How Background Screening Can Verify Employment

When you apply for a job, a prospective employer may ask for your permission to perform a background check. Background checks allow employers to verify some of the information presented in your application or resume. In this article, we’ll look at why employers use background checks, how they verify your employment history and other ways employers verify your employment.

What is background screening?

Background Screening is an investigation into your professional, personal and education histories and is a common way for employers to learn more about you. An employer may perform a background check prior to hiring you or while you’re employed with them, and criteria for a background check vary depending on the employer’s needs.

Read more: What Can Be Revealed in a Background Check?

Why do employers use background screening?

Employers use background screening to confirm you are who you say you are and to determine if you meet their qualifications for the job.

Here are other reasons employers use background screening:

Check credit history

Employers hiring for a position that handles company finances may check your credit report, which shows how many accounts you have with lenders and if you have any bankruptcies on your record.

Identify verification

When conducting background checks, employers use your social security number to confirm your identity. This also allows them to learn when your social security number was previously used, for example when obtaining residence and to ensure you’ve provided your correct address.

Confirm education

Employers want skills and experience, but they also may verify your education because the job may require a certain level or type of education. The check typically verifies the dates of attendance at educational institutions and can confirm that you’ve achieved the level of education included on your resume or application.

Make contingent job offers

An employer can offer a contingent job offer, also called a conditional job offer, to secure you as a candidate prior to conducting background and reference checks. They may also perform other assessments to determine your eligibility.

How do background screening verify employment?

Employment background screening verify your employment by confirming where and when you worked at previous employers. The information an employer is able to share when giving a reference to a prospective employer varies from state to state. In some states, employers may only provide information about a former employee with the employee’s consent.

Sometimes called service letter laws, some states require employers to provide former employees with letters describing certain aspects of their employment such as their work histories, pay rates or reasons for leaving the company. These laws vary greatly from state to state.

To verify employment details, prospective employers can:

Call previous employers

Employers will often call your previous employers and ask for information about:

  • Job performance: Depending on your state requirements, a former supervisor may discuss your performance while you worked for them.
  • Reason for termination or separation: If allowed by your state, previous employers may explain to potential future employers the reason for your leaving their company.
  • Qualifications or skills: A potential future employer likely wants to know if you can perform certain duties for them and can ask your previous employer about your qualifications.
  • Length of previous employment: Future employers can ask your previous employers to verify the dates of employment you’ve given for each job you’ve put on your resume.

Check references

Employers may ask you to provide professional references to verify your work history and vouch for your skills and workplace successes when you apply for a job. An employer contacts the references you provided to validate answers from your interview and ask about your professional conduct at your previous employer. A reference check could include a request for a character reference letter, which gives a potential employer a look into your qualities and attributes. When you need to provide this letter, you can ask someone, like a mentor, coworker or professor, who can confirm your positive traits to write the letter.

Related: Interview Question: May We Contact This Employer?

Check credentials

Background screening helps to verify your previous employers and that you have the relevant skills an employer wants. To check your credentials, a prospective employer calls your previous employers directly to verify the accuracy of jobs and dates of employment in your application. A prospective employer may also ask them about your skills and how well you performed tasks.

Other ways to verify employment

If a prospective employer is having difficulty contacting a previous employer or your references, there are other approaches to verifying employment. You can provide them with:

  • Proof of Employment letter: Also known as an employment verification letter, a proof of employment letter confirms your employment status, how long you worked for an organization and your salary. To get one, contact human resources at your employer.
  • Pay stubs or W-2s: Your pay stubs and W-2s provide proof of income from a previous employer and can prove when you worked there.

Related: How to Request an Employment Verification Letter

How to make sure your work history is verifiable

You can create a work history report to ensure everything on your resume or in your job application is verifiable. A work history report details every job you’ve held and the skills and experience you needed to perform your duties. It can also include any previous supervisors’ names and contact information and start and end dates.

Most job applications ask for:

  • Employers names
  • Employment dates
  • Job titles and salaries
  • Responsibilities or duties
  • Accomplishments

To make sure your application is complete and truthful, here are some tips on creating a work history report:

1. Get your Social Security records

Your social security number is used to ensure your eligibility to work in the United States and reports the percentage of income you’ve paid into Social Security. All work history connected to your social security number is in a downloadable report you can obtain from the Social Security Administration’s website.

2. Get your credit report

Review your credit report before applying to a position in finance, banking, accounting or role in a similar field, and resolve any discrepancies. You can get one free report per year from each of the major credit agencies—Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You can get it from the Annual Credit Report website or contact the credit agencies yourself.

3. Request your W-2s from the IRS

Both full-time and part-time employees receive W-2s from their employers. These are used to file taxes each year, and the form includes all of your earned income for the year. It also includes the employer name and contact information. You can visit the IRS website to download copies of your previously filed tax returns.

4. Look for online records

It’s possible that you also published previous work experience on a networking website. There, you might have your past resume or details about previous jobs.

You can also use a search engine to see what information is online about your previous jobs. There could be documents that display your work history or blogs and social media profiles that show these details.

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