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Everything you need to know about Employment History Checks

An Introduction to Employment History Checks

When recruiting for any position, your intention is always to find the best candidate for the job. Recruitment can be an expensive process with the cost of marketing and man hours involved, but making the wrong hiring decision can be far more costly. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) state that a decision to hire the wrong person, at middle management level with a salary of £42,000, could cost the employer over £132,000 in total once everything has been resolved. That’s no small change.

This is why background screening is so important. While reading through application forms and carrying out interviews can help you get a solid first impression of whether or not a candidate might be a good fit, carrying out background screening helps to verify candidate claims, as well as provide crucial additional insights on which to base your decision. 

Our comprehensive guide to background screening when hiring remotely gives you a full overview of all the checks you need to consider based on role type. Download it here.


In this post, we discuss Employment History Checks as part of our “Everything You Need to Know” series. We’ll give you a complete picture of Employment History Checks; what they uncover, how they differ from other checks, the foundations of accurate Employment History Checks and when they should be carried out.

What Are Employment History Checks

Firstly, let’s address one of the questions that we get asked all the time, what’s the difference between reference checks and employment history checks? They might look similar on the surface, but that’s totally misleading...

Reference checks – Gathers information from a limited number of previous employers or schools, and often reveals detailed and subjective information about a candidate, their abilities, skills, strengths and weaknesses.

Employment history checks – Confirms a candidates employment with all of their previous employers, including start and end dates, reasons for leaving and sometimes salary (where relevant).

But employment history checks are far more than simple fact checking exercises... Used along with other background checks and further investigation, the results can reveal important information into a candidate’s character, work ethic and integrity.

Employment History Checks Are A Starting Point For Discussions Around Gaps In Work History

Why Should Prospective Employers Carry Out Gap Analysis?

Not everyone’s work history is straightforward. While long periods of unemployment might be a bit of a red flag, gaps should be fully investigated. They might provide key insights into a candidates character, not just negatively but also to provide positive information such as any periods of volunteer work. In addition, refusing to hire an individual on the basis of their medical history (or lack of work due to illness) could put potential employers in a tricky position if they find themselves at the centre of a tribunal hearing.

What is an employment gap

An employment gap is a period between employment (or study) which is unexplained or unaccounted for. Gaps might be due to unemployment, travelling, becoming a parent, voluntary work, illness or many other reasons. But long gaps often highlight a potential issue that needs further investigation and clarification, from both the candidate and outside sources.

What is gap analysis

Gap analysis is the process of identifying gaps in a candidates employment history by verifying that all the dates supplied are accurate. While short gaps between positions is common and usually nothing to worry about, anything longer than a couple of months should be highlighted, and longer than a year is reason to inquire further.

Why worry about gaps

Where they have been declared truthfully and explained, gaps by themselves shouldn’t be cause for concern. However, long periods of inactivity could indicate that a candidate lacks personal drive, which might be a problem if the position requires an ambitious self starter. 

Unexplained gaps between employment could also be cause for concern where the candidate had a previous contract terminated or if the unemployment was due to a criminal conviction. Long gaps could also be a red flag, implying the candidates difficulty to secure employment. As a prospective employer you should be asking, why?

A recent survey found that a huge 92% of people had got away with lying on their CV, with a third of respondents admitting to falsifying dates of employment in order to cover gaps.

Gap analysis is useful to help provide a complete picture of a candidate. And, while results might lead to the candidates prompt removal from the shortlist, they might also provide a jumping off point for interesting discussion into a candidate’s motivation and history. 

Employment History Checks Can Be Time Consuming But Help Uncover Dishonest Candidates

How Employment History Checks Are Carried Out

Employment history checks involve contacting each and every company that a candidate has listed as an employer and confirming:

  • That the candidate was genuinely employed there
  • The dates of employment
  • Their job title

And sometimes:

  • Reason for leaving employment
  • Salary

The results of the check is then collated into a report which highlights any gaps in employment or areas of concern which require further analysis.

Employment History Checks are sometimes bundled with Reference Checks and together are also known as Employment Background, Employment History, Employment Verification. 

The Foundations of Accurate Employment History Checks

Employment history checks are designed to verify information provided by a candidate and could mean the difference between a candidate getting the job or being removed from the shortlist. Therefore it’s crucial that employment history checks are carried out correctly and produce accurate results.

As with all background screening, the candidate must provide their permission for employment history checks to be carried out.

Checking with the right person

While references are usually provided by people who have worked closely with the candidate, employment history checks are carried out with company HR or other authorised departments, whose knowledge of the candidate is more methodical and records based. The point of employment history checks is to determine key facts rather than details; subjective information can instead be gathered from reference checking.

Legitimate sources

Candidates will be asked to provide details of previous employers, possibly including contact information, during the application process. But screening companies will pursue external verification of information, and find contact and company details independently of the candidate. This will help ensure that all information comes from a legitimate source and hasn’t been exaggerated or falsified.  

Checking ALL employment history

While carrying out employment history checks can seem time consuming and daunting, it is crucial that employment history checks are completed for all employers listed on a candidates application. Gap analysis should follow for any significant gaps or periods of unemployment.  

How Long Does An Employment History Check Take?

Employment history checks take time to get right. But when carried out by a reputable screening company, Employment History Checks are typically completed within 7 days. 

Which Roles Require An Employment History Check?

Employment History Checks must be carried out for all roles and in all industries and sectors, in order to ensure that candidates have provided trustworthy information and to verify data gathered through other checks.

Any significant employment gaps should be fully investigated to ensure that the details provided by candidates are correct, and to identify any potential issues. 

Potential Difficulties of Employment History Checks

Employment history checks are notoriously slow and cumbersome. But, with employment dates identified as one of the top areas that candidates are likely to distort, employment history checks are crucial to ensure that candidates are honest and have no skeletons in their closet.

Relying on contact information provided by candidates is not recommended, previous employers should be sought independently, but this can be difficult where companies have gone out of business or moved away. 

Employment history checks can also be made more complicated where a candidate has spent time outside of their current country of employment, checks should be carried out for all employers regardless of territory, so that a full and complete employment history can be created.

Reputable screening companies are able to ensure that employment history checks are accurate and provide a comprehensive report.

Key Points

  • Employment history checks are not the same thing as reference checks
  • Employment history checks involve verifying the entire employment history of a candidate to create a detailed account of employment 
  • Past employers will be contacted to confirm key information such as dates, role title and salary
  • Any gaps in employment should be subject to gap analysis to determine the reason for the gap, and whether or not it is a cause for concern
  • Candidates must provide their permission for employment history checks to be carried out
  • Employment history checks and reference checks are often bundled together to provide a complete picture of a candidates employment history
  • Results of employment history checks can help verify other information uncovered throughout the background screening process

Start your first Employment History Check for Free

Veremark is a global background screening solution which is on a mission to transform the background screening market. Our approach adds value back to both the company and the candidate.

By adding speed, automation, security and scalability to the way you conduct your employment checks, your hiring decisions are backed up by accurate information. 

Start your free trial today with an employment history check, and get access to all our online only checks for faster, safer recruitment. ​


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