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What Is Employment Verification? What You Need To Know

Person holding a magnifying glass over experience section on resume

One of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks involved in vetting prospective employees is confirming details of each applicant’s job history. Checking with every past employer of every candidate — especially when hiring senior managers with long work histories, or simply when adding many workers at once, can become a full-time task for HR staffers trying to balance many other duties.

This article will address best practices for conducting employment verification — what employers should and should not do to confirm job histories accurately, efficiently and legally. It also will touch on reasons employers may wish to outsource employment verification to dedicated background check providers.    

What Is Employment Verification?

Employment verification is the process of confirming the work history provided by a job applicant. Employment verification can confirm that a candidate brings the work experience they claim on their resume. It can also reveal false employment claims, “padding” of job titles, and undisclosed, unexplained gaps in employment.

GoodHire provides employment verifications and background checks for organizations of all sizes. It’s quick and easy to get started.

Why Are Employment History Background Checks Important?

Employment history background checks can help reveal if a job applicant has the skills needed for the position they’re seeking. Confirming a candidate’s employment history can corroborate (or disprove) claims of relevant experience and job responsibilities in industries that matter to the hiring company.

It’s unpleasant to even think about hiring someone who would fabricate or exaggerate their work history, but the consequences of doing so go beyond concerns over individual character. Exposure of executives with phony resumes has damaged the reputations of major corporations and government agencies and hiring an unqualified worker on the basis of false credentials at any level of an organization may create a threat of legal liability.

How Do Employers Verify Employment History?

Employment history verification involves contacting each workplace listed in a candidate’s resume to confirm that the applicant was in fact employed there, to check what the applicant’s job title(s) were during their work tenure, and the dates of the applicant’s employment there.

Employment history verification is often a component of a more complete background check that may include identity verification, any record of criminal history, driving record checks, professional license verification, and education history, among other screenings.

Professional background check providers are considered consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and anytime an employer contracts with a CRA to do background checks, including employment verifications, on a job applicant, FCRA requires the employer to formally notify the candidate beforehand and get their written consent. GoodHire helps employers maintain compliance by including the notification and consent steps into the secure digital portal it provides every screening candidate.

At GoodHire, each employment verification confirms one past employer listed on the applicant’s resume. While the applicant may provide a phone number for a previous employer, GoodHire conducts its own research to identify a verified phone number. This helps reduce the unlikely, but not unheard-of, ploy of furnishing a friend’s phone number in place of a past employer’s. GoodHire phones the employer up to five times over five business days to confirm the applicant’s tenure and job title.

While the process of employment verification is well within the abilities of most hiring managers and HR teams, the time and effort required for placing numerous calls and the need to be available for callbacks can make “DIY” employment verification a burden for hiring companies. Delegating the task to a dedicated background check provider such as GoodHire, with the resources needed to conduct thorough background checks quickly and efficiently, can save time and frustration and is often highly cost-effective.

What Information Can Previous Employers Share About A Candidate?

Federal laws don’t limit what past employers can or cannot reveal about former employees, but most states have laws restricting the information employers can share, and to whom they can disclose it. In addition, a growing number of states prohibit employers from asking about a prospective employee’s salary history. If an employer is unfamiliar with those laws, its employment verification efforts could inadvertently violate the law.

And while not necessarily compelled to by law, many employers make it policy to restrict the type of information they will disclose, such as the past employees’ job titles, the start and end dates of their employment and, where permitted, their salaries.

Working with a background check provider that’s a consumer reporting agency (CRA) is an option many hiring companies choose to avoid inadvertently running up against state laws. CRAs such as GoodHire are versed in compliance with FCRA and the many state and local fair hiring laws and can help you steer clear of compliance concerns.

Employment Verification vs Reference Check

Employment verification differs from reference checking. Each employment verification ascertains that an applicant worked for one employer listed on their resume and verifies their job title(s) and dates of that employment. On the other hand, when conducting a reference check, a prospective employer or manager may attempt to learn additional information about the candidate from his or her previous employer, such as:

  • Terms on which the person’s employment ended
  • Whether the past employer would consider re-hiring the person
  • If the employee has job skills required for the open position
  • Whether the individual showed work improvement in their job, earned promotions, or made other advancements during their tenure 
  • How much the applicant earned while employed there

Concern about potential libel litigation and the growing popularity of laws forbidding disclosure of past earnings have made many HR professionals reluctant to provide references.

What Is The Best Way To Verify Candidates’ Employment History?

Verifying employment history is an important step in evaluating a job candidate. It can help confirm the individual’s experience and level of previous job responsibility. It also helps root out “resume padding” and other efforts to falsify work history — signs of poor character and potential pitfalls for an employer who hires an unqualified applicant. 

The best approach to verifying candidates’ employment histories is easy to state, but harder to execute efficiently:

  • Check with every workplace listed on each applicant’s resume
  • Use independently obtained phone numbers whenever possible
  • Confirm if and when the candidate worked there and what job title(s) they held
  • Comply with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, and applicable federal and state fair hiring laws

Employment history verification takes a dedicated, focused effort that conflicts with the work demands of many busy hiring managers and HR pros, and that’s one reason so many of them rely on background check experts like GoodHire to do the job thoroughly and efficiently.

GoodHire can help you manage and scale your employment screening program. Talk to sales for a custom quote, or get started today.

Disclaimer

The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.