The Employer’s Background Check and Employment Verification Guide

Hiring managers today must confront an increasingly complex environment. Not only are there more rules and regulations to follow when hiring new employees, but avoiding untrustworthy candidates is still a pressing concern. You’re likely to encounter at least a few resumes containing falsehoods and embellishments every hiring cycle—and it’s your job to separate fact from fiction. The background check and employment verification processes are key tools in that effort.

The criminal background check’s purpose is clear enough. However, how far should you go when verifying what a candidate reports in the “employment history” section of their application? Understanding what you can learn from this process—and how to use it—is fundamental to finding the best candidates. Otherwise, you might hire someone who isn’t as prepared or capable as you expect.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll consider everything, from what you can learn to what concerned employers may need to confront in this area. To start, what can you discover from verifying employment?

What Information Do Employment Verifications Provide?

You seek specific information when you contact the previous employers listed on the applicant’s resume. In other words, you want to confirm that what the individual reported matches what the referee recalls about the candidate. Note, however, that this isn’t an opportunity to interview an applicant’s former manager about their performance or fit into company culture. Company leaders will only report objective facts about candidates to avoid the risk of defamation.

With that in mind, you can expect previous employers to verify the following information:

  • Dates of service, including start and end dates.
  • Job titles held during the service period.
  • In some cases, employers may be able to confirm the applicant’s specific duties or responsibilities.

Don’t anticipate hearing about performance reports, a candidate’s reason for leaving, or any cause for termination.

What Role Should Employment Verification Play?

A background check with employment verification as its focus has two key purposes. The first: ensure that you aren’t spending more time evaluating a candidate who has already provided falsehoods at the outset. Hiring someone without the right qualifications can harm your business—not to mention that it is tricky to trust candidates who lie about verifiable information on applications. 

The second focus involves identifying candidates who best fit your position. When you need specific skills, seeing relevant experience on a resume is an exciting moment. Checking with that employer to verify its accuracy helps you confirm information critical to building the best team.

Understanding the Legal Aspects of Verifying Employment

As with any element of the hiring process, you can’t overlook the importance of potential legal considerations. Using a criminal background check is subject to a wide range of restrictions, from local “ban the box” laws to the Fair Credit Reporting Act guidelines. Does your HR team need to start delving into research on how to verify employment according to the law?

Are there laws about employment verification you need to know?

In general, there aren’t laws that constrain an employer to contact a candidate’s previous manager. In areas where “ban the box” laws exist, it may be wise to delay such contact until after you’ve satisfied the law’s requirements, such as providing an interview or conditional offer. Some jurisdictions may view employment verification as a part of the process you must delay. There are no specific laws about what employers can and can’t say, but most companies won’t risk potential civil litigation by saying too much. 

One important note: 18 states have deemed the salary verification background check illegal, and almost two dozen major cities have done the same. Further legislative efforts in other states may occur in the future. In general, asking candidates or employers about salary information can be risky. Verify that making such inquiries in your jurisdiction is legal only if you believe they are absolutely necessary.

What consequences could you face for non-compliance?

Violating a ban the box law can mean fines and the potential for lawsuits, plus the potential negative publicity from breaking the law. Reporting inaccurate or prejudicial information about a candidate during an inquiry could create exposure to civil liabilities.

Building a smart, safe, and legal policy

To verify work history, you should review any local laws related to banning the box first. Without such rules, you should still create a written policy that defines a few specific things. These include your method of contacting prior employers, a policy of always verifying any candidate’s employment, and what questions you will ask during the process.

What Are the Benefits of a Background Check With Employment Verification?

It’s clear that checking someone’s work history is useful for hiring, but it does mean adding another element to the workflow. What benefits could you see from such an effort that would make this step worthwhile? Let’s consider how what you can learn from this process makes the addition of verification services a smart choice.

Pick the candidates most suitably qualified for the job.

Confirming that an applicant’s resume is accurate lets you build confidence in their capabilities. When someone with the right experience and proven capabilities comes along, verifying their claims highlights who’s the best fit for the job. That effort simplifies narrowing down and ultimately picking the person to hire.

Protect your business from fraud and deception.

No one wants to hire an individual on false pretenses. Not only could that lead to an operational deficiency or even safety risks, but it doesn’t foster a positive environment in your business. Checking a candidate’s claims helps protect your business from fraud and potential future harm while showing you took every precaution.

Create a team defined by competence and reliability.

You have a clear sense of what you need from candidates. When others have gone through the effort to accumulate experience and new skills, why should you add someone who doesn’t measure up to that team? Looking into someone’s claims helps ensure everyone clears the same bar. 

How to Include Employment Verification in Your Hiring Efforts

Taking advantage of the benefits verification can bring to your business isn’t difficult. It might be one of the simplest verifications to set up and conduct for your business. Since you can only expect a limited amount of input from prior employers, there is not as much nuance or interpretation of results involved as with a criminal background check. Here’s a quick look at how to get started.

Follow these steps to get set up for verifying employment

  1. Create a written policy about when and how you will verify employment. Define when in the hiring process you will start contacting employers.
  2. Collect or confirm business contact information. Ask candidates to supply this information, then verify its accuracy.
  3. Begin contacting employers at the appropriate stage. Identify yourself, state that you’re hiring a candidate, and explain that you need HR or the business owner to confirm some information.

A few best practices to consider

Keep these guidelines in mind as you complete this process.

  • Check with candidates to make sure it is OK to contact the most recent employer listed on their resume, as they may still work there.
  • Be courteous in explaining your purpose.
  • Ask only about the necessary facts, such as start and end dates. Don’t probe for potentially sensitive information, such as a candidate’s reason for leaving.

Finding professional support

Carrying out this process is important, but it can also be highly time-consuming. Partnering with a third party, such as, can streamline the process. Working with a proven and trusted consumer reporting agency lets you offload the process to another team. Ultimately, you’ll receive a report with the relevant information and any potential red flags.

Pitfalls and Problems to Know

Every part of the hiring process involves some level of risk. Even verifying someone’s prior employers, a seemingly simple process, might mean encountering an issue. Knowing what to expect and how to navigate these challenges will keep you on the right track.

Encountering a business that has since closed is perhaps the most common problem. Unfortunately, there is no way around this problem—you’ll need to focus on verifying other listed employment instead. This scenario may mean reducing how much weight you give to the unverifiable portion of the resume.

Some candidates may not want you to contact an employer because they have not indicated to their current boss that they intend to move to a different position. In such cases, you should ask the candidate when to contact the business. You should follow up later, even if you hire them on other merits.

Creating Processes to Better Understand Your Candidates

Verifying employment is a simple process that yields some basic but important facts for evaluating candidates. When you can confirm someone has the experience they claim, developing confidence about the best person to hire is much simpler. Preventing fraud and building a better team are also valid benefits of this effort. With so many upsides, it’s critical for every business, regardless of industry, to incorporate a process for confirming previous employment into the hiring workflow.

The right partner makes all the difference. At, we simplify and streamline the background check and employment verification process. Combined with other innovative products for supporting smart hiring, your business can access the tools it needs with ease. Find out more about how we can assist your efforts today.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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