How to Find Your Employment History

Employment application

Murat Sarica / Getty Images

When filling out a job application, you may be asked for your employment history. This is a list of all the jobs you have held, including the companies you have worked for, job titles, and dates of employment.

In some cases, the hiring manager may only be interested in where you worked for the past few years. In others, the company may want an extensive employment history going back many years. If you’ve been working for a long time, this may sound like a daunting task, but it is something you can do yourself with a little investigation.

Why You Need to Know Your Employment History

It can be hard, especially if you’ve had a lot of jobs, to keep track of your personal employment history. However, when you’re applying for new positions, many companies want an accurate record of where and when you worked, especially when they’re conducting employment background checks.

If you don't remember the details, and many people don't, you can recreate them with information from the Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, and prior employers. It's important to provide prospective employers with accurate information

Don't guess where you worked when.

If the dates don't match what the employer discovers about you when they verify your employment history, it will be a red flag and could jeopardize your chances of getting hired.

Do keep in mind that you can include the months/years you worked at a company rather than specific dates of employment on your resume. Keep in mind, however, that some job applications may require more details.

How to Find Your Employment History

Illustration of person finding their employment history
The Balance / Cassandra Fountaine

What can you do when you don't remember your exact dates of employment? It will take some time, but you can recreate your employment history yourself for no cost. Even though you may be tempted by ads for companies saying they will do it for a fee, you don't need to pay a company to get the information for you.

Check With Your State Unemployment Office
State unemployment agencies can often release employment histories for individuals, as long as they worked for in-state employers. In Washington State, for example, it’s called a Self-Request for Records, and you can request back as far as 10 years. The best part is the request is free.

Employment History from Social Security 
You can receive a statement of your employment history from Social Security by completing a Request for Social Security Earnings Information form. You’ll receive detailed information about your work history including employment dates, employer names and addresses, and earnings. The Social Security Administration charges a fee for detailed information based on the length of time for which you would like to receive records.

Tax Returns
If you have saved copies of your tax returns, you should have your copies of your W2 forms, as well. That will give you company information, and you should be able to estimate your dates of employment. You may be able to request copies of past tax returns if you don't have your copies. Learn how to get transcripts of your tax returns online or by mail.

Check With Prior Employers
You can also reconstruct your employment history by contacting the Human Resources department of any former employers where you worked, if you’re not certain about your start and end dates of employment. Let them know you would like to confirm the exact dates of employment that they have on record.

What It Should Look Like on a Resume
Job seekers typically include work history in the “Experience” or “Related Employment” section of a resume. In this section, list the companies you worked for, your job titles, and the dates of employment. One additional element to your work history on a resume is a list (often a bulleted list) of your achievements and responsibilities at each job.

You do not need to (and should not) include every work experience in your “Experience” section. Focus on jobs, internships, and even volunteer work that is related to the job at hand. One useful tip is to make sure whatever work history you include on your job applications matches what is on your resume and LinkedIn profile. Make sure there are no inconsistencies that could raise a red flag for employers.

How to Keep Track of Your Employment History

For future reference, an easy way to keep track of your personal employment history is to keep your resume up-to-date. Add the new information whenever you change jobs, receive a promotion, add new responsibilities, record a significant accomplishment, or receive any awards. That way you will have a current copy of your work history for whenever you need it.

Even if you don't include all those jobs on your resume, and you don't need to, save a master copy that includes your work and educational history in its entirety. That will make it much easier to provide the information employers require on your resume and in job applications.

Creating and updating a detailed LinkedIn profile is another excellent way to maintain current documentation of your employment history, educational background, and accomplishments.