Verifying past work work experience and previous employment is important because people stretch the truth.
Competition for jobs can be fierce and the desire to get ahead is a powerful motivator. Too often, employers are in a hurry to fill a vacancy. They take a resume at face value only to find out their new hire doesn’t actually have the experience or the skills they claimed. Making a bad hire is a very expensive mistake that few companies can afford to make.
Previous employment verification can sometimes uncover small fibs like an applicant who nudges their previous salary up in hopes of getting a better offer. But it can also uncover outright lies by con-artists who claim work experience they never had.
Why Verify Previous Employment?
According to a CareerBuilder survey, 58% of hiring managers say they have caught lies on applicant’s resumes. High on the list of the most common embellishments are fudging dates of employment and lying about a job title.
Adding employment verification to a background check can give you insight to many things. Is your candidate honest about what they’ve done and where they’ve been? Are they inflating their experience or their salary history in order to get a leg up?
These are important details to know before extending a job offer.
Past employment verifications can also help uncover or explain gaps on a resume, or reveal an applicant trying to conceal downtime by stretching starting or end dates.
If your company chooses, these verifications can also include professional references from people who actually have experience working with your candidate.
What Gets Verified in a Previous Employment Check?
There are several things you can look at when doing a past employment verification:
- Job Start and End Dates - The applicant could be covering up a time they were unemployed, and the reason why could be significant.
- Titles Held - It is not uncommon for applicants to stretch the truth, for example, they might say they were a supervisor when they just filled in when the real boss was away.
- Salary - Bump up previous compensation is a common ploy to push an opening offer higher.
- Job Duties - Understanding an applicant’s day-to-day responsibilities could give more insight into their experience than just knowing the job title.
- Reason for Leaving - Some people leave on good terms, others to not. You can be sure a sour parting will not be highlighted on the resume.
- Are They Eligible for Rehire - This also goes towards how or why an employee left a job. If they are eligible for rehire, they likely left on their own and would be welcome back.
- Professional References - Talking with people who worked with an applicant can give you great insight, but they might also be difficult to get. Some companies don’t give references because they want to protect themselves from lawsuits.
- Credential Check/License Verifications - You are not only checking to see if they have the credentials they claim, but if they are in good standing.
How to Verify Employment
Before you do any kind of verification, you are required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to disclose to your candidate that you will be looking into their background. They must sign an authorization to allow you to do any kind of background screening.
Apart from the DOT’s requirement to go three years back, there are no real restrictions as to how far back an employment check should go. That is something you need to decide as an organization. Many of our clients tend to request seven years back.
A candidate can deny you permission to contact a current or previous employer, but you can ask them to provide other proof such as a paystub or W-2.
Verifying Employment with a Consumer Reporting Agency
Sure, you could pick up the phone and try to figure these things out on your own, but that could be a time consuming and frustrating project. Sometimes it is a wild goose chase through automated phone trees and endless transfers through departments looking for the person who has the right information— and is authorized to release it.
Even if you do get through, that’s no guarantee of obtaining the information you seek. Employers aren’t required to provide detailed information. Some will, others won’t.
Partnering with a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) like EBI can streamline the process. We have an entire verifications team dedicated to making these calls, navigating to the appropriate people, and asking the right questions. In addition, a good CRA will make sure your program is compliant, which is especially important considering the large number of lawsuits filed against employers on the basis of faulty background screening programs.
Unfortunately, the job market is a tough place to be sometimes. Verifying a candidate’s past employment is a valuable tool to make sure you truly know who you are hiring, and that they are prepared to be strong members of your team.