Can Employers Check Your Unemployment History?

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Is there a way to find out if someone is collecting unemployment? Can an employer discover whether you have filed a claim to collect unemployment compensation?

If you're concerned about a former employer, note that at least the last organization you worked for will be notified if you file a claim because, in most states, unemployment benefits are funded by employers.

Unemployment Employer Notifications

Your Current Employer

If you're currently employed, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits unless your hours have been reduced or there are other circumstances that have impacted your job. If you file for benefits, your employer will be notified if you file a claim.

Your Previous Employers

Your last employer, and possibly other former employers, will be notified that you have filed for unemployment and will verify your dates of employment and earnings. Your former employer can contest your claim if they don't believe you're eligible to collect unemployment.

Companies You're Interviewing With

How about companies you're interviewing with? Can prospective employers check your unemployment record to find out when and for how long you were unemployed? What about when you have started a new job? Can the boss find out that you have been collecting unemployment?

The short answer is sort of, but they won't get that information from the government. There's no secret file out there with your name on it containing your entire work history and its ups and downs—at least, not one that employers can access.

What Unemployment Offices Can Disclose

The unemployment office can't disclose any information about you because it's illegal for government agencies to divulge information regarding the unemployment benefits that individuals have received. Unemployment records are not public information.

In other words, if a prospective employer wants to uncover the gaps in your employment history, they can. However, they have to be willing to dig for it. The bad news is that it's pretty easy to find out whether a candidate has been continuously employed. So, if you were hoping to keep that under wraps, it's time to make a new plan to address any concerns that might come up during the interview process.

What and How Employers Can Check

Employers or the third parties with whom they contract to run employment background checks can research your employment history and uncover any gaps in employment that way.

Organizations can call former employers to share the information that you have supplied in your resume or job application and ask them to confirm its accuracy.

Using that information, an employer can compile your work history and the time you weren't working will be obvious. If there are missing dates in your employment record or your resume doesn't match up with the information the employer is getting from you, it will, at least, raise some questions about the accuracy of the information you have shared.

Be Prepared to Address Employment Gaps

The best thing to do if you have gaps in employment is to proactively cultivate and supply positive recommendations to counter any potentially negative information that might be uncovered if an employer checks your employment history.

It is often advisable to anticipate employer concerns about significant employment gaps and address the gaps you have with a good explanation for them during the interview itself.

Job Searching When You Have Gaps in Your Resume

Finally, although you should expect your employment gaps to come to light during the interview process and be prepared to explain them, you don't have to volunteer the information during the job search process.

One way to make sure a potential employer focuses on your skills and qualifications and not the months you've been unemployed is to prepare a functional resume rather than a chronological one. This type of resume highlights what you can do without offering a linear work history.

While a prospective employer could—and probably will—uncover the gaps in your employment history during the background check phase of the process, a resume that shows off your skills can get you an interview.

If you explain the circumstances of your employment gap, it most likely will not be held against you.

Why It's Important to Be Honest

The ease with which employers can uncover this information is one good reason why it's a bad idea to lie on your resume or job application.

Furthermore, even if you get away with fibbing about your work history and get an offer, you'd have to commit to covering up that lie for the rest of your career, long after you've left the job you were interviewing for. That's a lot to carry in addition to your regular job responsibilities, and people have lost their jobs once their past resume fictions came to light.

You don't want to work your way up the organizational chart only to get caught once you get to the corner office. If you do get caught, even years after the fact, you can be fired from your job.

The Bottom Line

Even though employers can't directly get the information, the bottom line is that candidates should be truthful and accurate when supplying information to prospective employers. It's just too easy to get caught.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Labor. "State Unemployment Insurance Benefits." Accessed April 30, 2020.

  2. SHRM. "How to Determine if You Should Contest an Unemployment Claim." Accessed April 30, 2020.

  3. U.S. Department of Labor. "Disclosure of Confidential Unemployment Compensation Information." Accessed April 30, 2020.