Can a Background Check Reveal Former Employers?
Michelle Wilson - March 10, 2022
As the pressure to find employment continues to climb, many job seekers resort to less than honest tactics to secure a position. Recent surveys suggest that 46% of workers know at least one person who has lied on their resume. Although lies can appear on any part of the resume, there are two common areas individuals often bend the truth: job experience and job responsibilities or duties.
Unfortunately, resume fabrication trends put an employer in a challenging position. Hiring decisions are primarily based on employment history and job experiences. An employer needs someone that matches the pre-existing skills required to perform the job at hand. Should a candidate lie about previous jobs—whether tweaking job positions, grossly embellishing responsibilities, or fabricating employment altogether—the employer fails to make informed decisions.
What Does a Background Check Include?
Resume inaccuracies can leave hiring managers scrambling to fill their positions with qualified candidates. But can a hiring manager confirm previous employers and details of job history? Looking into a background check can offer a few employment securities, minimizing the overall risk to the company.
Simply put, no. Standard background checks cannot return a list of previous jobs a candidate has had over the years. Most background check services focus on public record information, including criminal records, credit history, and driving records. Although employment history is critical in hiring, they’re not part of public records. Instead, these keep records of this information privately.
What is a Public Record?
A public record includes any information documented or recorded with a public agency. Items included as a public record are broad and constantly evolving. These items are products of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which provides transparency to the American people on anything included by government workers or tax dollars.
How to Confirm Previous Employment History
That’s not to say that you can’t access employment history through background check services. Many background screening companies can assist in identifying and detecting resume dishonesty. This verification includes a comprehensive “Work History” section within the resume.
Although employment background screening doesn’t include employment verification, individual companies may offer verification of history. Potential candidates often provide a qualified list of previous employment on their resumes. By contacting the employer an applicant has listed, background check companies can verify which information is accurate and details the candidate fabricated.
What is Employment Verification?
Employment history verification allows prior employers to share data provided by applicants about previous jobs or positions. The investigator will contact the company to confirm critical information about the preceding employment, including job titles, employment start and end dates, and essential job responsibilities. Verification checks will uncover if a candidate embellishes or fabricates specific work history components.
In some instances, employment verification will include reasons for leaving a previous employer or the ability to rehire the applicant. This component isn’t always possible, depending on the former employer’s willingness to discuss these details.
Is Work Verification the Same as Reference Checks?
The work history verification is different than reference checks. A work history verification asks basic statistics about employment, generating basic facts about the job instead of an in-depth conversation about the candidate in question. References discuss a specific candidate’s work ethic, integrity, character, and other details that speak to their capacity to perform the job at hand. References are often more subjective than work history verification, including opinions about the applicant.
Employers can face legal ramifications if they speak negatively about a past employee, especially if they fail to prove what they say. HR managers will often focus on denying or verifying objective facts and avoid subjective judgments that could result in a defamation suit.
Can Background Checks Include References?
Many background check companies can perform reference checks on the company’s behalf, along with any work verification, criminal record checks, and credit history. Additional services include dark web screening, professional license verification, and social media checks. Always talk to the background check company about your requirements before screening to confirm specific components.
Occasionally, job seekers will invent college degrees, professional licensing, or various certifications to blend the truth on a resume. The verification background checks can ensure the details provided are genuine and authentic. Confirming the qualifications of a potential applicant reduces liability risks for the company.
What If I Forgot to List a Job?
Ensuring employers can quickly identify whether you’re adequately skilled for the position is critical to the hiring process. The onus lies with the job seeker to ensure the resume is accurate and complete. While a resume is the first point of contact with an employer, keep the history as accurate as possible. If caught adopting flashy titles and fabrication of skill, it’s a quick way to be disqualified from a role.
Alternatively, lying through omission is another fabrication of employment history. Maybe you don’t have space for all positions on the page, or you simply forgot about the job you worked five years ago. Either example leaves vacancies within your history that could be perceived negatively by a hiring manager.
Common Questions About Background Checks for Applicants
Many prospective employees want to determine whether a prospective employer can run a background check confirming all previous employment. The answer is no: no centralized database exists of employment history. If you exclude earlier positions on your resume, the hiring manager will not find the information immediately.
A hiring manager is experienced in reviewing resumes. Professionals can quickly identify notable gaps in job history or other aspects that raise alarm bells. If a large enough opening exists between positions, it will flag the interest of HR. These concerns will lead to further communication surrounding the employment gap or unfavorable presumptions about your work ethic and motivation. So, while a hiring manager won’t discover a position through the background check, they pay attention to hiring and departure dates when reviewing the resumes.
Adjusting Employment Dates
Adjusting the dates of your previous employment may seem like a minor issue, it’s not advisable. Many employment verifications can spot and flag these fabrications, making your application look more suspicious to employers. In fact, 65% of candidates caught lying about the content on their resumes were removed from consideration or had employment terminated.
Forgetting to list a job on your resume or deliberately forgoing a position for space or relevance might seem like the easier option. Still, it’s always better to remain as honest and forthcoming as possible.
There is a close connection between employment history and the skillset required for a position. While fabricating dates, skills, and educational history might seem like a harmless opportunity, it leaves a level of suspicion and mistrust. Verifying all employment history is critical when hiring someone, carefully reviewing the start and end dates for any discrepancies. Likewise, remaining transparent and open about previous employment is the best way to present your resume – even if that means you have a few gaps in your history.