When Employers Can Check Your Employment History

Digital Tablet Showing Various Icons Against Person Working In Office
Photo: Nipitphon Na Chiangmai / EyeEm / Getty Images

What can employers check when they are considering you for a job? Can they find out where you worked previously and for how long you held each job? What about why you left the position? If you're job hunting, you need to know what a prospective employer can legally discover about you.

First things first: when you’re job searching, honesty is the best policy. It’s always a mistake to lie on your resume, whether it’s stretching dates of employment to cover a resume gap or inflating a job title to match duties that went beyond the original scope of the role.

Background Checks and Employment History

Beyond the fact that stretching the truth is wrong, it’s likely to catch up with you. Why? Because most employers will verify your employment history to one degree or another before finalizing a job offer.

At the very least, they will learn your previous job titles and job descriptions, your start and end date for each job, and your salary history in locations where it is legal to ask. Organizations can also call former employers and share the information supplied in your resume, or job application, and ask previous employers to confirm its accuracy.


Some states and metro areas have enacted laws prohibiting employers for asking candidates questions about salary history as a condition of employment. 

© The Balance, 2018

What Information Will Previous Employers Share?

Some employers will provide detailed information, but many others won't. It all depends on the company, but many employers have a company policy of not sharing the details of your job performance.

Because of defamation laws, many companies will tread lightly when providing information for a background check. Note that these laws typically cover slander or libel. In other words, companies are legally prohibited from saying things about you that aren’t true. Beyond that, there are no federal laws that limit what can be asked about a prospective employee.


State laws vary, and you may want to look into what employers can ask when they are considering a candidate for a job.

It’s also possible that prospective employers may contact staff at your previous place of employment using informal channels. In that case, your former coworkers may share this type of information off the record.

Who Does the Checking?

Some employers verify work history themselves. Others outsource this task to third-party reference-checking organizations.

In some cases, employers (or the firms they contract) will conduct extensive background checks which may include an evaluation of your credit history and criminal record.

This all depends on the type of job you are applying for, and laws regulating what employers can ask in your location. For example, if you're applying for a job where you'll be working with young children, it's likely employers will check to see if you have a criminal record.

Are Employers Limited to Checking Your Resume or Application?

If an employer conducts a background check, they aren’t restricted to the information on your application materials. They could check your entire employment history and if they do, they may be concerned if they find omissions, which could be held against you.


When you sign a job application you are attesting to the fact that you have given the employer all the information they asked for.

Know Your Employment History

Be sure that you provide accurate information on your job applications and resume. Don't guess as to where you worked and when. If you don't remember the details, recreate your work history before you apply.

The most important thing is that you be truthful about all information you give to prospective employers. If you're worried about what prior employers will say about you, proactively cultivate and supply positive recommendations to counter any potential negative feedback about your performance, or attitude.

In addition, it’s wise to be prepared to answer interview questions about any negative information they may uncover. You needn’t volunteer that you were fired, for example, but you should be prepared to answer questions about it during the hiring process.

Key Takeaways

EMPLOYERS CAN VERIFY YOUR EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: At the very least, this means that they’ll find out where you worked and for how long, and what your job title was at your former employer.

OTHER THINGS EMPLOYERS CAN LEARN FROM A BACKGROUND CHECK: Depending on the position and state and local laws, employers may also learn your credit history, criminal record, and salary history.

HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY: Make sure the information you share is accurate. Double-check dates and job titles before you submit your application.

Was this page helpful?
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. CareerBuilder. “Majority of Employers Background Check Employees… Here’s Why.” Accessed May 22, 2021.

  2. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “Background Checks: What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know.” Accessed May 22, 2021.

  3. National Conference of State Legislatures. “The Gender Pay Gap.” Accessed May 22, 2021.

  4. Justia. “Defamation in Employment.” Accessed May 22, 2021.

Related Articles