listed above. Sometimes, you may learn the reason for a worker’s departure. An individual’s rehire eligibility may also indicate whether the company terminated the applicant’s employment.

Read our blog post to learn more about what’s included in an employment verification check.

What Does a Background Check Show About Employment History?

The need to verify a candidate’s resume often leaves hiring managers asking one serious question: Can background checks for employment show previous companies and other details about a candidate’s job history?

The simple answer is no. A background check cannot return a list of an applicant’s jobs over the years. Employment background check services aim to uncover public record information, such as criminal history, driving records, or credit history. While vital to the hiring process, details such as education or employment history are not a part of the public record as with a felony conviction. Instead, an individual’s work history exists primarily as records from previous employers.

At backgroundchecks.com, we offer a convenient employment background check you can build into your overall screening program. By contacting the employers a candidate lists on their resume, we help hiring managers determine which information is accurate. The process begins when you place your order and provide us with the information an applicant shared with you on their resume.

Our investigators then contact these employers to verify crucial details, including job titles, employment dates, and job descriptions. In some cases, an employment verification background check will also include the applicant’s reason for leaving their previous job or their eligibility for rehiring by the same company.

However, former employers will not always be willing to discuss these details during a routine work history check. This process reveals if a candidate fabricated or embellished parts of their work history.

Note that work history verifications differ from reference checks. The goal is not to collect information about a candidate’s work ethic, character, integrity, or other “soft skills.” Asking about these details is generally a more subjective pursuit than verifying factual information such as employment dates.

What Will Past Employers Reveal During a Background Check for Employment Verification?

Sticking to the facts of an applicant’s resume claims is vital when contacting other companies. Employers could face defamation lawsuits if they subjectively speak negatively about a previous employee. Unless they can prove what they say with evidence, most employers won’t reveal personal opinions or specific facts about an individual’s time with the business. As a result, HR managers typically focus only on confirming or denying what an applicant tells you.

Employers wishing to explore more subjective opinions of a worker’s job performance, reliability, character, and ability should perform professional reference checks instead. Have a candidate provide a list of past managers, colleagues, and others you may speak to about the individual. Hiring leaders can contact these people to discuss a candidate more subjectively. You can also order such reference checks from backgroundchecks.com.

When you request reference verifications, we perform them on your behalf. We offer this service alongside job history verifications, criminal record screenings, and other pre-employment background check services. For instance, we also offer two further verification checks for education history and professional licenses if there are other parts of an applicant’s resume that you want to verify.

Job seekers sometimes invent college degrees, lie about professional licenses or certifications, or stretch the truth on various facets of their resumes. Background checks for employment can put everything a resume provides under a microscope. A closer examination informs prospective employers whether they can confidently hire a candidate based on a resume.

Exploring a Vetting Process You Could Follow

How does a background check with employment history work, and how should hiring managers implement them as part of a screening process? Here’s a brief rundown of the steps you should take before, during, and after the background check process.

Structure a coherent background check strategy

To avoid accusations of discrimination or unfair hiring, employers must enforce background check requirements consistently for all applicants. You may order background checks only when you select a candidate as a finalist. Deciding what specific types of background checks you’ll require for those candidates is essential. Then, you must use the same procedure for every candidate. For example, you should avoid situations where you verify one candidate’s resume information but skip the process for another person.

Decide when you can or will use a background check with employment history included

In many places, ban the box laws delay when employers may ask candidates about criminal history. Those delays also apply to background checks. Some laws postpone criminal history inquiries until after the first interview. Others delay it until the employer extends a conditional job offer. While these laws don’t apply to other background checks, such as employment verifications, many employers combine vetting. Choose whether you will verify resume information before criminal background checks or as part of a unified process.

Choose a background check provider

While some hiring managers may personally contact a candidate’s past employers, the process is time-consuming. Choosing the right background check provider will save you time and deliver quality results with robust support. A team you can rely upon to quickly conduct verifications is an asset to your process. At backgroundchecks.com, we have a strong track record of providing remarkable employment history checks for businesses, nonprofits, and others.

Choose the information you want to verify

There is a chance that candidates will have half a dozen jobs (or more) behind them by the time they apply to work for you. That’s especially true for higher-level positions. Lengthy employment histories can make verification more complicated. It may not make sense, time-wise or cost-wise, to verify every job on an individual’s resume. Instead, you should choose the positions most relevant to the job you’re offering. Another common practice involves verifying the most recent employer and any particularly notable past jobs, such as those with big-name companies.

Get your candidate’s written permission

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that all employers must follow when using an employee background check. The FCRA stipulates numerous rules for employers to protect the rights and privacy of job-seekers. Under this law, employers must notify a candidate of their intention to conduct background checks and obtain an individual’s express written consent to the process. These rules apply to all types of background checks for employment.

Assess the results

Once you satisfy your FCRA obligations, you can order an employee background check that includes work history verifications. You should consider how you might react if the check identifies red flags by this stage. Most employers use the background check of employment history to determine whether candidates lie on their resumes. Read our blog post, “How To Check Employment History and Uncover the Top 7 Resume Lies,” to learn more about some of the most common types of dishonesty that crop up on resumes.

Remember that you should continually assess each background check finding on a case-by-case basis. For instance, minor discrepancies in employment dates or job titles might result from the natural gaps in human memory. More serious or overt inaccuracies warrant a more severe response. For example, if you catch a candidate lying about working for companies that never employed them, you should identify that as a red flag.

Now, let’s discuss why verifying past work experience is a non-negotiable best practice in hiring.

Verifying Employment as a Precaution Against Negligent Hiring Claims

Employers are responsible for fostering a safe workplace. A significant portion of that responsibility lies in preventing situations where an employee could harm other workers, members of the public, or the business itself. In cases where employers fail in their obligation to provide reasonable protections for staff and others, negligent hiring claims can arise.

Negligent hiring claims made against an employer may occur after an individual suffers an injury caused by a company employee. Such claims argue that the employer should have reasonably foreseen the danger the particular employee poses. Usually, these claims hinge upon improper or incomplete background checks.

For instance, suppose an employer hires someone without conducting a criminal background check. One day, the employee assaults a customer. Investigations reveal that the employee had a history of assault in their background. In this case, the victim could have a strong case in a negligent hiring lawsuit. Had the employer been thorough in their vetting, they would have seen the level of risk the individual posed.

Most employers run criminal background checks on all new hires to avoid such situations and may even use continuous criminal monitoring to look for recent incidents after hiring. While the most severe negligent hiring claims often come up around criminal background checks (or lack thereof), negligent hiring can also apply in the case of employment verification checks. Let’s consider another example.

A factory worker could accidentally injure or even kill a colleague if they don’t have the skills or experience to work safely in a high-risk environment. Imagine a worker fired from a previous site for drinking on the job. An employment verification could reveal that the employee isn’t eligible for rehiring at his last employer and might reveal the reason.

Similarly, an applicant might claim to have experience operating heavy machinery at a prior job—when they don’t. Now imagine an outcome where either fictitious worker seriously injures someone in the workplace. If the victim or their family can prove that the employer should have known about the worker’s incompetence, they may have a successful negligent hiring claim.

Thorough work history verifications to assess a candidate’s competency are essential in hiring. Competence isn’t just valuable to employers who wish to maximize productivity and morale. It also matters to the safety of the workplace. As such, employers should consider running work verification checks in their due diligence process.

Ensuring Your FCRA Compliance

Employment history verifications and a pre-employment background check are valuable in helping hiring managers make good decisions. However, employers must understand that there are rules and regulations to obey when using a background check for employment. Perhaps most notably, these checks fall under the rules established by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA is a federal law designed to protect people from invasions of privacy and other infringements by regulating how businesses may use the information in consumer reports.

The FCRA incorporates various rules about background checks. First, as mentioned, employers can’t conduct background screenings on their candidates without disclosing their intentions and obtaining written consent—this requires a specific “standalone disclosure.”

Second, if an employer uses the information in a background check report to disqualify the candidate or rescind a job offer, they must explain the decision to the applicant in writing – a “pre-adverse action notice”– and provide a copy of the background check report.

Third, the candidate must be able to respond to and dispute the background check report. Other rules abound for how employers must present disclosure and consent forms, how much time they must give between notification of adverse action and hiring another candidate, and more. To learn more, visit our page on FCRA compliance.

Failure to comply with these rules can be a costly mistake. FCRA lawsuits are more common than many people realize. Sometimes, they can arise for oversights as minor as issues with the disclosure and consent forms. So, before proceeding with a background check – including employment verification – employers should put procedures in place to abide by the FCRA in every way.

Common Pitfalls

When vetting a candidate’s employment history, you must know the pitfalls. Here’s a quick overview of some of the problems you might face and how to address them.

The candidate lists employers that are no longer in business. You might encounter applicants whose previous employers have since gone out of business. Unfortunately, there’s no easy workaround for verifying a candidate’s employment at an entity or organization that no longer exists. Instead, focus on the other parts of the candidate’s employment history.

Labor shortages create pressure on your onboarding process. Employers may erroneously assume that extra steps like verifying resume information will add too much time to the hiring cycle. Cutting corners might seem appealing in industries with a high demand for more applicants. Instead of putting yourself at risk of negligent hiring claims, partner with a screening service that delivers faster results.

You can’t reach the employer. Sometimes, you may have trouble connecting with anyone at the business—or you could have difficulty getting an answer from anyone. Turning to your screening partner for help may be advisable. If all else fails, ask a job candidate to furnish additional proof of their employment dates or ask them to contact their previous employer directly.

Employment history checks might be an extra step in the hiring process, but the information you obtain can prove very valuable in your considerations. You could avoid severe problems from someone unqualified for your vacancy. Likewise, you could confirm that an applicant has an impressive experience record. You won’t know if you don’t look—and with the appropriate screening partner, looking is quick and easy.


Does an SSN check show employment history?

At backgroundchecks.com, we include Social Security Number validations in some of our checks to verify identity, generate lists of potential aliases, and provide address histories. However, an SSN check does not show employment history. The applicant must provide that information (via their job application and resume). We then use other channels to verify individual jobs on that list.

Can a background check verify employment history?

Employment history checks work by contacting previous employers directly to verify a candidate’s work history on their resume. Usually, a previous supervisor or an HR manager can speak to the candidate’s job titles, employment dates, work responsibilities, reasons for leaving and hiring eligibility. Note that employment verification checks work on a one-by-one basis. You must order (and pay for) three individual verification checks to verify three previous employment engagements.

Can employers search for job history in a background check near me?

Contrary to popular belief, background checks cannot reveal past employers. A searchable database of jobs cannot deliver a list of all the places a candidate has worked. Again, each applicant must provide this information on their resume. The employer can then check individual jobs on the work history list to confirm they’re genuine and verify details.

How do big companies verify your past employment history?

When you hire a background check company for an employment history check, you essentially hire us to contact previous employers and enquire about that candidate. Most past employers will be willing to discuss some information about past employees, including confirmation of employment, their job title and work responsibilities, and the duration of their employment.

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