Most employers conduct background checks during the job application process. Depending on company policy, a check may include questions about employment history, education and certifications, financial information, and criminal record.
The employment history verification is crucial, because the employer wants to know that you can do what you say you can do. The employer will confirm that the career information included on your resume or job application and list of references is accurate.
What Is Included in Your Employment History?
Your employment history includes all the companies you have worked for, your job titles, the dates of employment, and the salary earned at each of your jobs.
The employer or the company they hire to verify employment will confirm information such as the places of your previous employment, the dates of employment, your job titles, salary earned at each job, and reasons for leaving.
Depending on where you live, employers may be barred from requesting information about your past salary or wages. Many states and localities have enacted salary history bans that prohibit asking job candidates about their pay at previous employers.
Why You Shouldn’t Lie About Your Employment History
It’s essential to be honest about your work history while you’re applying for a job. Lying about your experience and qualifications can come back to haunt you—and perhaps sooner than you think.
One CareerBuilder survey showed that 75% of hiring managers had caught an applicant lying on their resume. That’s not surprising, considering that a ResumeLab survey showed that 93% of respondents knew someone who had lied on their resume. Most of those truth-stretchers paid a price: 35% weren’t hired and 30% were fired.
Don’t tweak job titles even if you feel another name more accurately reflects your duties. Instead, use the appropriate keywords to describe your responsibilities—and be prepared to demonstrate your accomplishments in cover letters and during interviews.
Choosing Employment and Professional References
How do employers verify your work history? Typically, the employer will ask you to list one reference for each previous place of employment, and they will contact those references. The company may also ask for other personal or professional references in addition to employment references.
Many job seekers don't put a lot of thought into whom they will use as references when potential employers request them. The focus is often on writing resumes and cover letters, researching the companies, and preparing for interviews, so the candidate's reference choice is often neglected.
Here are a few tips for choosing references that will help sell your candidacy to the hiring manager:
1. Choose References Who Have Positive Things to Say
The best people to ask are those who will make the strongest recommendations for you. This means selecting colleagues who are familiar with your work and indicate that they have a positive impression of your skills and abilities.
2. Don’t Focus on the Boss
You don’t need to choose former supervisors, especially if they did not know all your accomplishments or if you aren't sure they will say the best things about you. Sometimes, former co-workers or supervisors in other departments who know your work make the best choices. Again, the key is to choose people who know your strengths and abilities—and who will say good things about you.
3. Find Enough References
Overall, you want to choose about three to five references—people who can speak highly of your accomplishments, work ethic, skills, education, performance and more.
For experienced job seekers, most references should come from previous supervisors and coworkers with whom you worked closely in the past, though you may also choose to list an educational (mentor) or personal (character) reference. College students and recent graduates should have several references from internships or volunteer work in addition to professors and personal references.
Always ask before listing a connection as a reference. It’s good manners and will also ensure that your references are prepared to sing your praises when contacted.
Verifying Employment History
The company may perform the employment history verification prior to offering you a job or after you have accepted a job offer. If it is afterward, the offer will be contingent on your employment history matching the information you have provided to the employer.
At a large organization, the human resources or payroll department typically conducts employment verification, but some companies hire third-party verification services instead. Employment history verification assures employers that you have all the experience and qualifications listed on your resume.
If a discrepancy is found between the information you provided and the information obtained during the verification process, the employer may offer you an opportunity to explain—or they might withdraw the job offer.