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Employment verification; why, who, and when?

Screening • Jul 2, 2022 1:30:00 PM • Written by: Georgia Reynolds


Ensuring your candidates have the necessary work experience for the vacancy you are filling is crucial. The best way to identify false employment history claims, explain gaps in employment and gain an understanding of whether the candidate is a good fit or not is by conducting employment verification checks. It may be considered negligent not to perform these checks before recruiting an employee.

Read on to learn why employment verification is important, how to conduct an employment verification check and what questions to ask. What is an employment verification background check?

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What is an employment verification background check?

Employment verification is a common part of a pre-employment background check. This step of the recruitment process focuses on determining if there are any inconsistencies between the information a candidate provides and their actual employment history.

During this process, either a member of your human resources team or a third-party background check provider will contact some of the most relevant employers the candidate lists on their CV to confirm their previous employment, titles, and dates of employment.

Employment verification vs. reference checks

It is quite common to hear the terms "reference check" and "employment verification" used interchangeably. Although there may be some overlap, there are key differences;

Employment verification is the act of confirming the factual pieces of information on a candidate's CV, such as previous employers, job titles, and dates of employment.

A reference check is when prospective employers contact the references of candidates they are considering recruiting. These can be both professional references (e.g., former employers, managers, or colleagues) and personal references (e.g., friends). A reference check serves only as a sniff test and should be only one piece of a comprehensive assessment of the candidate because candidates select their references.

Unlike employment verification, which confirms objective information, reference checks may be subjective. For example, you may ask the following questions: What was it like to work with the candidate? What are their strengths? Why do you think the candidate would be a good fit for this position?

Both employment verifications and reference checks are effective tools. However, if you perform only one type of background check, choose employment verification, as it is essential for an employer to qualify the information that a candidate has shared in their resume, cover letter, and interviews.

If you conduct employment verifications as a part of a criminal background check, you must comply with GDPR and any other relevant local data protection legislation. Essentially, this means that all checks should be done with the explicit consent of the candidate. Typically this would be a signed consent form as many companies will require to see this before they release the information required for the employment verification.

Here are some of the key reasons you should conduct employment verification checks:

It verifies important facts.

-You need to make sure that candidates are being truthful about where they have previously worked and what positions they had so you know they have the necessary experience for the role.
-It explains short employment stints: An employment verification can confirm why a candidate was at their previous employer for a brief period. Sure, you can ask the candidate in the interview, but it's important to confirm that the company indeed cut positions, relocated, or eliminated the role.
key takeaway: In addition to confirming whether a job candidate has the experience necessary for the job, employment verifications can shed light on the applicants’ character by showing how truthful they are.

What information should be sought during employment verifications?

You should seek to obtain as much information as possible during an employment verification. Here are some of the types of information you should seek during an employment verification:

-dates/length of employment
-job title(s) and time spent at each position within the company
-overall job performance
-reason for termination or separation
-job-related knowledge, qualifications, and skills
-other work-related information
-eligibility for rehire

Here are some additional tips for conducting reference checks:

Request references from your candidate. Contact a minimum of two professional references, which should always include their most recent direct manager and supervisors/managers from other former employers. If you cannot reach all references, ask the applicant for another professional reference. Even if you know the candidate or you have interviewed the candidate previously (perhaps for another job), contact only the references the candidate provides. Do not sleuth on LinkedIn and track down other references you want to talk with, as you may enter some legal grey areas.

Confirm phone numbers and email addresses. Applicants can be quite clever. Some employers later discover that the "professional" reference an applicant provided was their personal friend. To ensure you're speaking with the right person, confirm phone numbers and email addresses on company websites whenever possible.

Once you connect with the reference, follow the same steps as you used during the employment verification.

Background checking services

Another option is to partner with an expert screening company that provides a completely managed service. This means that all relevant checks will be completed which would also include a criminal history check, identity check, and, oftentimes, education verification. Background check providers can also conduct reference checks for you.

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Georgia Reynolds

Marketing Coordinator – Content