When you are filling out a job application or applying for unemployment benefits, 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 most recently. 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 recreate yourself even if you don't remember exactly when you worked at each job. Once you've confirmed the details, you can keep track of subsequent positions moving forward, so it will be easier to provide the information to prospective employers.
When 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 you worked, especially when they're conducting employment background checks. When you're applying for unemployment benefits, you'll need to provide your most recent work history as part of the application process.
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, your state tax or unemployment department, and prior employers. It's important to provide prospective employers with accurate information. Don't guess where you worked and when, because, if you're wrong, employers will want to know why.
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.
Keep in mind that you can include the months/years you worked at a company rather than specific dates of employment on your resume. However, some job applications may require more specific details.
How to Find Your Employment History
What can you do when you don't remember your exact dates of employment? It will take some time, but you can recreate your work 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 Tax Department or Unemployment Office
State tax departments and 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 as far back as 10 years. In New York, you can request a transcript of your New York State wages and tax withholding. Most states have similar resources available.
Request Employment History from Social Security
You can receive a statement of your employment history from the Social Security Administration (SSA) 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 SSA charges a fee for detailed information based on the length of time for which you would like to receive records.
Use Your 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.
Request Transcripts of Your Tax Returns
You can request transcripts of previous years' tax returns if you don't have your copies. The IRS provides detailed instructions on 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 of your former employers if you're not certain about your start and end dates of employment. Let them know that you would like to confirm the exact dates of employment that they have on record.
What Your Employment History 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 resume work history 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.
Make sure that 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 Job History
For future reference, an easy way to keep track of your personal employment history is to keep your resume and LinkedIn profile 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. This way, you will have a current copy of your work history 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.