What is employment verification?

Last updated: April 23, 2024
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Michael Frash
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What is employment verification?
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So you’ve finally landed an interview, and you’ve nailed it.

But now, the hiring manager wants to perform an employment verification check before they move on to the next step with your application — and you’re unsure of what to do next.

What is employment verification, exactly, and how is it different from a background check? More importantly, how can you make sure this process goes smoothly to increase your chances of landing the job? Let’s explore everything you need to know about employment verification.

What is employment verification?

Employment verification is a process employers use to prove your past work experience. It’s a similar process to asking for job references, but it requires more verification and details from your references.

When a previous employer helps to verify your employment, they won’t just vouch for your skills and character. They’ll also need to go into detail about your employment history and details, including:

  • Salary information

  • What job role you had, and what you were responsible for

  • Employment dates

  • Current employment information, if you’re still employed at that company

  • Any training you’ve undergone on the job

  • Your reasons for leaving

New prospective employers can perform employment verification to make sure you have the skills and experience you say you do. But other entities, like lenders, can also perform employment verification to guarantee you’re able to pay back a loan.

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How is employment verification different from a background check?

Employment verifications and background checks have a lot in common. However, they’re not exactly the same.

When a potential employer performs a background check, they’ll usually hire a third-party agency to perform the check. These checks are thorough and cover everything from your criminal background to your credit history. It will also include your education history. And yes — in some cases, a background check will include employment verification, too.

Depending on the laws in your state, your prospective employer may run a background check as soon as you submit your job application. Some states require hiring managers to wait until you’ve been offered a job to run a background check.

On the other hand, employment verification only checks your past work information. There are no inquiries about your education, criminal history, or credit history. Employment verifications are also not usually completed by a third-party agency. The hiring manager — or another member of the HR team — will contact your past employers directly with your consent.

Employment verification is rarely done before a successful interview. You can provide your past employers’ contact information if a hiring manager asks for it during or after your interview.

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Why do companies ask candidates for employment verification?

Creating a resume, finding professional references, and nailing an interview are already difficult enough. So why do so many prospective employers ask candidates to verify their past employment?

While it may just seem like another hoop to jump through, employers do this for good reason. According to a 2020 survey, 93% of people know someone who lied on a resume. That’s a huge number of people, and this number indicates that lying is not uncommon when it comes to resume writing.

About 36% of respondents also reported lying on their own resumes. This means more than a third of job seekers may be dishonest about their credentials or experience. The respondents had mostly lied about job experience and duties.

What’s more, 70% of respondents said they got away with their resume lies.

Imagine this from a hiring manager’s perspective. When the data proves that so many people may exaggerate the claims on their resumes or fudge their numbers, it’s normal for hiring managers to want to seek out those lies.

Hiring managers want to hire specific types of people because the company has a need. Hiring the wrong people can be a costly mistake. Plus, companies want to work with people who are trustworthy and have integrity. They want to be able to trust them with the responsibilities of the job.

If you don’t have the set of skills and experience you claim to have, they’ll be stuck with an employee who needs more training than they believed. Or, they’ll have to let you go and go through the hiring process all over again.

Some hiring managers will also want to know what salary to offer you. If you had a high salary in your previous job, they’ll know they need to come close to it or match it to retain you as a potential employee. They’ll also want to verify whether the salary you claimed to have is authentic.

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How employment verification works

Now that you know what employment verification is all about — and why prospective employers bother doing it at all — let’s explore how the process works.

There are different ways to verify proof of employment depending on your prospective employer's needs.

First, the hiring manager can ask for employment verification letters from your past employers. When they go through this process, you’ll have a few options. You may already have a verification letter from a previous employer if you already asked for one. If this is the case, you can either bring it with you to your interview or send it via email as a follow-up to the interview.

If you don’t have a verification letter ready, the hiring manager will either ask you for your past employer’s contact information so they can source it or ask that you obtain such a letter. In the latter case, you’ll be in charge of contacting your previous employer to get the verification letter. Your hiring manager should specify the details to include in the letter.

Second, the hiring manager can call your previous employer directly. This process will be relatively hands-off for you. All you need to do is supply your past employer’s contact information and let the hiring manager do the rest.

Here’s an important detail to keep in mind about employment verifications — unlike professional reference checks, you must provide the contact information of someone who supervised you in some way. You can’t use a colleague or someone who worked under you to verify your employment.

Your potential employer needs to verify with someone who had authority over you in your previous job to get all the details about your performance, responsibilities, and other relevant information.

Why it’s essential to be truthful about your employment history

Some job seekers may attempt to exaggerate the responsibilities and job duties they had in a previous job in the hopes of getting a foot in the door. If they can impress a hiring manager during an interview, will it matter if their claims were slightly exaggerated?

Unfortunately, it does matter. According to the survey from before, 35% of resume liars didn’t get hired once their lie was found out.

Some of the people who lied on their resumes got hired, but 30% of them were fired when the truth came out after the hiring process. So, even if you think you might be safe after all the paperwork has been filed, there’s always a chance you can get fired for a past lie.

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When you’re truthful about your employment history and work experience, other people’s testimonials will back up what you say. What they say will only reinforce what you’ve shown on your resume or what you’ve talked about during your interview.

On the other hand, when you lie, you’ll always have to find ways to cover that lie. There’s always a chance that a lie will come out. For instance, if you lie about a gap on your resume, your prospective employer will uncover the lie if they ask your previous employer about your start and end dates.

While it may not seem like a big lie, many employers will see this as dishonest and decide not to hire you based on your work ethic alone.

If a potential employer performs employment verification, there’s a good chance they’ll uncover any lie you make about your work history. Otherwise, you can only hope they don’t ask the right questions to your past employer — or that they forgive your mistake.

How to prepare for employment history verification

So now you know not to lie about your employment history before an employment verification process. But how can you prepare for the verification to ensure the best chances of success?

Here are some tips to help you prepare your references when a potential employer asks you for employment verification.

1. Choose the right person to be a reference

If you always worked under the same manager or supervisor at your previous job, it will be easy for you to choose a reference. Since references for employment verification need to have supervised you, they’re the obvious choice.

But sometimes, more than one person will have supervised your work during your time at that company. For instance, let’s say you worked in a fast-food restaurant. You’ll have been supervised by a day shift manager, but if you work other shifts, more than one person will have managed you. You may also have been supervised directly by the owner of the establishment.

When this is the case, who do you choose?

Choose people that you know will have positive things to say about your work. It’s not always easy to get along with everyone, even if you do your best work. And yes, there are bad bosses out there.

Consider your time at your previous job and ask yourself: who has seen you accomplish what you describe on your resume? Who can best attest to your skills? Who previously wanted to see you succeed and praised your work?

If you assisted in someone else’s department, that person could also be a good reference, especially if you had a negative experience with your main manager.

2. Notify your references before your potential employer makes the call

It’s a good habit to notify your past manager before anyone else contacts them out of the blue. Call or email ahead to let them know you need to verify your past employment. You can also specify what to emphasize about your experience when they receive the call.

Make sure to thank them in advance for their time.

3. Be proactive if there were problems with your past employer

Your employment history may not always be positive. Did conflict arise with your previous supervisor, manager, or employer?

If this is the case, don’t panic just yet. Of course, it’s always better to provide references for a past employer with whom you didn’t have any conflict. But if you don’t have many options, it’s better to approach the situation proactively.

Discuss the conflict in your interview — before the hiring manager performs employment verification. Hiring managers will often ask job candidates to explain how they overcame a difficult situation in the workplace, and this is a great opportunity to share what happened.

Talking about how you overcame that conflict can be a good example of how you solve problems. It also shows honesty and integrity. If you were in the wrong during the conflict, you’ll also show your potential new employer that you’re able to grow and learn from your mistakes.

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Be ready for employment verification

When it’s time to go through employment verification with a potential employer, don’t panic. It’s important to remain honest about your past experiences. What you don’t lie about can’t come back to haunt you or create roadblocks at this point. If you’ve had issues with past employers, make sure to talk about it before they get in touch with those contacts.

Need help finding more job opportunities near you? Sign up to Jobcase to grow your professional network and receive job listing notifications as soon as they open up.

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Eugen Popovici
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