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What is Employment Verification? Everything You Need to Know [2023]

employment verification

If you have an open job position at your company and are looking for the best candidate to fill the role, you will likely collect multiple resumes from eager potential employees.

This first step in the hiring process helps you determine who has the knowledge, skills, and experience to do the job at hand.

Did you know more than 50% of employers have caught a lie on a resume?

As an employer, what can you do to ensure the candidate you choose truly does have the experience listed on their resume?

You can verify their past work history to ensure proof of employment.

At iprospectcheck, we provide quick and accurate employment verification services for many different companies every day.

Discover everything you need to know about the employment verification process to ensure you hire the best, most qualified candidate for your open position in this complete guide.

What is Employment Verification?

Employment verification is the process of confirming a job candidate’s past work history.

Doing so ensures the candidate has the experience necessary to perform the intended job well. Employment verification can also reveal false employment claims, gaps in employment, or fabrication of job titles.

Employment verifications are an important part of the pre-employment screening process because they help reveal if your candidates are trustworthy and a good fit for the job.

How to Verify an Applicant’s Employment History

1. Use the Work Number® Database

Using the Work Number®  is an option employers can  use to verify some of their applicants’ past employers.  This database is owned by Equifax and includes information from more than 1.2 million employer contributors.

While well vetted employers can request employment verification through this database directly, gaining access to the Work Number® is not possible for all employers.

When employers use iprospectcheck, they can rely on the information we provide utilizing the Work Number when needed.

Pros: Provides a way to directly request employment verification information

Cons: Gaining access to the Work Number system is difficult for employers

2. Do-it-yourself

To obtain free employment verification of an applicant, an employer–or HR team member–will need to contact each workplace listed on the applicant’s resume to determine if the applicant was employed there, how long they were employed, and the job titles held during their employment.

On your own, this process includes these steps:

  1. Obtain a resume from the applicant in consideration.
  2. Call each workplace listed on the applicant’s resume; for the most accurate results, use phone numbers obtained on your own to ensure they are credible.
  3. Confirm with each company the dates the candidate was employed and what job titles they had during employment.
  4. You will find that many employers will inform you that they use a third-party verification company to provide the information that you seek. They will not respond to your inquiry. They will direct you to one of over thirty third-party verification providers. For each third-party verification company, you will set up an account, pay the fee (ranging from $30 to $75 per inquiry) and then acquire the verification.
  5. A surprisingly large number of employers will actually ask you to fax your request to them. Yes,  many employers still use faxes. They may require that you provide a copy of the signed authorization to release the information from the candidate. Then, you wait for their response.

This process can be long, expensive and time-consuming, especially if a candidate has an extensive work history or has held multiple positions within a company.

Waiting for callbacks from their past employers and making multiple attempts at reaching a company can make the hiring process more difficult and take longer than necessary.

Complicating the process is the fact that many companies simply no longer exist, or get acquired by other companies. These events can greatly complicate the process of verifying past employment.

Pros: Save money

Cons: Time-consuming, challenging, difficult to stay compliant with the FCRA

3. Partner with iprospectcheck

A more streamlined approach to the employment verification process involves utilizing a third-party background check company, such as iprospectcheck, for past employment verification services in conjunction with your background screening program.

If you choose to obtain a background check–rather than just employment verification itself–you will need to follow the regulations set out by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Simply put, according to the FCRA, if you utilize a third-party background check company for pre-employment screenings, you must inform your applicant of your intent to run a background check on them prior to the process taking place. This notification must include the contact information of the company that will be conducting the screening.

When you partner with a knowledgeable and experienced company, they will take care of the rest.

At iprospectcheck, we help you stay compliant throughout the employment verification process and get you the information quickly and accurately.

Pros: Fast, affordable, reliable, and legally compliant

Cons: Still responsible for knowing and adhering to employer obligations

Employment Verification Laws for 2023

employment history verification laws

1. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The FCRA protects consumers’ privacy in their information when it is gathered and disseminated by third-party consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) to employers when conducting background checks.

Under the FCRA, you cannot conduct any type of background check, including employment verification, without first notifying the applicant in writing that you intend to do so and obtaining their signed authorization.

If information revealed on an employment verification makes you want to deny employment, you must complete the adverse action process before making a final decision.

2. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)

Title VII prohibits workplace discrimination based on an applicant’s or employee’s protected characteristics and is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Under Title VII, employers must ensure that they share the same types of employment information when they receive employment verification requests for all employees regardless of their protected characteristics.

3. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)

HIPAA protects people’s privacy in their health information. Under this law, employers can’t share information about an employee’s health or disability when verifying employment.

4. Immigration Law

Under U.S. immigration law, employers must verify employment eligibility by completing Form I-9 and verifying new employees’ identity documents. If they don’t, they can face stiff civil penalties.

How Can I Confirm Employment Eligibility?

Before an employer can legally employ someone to work, the employer must verify that the prospective employee is eligible to work in the U.S.

Employers that fail to identify the employment eligibility of employees or that accept fraudulent documents to hire ineligible workers can face criminal fines and penalties.

Form I-9

All U.S. employers are required by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services to verify the employment eligibility of prospective employees by completing Form I-9. New hires must complete this form before they can begin working.

On the form, an employee must attest that he or she is authorized to work in the United States. He or she must also provide supporting documents to the employer, and the employer must retain copies of those documents in the employee’s personnel file along with the completed I-9 form.

Some of the acceptable documents to support employment authorization include the following:

  • Valid Social Security Card
  • Certified copy of the applicant’s birth certificate from within the U.S.
  • Native American tribal certificate
  • Certified birth record issued by the Department of State
  • U.S. citizen identification card (Form I-197)
  • Lawful permanent resident card/green card
  • Employment authorization document from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for certain nonimmigrant visa holders
  • U.S. passport
  • Foreign passport with a readable I-551 visa stamp
  • Foreign passport with an I-94 form authorizing the holder to work for a specific employer

Employers must carefully examine the supporting documents presented to them by prospective employees to see if they appear genuine. If they do not, they should not accept them as proof of employment eligibility.

Using E-verify

Some employers use E-verify to verify the employment eligibility of prospective employees. E-verify is a website-based system operated by the U.S. government.

While enrollment in E-verify is voluntary for most employers, federal contractors and subcontractors are required to enroll in E-verify.

Information submitted about an applicant to the E-verify system is checked against Social Security Administration records and the Department of Homeland Security to confirm whether the applicant is eligible for employment in the U.S.

Before information can be submitted to E-verify, the applicant must complete form I-9. After the employer has reviewed the applicant’s supporting documents and believes that they are genuine, the employer can then complete section 2 of the form and submit the information to the DHS and SSA through the E-verify system to confirm the applicant’s identity and eligibility for employment in the U.S.

Penalties for Failing to Verify Employment Eligibility

Employers can face criminal and civil penalties when they fail to verify employment eligibility and hire applicants who are not authorized to work in the U.S.

Employers can face fines of several thousand dollars per violation of the I-9 rules or for intentionally recruiting, hiring, or referring for a fee any unauthorized workers for employment.

Federal contractors that violate the law can be barred from future federal contracts and also face fines. Employers that are required to participate in E-verify but fail to do so may also be subject to audits by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In addition to potential criminal and civil liability for employing unauthorized aliens, employers must also take care not to discriminate against prospective employees with valid employment eligibility documents.

According to the USCIS, employers that discriminate against authorized applicants can face the following penalties:

  • Civil fines
  • Criminal fines if there is a pattern and practice
  • Debarment from future government contracts
  • Orders for backpay to the applicant who was discriminated against
  • Orders requiring the employer to hire the applicant who was discriminated against

The law is clear:

Employers must verify the employment eligibility of the people they hire and ensure that the forms are completed correctly.

They must also check the documents they are provided to confirm whether they appear genuine and cannot discriminate against people based on their employment authorization documents.

How to Choose the Right Provider to Complete Employment Verifications

Many employers choose third-party CRAs to complete employment verification checks for them. However, it is important that you take care to choose the right provider when you want this type of pre-employment background check because of the potential risks that you could face if you act based on the information you receive.

When you are searching for a company to perform an employment verification background check, you should look for a provider that keeps current with the employment background check laws and is reliable and reputable.

Asking the following questions can help you determine whether a prospective provider is the right choice:

1. What Percentage of Employment Verifications Are You Unable to Verify?

Ask the provider what percentage of employment verifications the company is unable to verify.

CRAs might be unable to verify employment when an employer’s business has closed, third-party records don’t exist, or the candidate hasn’t supplied adequate documentation.

Reliable background check providers should have rates of less than 10% for employment verifications they are unable to complete. Less-than-reputable providers might have rates greater than 20%.

When CRAs state that they can’t verify an applicant’s employment history information, it means that your HR department will be left to complete the task.

You want to ensure that your provider has a low unable-to-verify rate.

2. How Many Attempts Do You Make for Employment Verification?

Ask the CRA how many attempts it will make to verify employment information. Most companies will say that they will try three times, but you need to clarify what they mean by that.

Reliable CRAs count an attempt as including an email, phone call, and a facsimile. However, others only count an attempt as including one of the three contact methods.

You want to choose a CRA that uses multiple ways to contact former employers to find the information you need.

3. How Does Your Company Assess Your Verifiers’ Work?

Some CRAs assess their verifiers’ performance based on the number of verifications they close each day.

However, this provides an incentive to verifiers to close out verifications that require more work to verify and leads to a higher rate of unverified employment information.

Instead of evaluating their verifiers based on the number of verifications they close, you should try to find a CRA that evaluates its verifiers’ performance based on the percentage of verifications they complete.

Employment Verification FAQs

1. How Many Years of Employment History Should I Verify?

How many years of employment history you should verify will depend on the jobs you are trying to fill. If a position is an entry-level job, most employers verify the previous three years of employment.

However, more senior-level positions and jobs requiring more skills should require more years of employment verification such as the last five to seven years.

For certain types of jobs, you might want to go back even further based on their job duties.

For example, consider the following periods for employment verifications of different types of professionals:

Verifying the employment history of licensed professionals might help you to identify past incidents that could be problematic in your workplace.

2. What Information can an Employer Release for Employment Verification?

Although there are no federal laws that restrict what information a past employer can release to a potential employer, many states have their own laws as to what can be shared.

The following are examples of what employment verification may include:

  • Job performance
  • Reason for termination or separation
  • Knowledge, qualifications, and skills
  • Length of employment
  • Pay level and wage history (where legal)
  • Disciplinary action
  • Professional conduct
  • “Work-related information”

As an employer, it is important to ensure you only request information that you are legally authorized to use during the hiring process based on your state’s specific laws.

You can avoid overstepping state laws by partnering with effective legal counsel that is familiar with the information that you should use when considering suitability for employment.

You should request only the information you are able to use to make your hiring decision.

3. How Long Does Employment Verification Take?

If you choose to use internal team members, such as your HR department, to verify a candidate’s employment history, the time it takes to complete the process will vary based on several factors, including:

  • How many applicants you are screening
  • How many team members are working on the verifications
  • How many jobs each applicant has to verify
  • How easy it is to obtain correct contact information for their past jobs
  • How fast an applicant’s past employers provide you with the information

For these reasons, doing employment verifications on your own can take weeks to complete. This is detrimental for companies, as waiting weeks can cause issues in the job hiring process and may even cause your applicant to look elsewhere for a job.

However, if you go through a background check company such as iprospectcheck, employment verifications for each applicant can be completed as quickly as one to three days, enabling you to hire new, qualified employees more quickly.

4. How Far Back Does Employment Verification in a Background Check Go?

Whereas background checks can generally only report the past seven years when it comes to criminal history, employment verification does not have the same guidelines.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, employment verifications are considered “neutral,” in that the information is neither positive nor negative. Due to this, there are no restrictions on how far back employment verifications can go on a background check.

Any job held by an applicant at any time can be reported and reviewed for employment purposes.

5. Do All Employers do Employment Verification?

Although some employers choose not to verify applicants’ past employment history,  most companies do take this vital step in the pre-employment process.

Due to the number of applicants who choose to claim falsified information on their resumes, as an employer, it is best practice to confirm the information stated for yourself. This will help protect you and your company from potential harm, such as time and money lost from having to train multiple employees who were not prepared for the job.

If you decide to conduct a pre-employment background check on your applicant to gain a complete picture of who they are, their qualifications, and their criminal history (if they have one), employment verifications are often included.

At iprospectcheck, we have different options so you only pay for the information you need, whether that includes background checks alone or a more complete background check that includes employment verifications.

6. What Happens if  You Cannot Verify Employment Using Standard Protocols?

If  you cannot verify employment history for a candidate, there are  additional steps that can be taken to ensure this information is obtained promptly.

First, if you utilize a background check company to conduct your screenings, the company may request that the job applicant to provide copies of W-2s or paystubs for each year they were employed at various companies. These documents should undergo scrutiny for authenticity.

In most cases, a background check company will be able to obtain and verify the information you need in a timely manner.

If you are verifying past employment yourself and are unable to reach your applicant’s past employer, you may consider asking the applicant to reach out to the company or connect you with someone directly.

7. Who Can Legally Verify Employment?

Past employers can legally verify employment. However, most states have laws about the types of information past employers can share about employees, so it is important to understand the laws that apply in your state.

Employers frequently receive employment verification requests from prospective employers, government agencies, collection agencies, and mortgage lenders. However, receiving a verification request does not mean that an employer will necessarily have to respond to it.

Companies that receive verification of employment requests should only provide truthful information that can be supported. Prospective employers should also get their applicants’ signed consent before requesting employment verification.

When an employer receives a verification of employment request, it should review the law in the state where it is located to determine which types of information it can report and avoid stating anything untruthful about a former employee to prevent potential liability in a defamation lawsuit.

Employers that receive verification of employment requests from state or federal government agencies are generally required to respond to them. They do not have to respond to requests from collection agencies and others, however.

When a prospective employer contacts a past employer to ask for employment verification, the past employer may or may not provide information. If the past employer does provide information, it might be limited to the former employee’s stop and start dates and his or her position or title.

In many states, salary history information is prohibited and can’t be requested by prospective employers or provided by past employers.

iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Employment Verification Services

The employment verification process can be complicated and time-consuming. However, it is a vital step in the pre-employment screening process as it ensures the candidate you are reviewing truly has the experience they listed on their resume.

At iprospectcheck, we help you save time and money by completing this process for you with our fast, effective, and accurate employment verification services. Our employment verification background checks fully comply with the FCRA and all relevant state and federal laws.

Contact us today to learn more about your options for adding verifying the employment history of to your background checks  for your job candidates: 888-509-1979

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

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.