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How to Verify Employment

Ms. Inglish is a successful employment & training pro, setting Midwest regional records with tens of thousands placed in gainful employment.

Employment verification can feel like an FBI case.

Employment verification can feel like an FBI case.

How to Verify Employment

It's always good to know who's working for you. But verifying employment can also protect your business.

The Rationale

A large restaurant chain in New Mexico failed to verify the previous employment of one of their potential new hires for a drive-thru leader. Since they were desperate for drive-thru help, they decided that they would do it after the lunch rush was over. The unit manager of this company placed a woman he had just met to work as the cashier/crew chief of the drive-thru for two hours. The woman was not asked to complete any paperwork whatsoever, so she clocked in and out on a time card that had a fake name on it and was never heard from again.

In two hours, she stole over $500 and handed it out in a sandwich bag through the drive-thru window to her accomplice. This two-person team hit all the large fast food chains in the area in this way during a time when there was a severe shortage of workers. In addition, they were never caught.

Employment verification is, therefore, vital.

The Process

First, know that many companies will verify only dates of employment and the wage amounts. Second, know that some companies will not verify anything unless you fax a request to them. They want to verify that you are a real company, too, before releasing information. These steps will help you through a thorough and accurate verification process.

1) Call all of the references and don't skip any

Ask for at least three different references from three different jobs and call all of the references on the sheet of references a job applicant turns in to you.

Before you call the references, look all the companies up on the Internet and verify to yourself that they are real companies and that the phone numbers look like they actually came from that company. They should have the same area code and exchange (the first three numbers of the 7-digit phone number). If you were given home numbers or cell phone numbers, be suspicious.

If you run multiple "work" phone numbers through Google Search and come up with the same non-commercial address, something is wrong; Use Google Maps (satellite) to check if the address is a house or a business. Reverse telephone lookup will usually tell you if the phone is a landline or a cell.

If the references no longer work for the companies, call those companies and ask if those people actually worked for them in the past. While you're at it, you can ask if your job applicant really worked there.

If a company is out of business, check with the Secretary of State. They should have a website where you can search to see if such a business really existed, and through what dates and who is the contact person.

Have a list of questions prepared before you call each reference.

Have a list of questions prepared before you call each reference.

2) Have a set list of questions

Have a set list of questions to ask each former employer of you job applicant. Be specific. Ask about these features of the job applicant's past employment:

  • Exact dates of employment
  • Amount of wages or salary
  • Title
  • Duties
  • How well did they perform their duties?
  • Were they on time?
  • How was their attendance?
  • How did they get along with others?

3) Do more than check job references.

Give background check forms to your job applicants to complete and sign, then do the background checks for those you want to hire. This provides a report about job applicants' criminal records and credit history.

Copy a new hire's Social Security Card to verify US citizenship. If the card looks doctored or odd, report it to your local Social Security office. I had three sisters apply for jobs once, and all three had the same Social Security Number.

Also, require a Driver's License or a State Non-Driver's ID Card and copy both sides of that. Have an I-9 form completed by new hires with this information supplied by them and any documentation required of Documented International Workers (people with a visa or a green card).

Check Academic and Vocational Training Documents as well. Require high school, college, or vocational school/apprenticeship transcripts to determine eligibility to work in technical or professional positions. A college or university transcript should have a clear watermark; otherwise, it could be phony.

Also, check any licenses that need to be maintained by demanding that they be shown to you. Make photocopies of both sides of them.

Hiring an employee in the U.S. requires a lot of paperwork; be thorough in your verification to avoid snares along the way.

Hiring an employee in the U.S. requires a lot of paperwork; be thorough in your verification to avoid snares along the way.

Employment In the USA Requires Documentation

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2007 Patty Inglish MS


abiee on November 04, 2011:

Excellent info, thanks

amithak50 from India on September 21, 2011:

Thanks for the nice info...

Ben Rogers on June 24, 2011:

I hire a lot of freelancers and I have often wondered how to make sure I was getting the right virtual team assembled. This advice will serve me well in the very near future. Thanks so much.

Sheldon K on June 11, 2011:

As an administrator, I hire people that I know. Or hire people who are known to people I know well and come with high recommendation. Otherwise, hiring some stranger, would become too much risk. Sure, I have tried backgroound checks, reference checks, credit checks, but still the bad apples have a way of getting through!

Maryanne Smith on March 25, 2011:

Excellent article. I'm sure with all the businesses that have gone under in the past 3 years proving employment will be harder than ever.

Mark on January 18, 2011:

My job, 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, is to call and verify past employment, education, credentials, business and personal references. You would be amazed on the stuff people lie about. Had some kid put down that he was the "Senior UNIX Administrator and Instructor" at MIT when he was 12 years old. Yea...obviously that was not true. Don't lie, just tell the truth.

Kim on January 12, 2011:

Abe, you hit it right on the spot! Thank you for your post.

Roma on January 05, 2011:

Excellent post. Thanks

John Mathew on October 31, 2010:

A main issue that arises when checking employment history is the cost effectiveness of the process as mentioned by @Rhym O'Reison. Another reason could be that the hiring manager does not think the extent of damage that will be created by a person at a particular level warrants a background check (again cost effectiveness).

Another issue that I've faced personally is when the manager who I call for reference stays neutral. On one such situation I made it a point to follow up with the referring HR manager and found to my surprise "he felt guilty and did not want to mention the downside of hiring person X". 5 months later I had to fire person X for the same reason that the referring HR manager conveniently left out. I've found that service called HistoryFile ( helps to a large extent in getting free employment checks. I'm not sure if they are available outside India though


Abe Kohan on October 25, 2010:

Of course an employee should be subjected to appropriate background check, reference and employment verification. However, I believe subjecting just employees to all sorts of tests and checks might be a bit unfair if the employer does not avail itself to similar level of scrutiny by the prospective employees. Why not?

As a business consultant for the past 40 years, I have known many employers who routinely misrepresented to job applicants the job, extent of the position’s responsibilities, benefits, career growth potential, culture of the company, and the level of loyalty to their employees. In fact, it is a common practice among many employers to inflate a position and its potential benefits just to attract a qualified individual. I think to limit the discussion to employee fraud/misrepresentation and to leave out the unethical and/or outright illegal practices by employers, which by the way are very common, would not be a realistic assessment of employment practices. Employers are people just like the employees. They (employers and employees) all can lie and do lie often. Sometimes, unreliable and unethical employers do create an environment for decent employees to loose faith in employers and unfortunately resort to similar practices.

Corruption is infectious.

Gavin Moore on October 20, 2010:

Great Hub, the problem with hiring and screening starts with who and how it is done. There are legislation regarding the process and companies should take legal advice.


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 22, 2010:

someonewhoknows - That's a good idea. You've just given job candidates an idea about how to prove employment. Cheers!

SALVAONEGIANNAOLCOM from south and west of canada,north of ohio on March 21, 2010:

I don't understand why employers can't ask the prospective employee for old w2's as proof of employment ,for those who's previous employer's no longer exist with no telephone number to give and no address because the business no longer exists.It happens.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 21, 2010:

Seen ON TV - Nothing like starting over from nowhere, is there? Best wishes in whatever you decide to do - your writing is certainly entertaining!

Seen On TV on March 21, 2010:

This is a great hub and I had to comment because I'm not worried about verifying employment for a new company because I can't find a new company and coincidentally my old one is out of business so where will the proof come from anyway? Time to start my own business if I can trick myself into hiring me.

Renee S from Virginia on February 20, 2010:

Very helpful and informative article. You always come through!

Ben on October 11, 2009:

I think employer should call and check their soon-to-be-hired employees. I really don't like job agents calling my references before even getting me an interview with any of their clients. My ex co-workers are pretty much my friends, if you call them without getting me a job interview. It is weird if my ex co-worker calls me and asks me how was the interview and did you get the job. Sometimes, job agents can ruin your job search. So, if a job agent is too needy, then don't waste your time.

ontheway on April 02, 2009:

How to verify employment

very good, I support you, come on , welcome to my hub!

AndyBaker from UK on April 01, 2009:

Good tips, and I might use some of these soon.

I heard some figures somewhere about the percetnage of applicants who make stuff up at job interviews.

It was a really high number!

JennifersJumpers on March 13, 2009:

Thanks for the information. I always wondered how references were really checked, and how I could do it myself.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 10, 2009:

Thanks for the information, Eerick.

Erick Smart on February 10, 2009:

It is becoming even more important than ever to thoroughly check out employees. The statistics on how many applicants are misleading potential employers about their pasts is growing all the time.

I have several hubs that are along the lines of hiring the right person you can find them on my profile.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 02, 2009:

That certainly is a tremendous shock, guidebaba. Identity can be made up quickly by some experts at it. Thanks for giving us your experience and views.

guidebaba from India on February 02, 2009:

Excellent Job done. I work as Area Manager for an electronic company here in India. One of our employees who had recently joined, took loan from several employees of our company and within 3 months he vanished. People were shocked. Our Boss had not bothered to do the verification.Moral: Even Employees identity need to be verified.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 09, 2008:

That is a good point in today's economy, Mo. The rationale has been that a person that cannot handle their own finances can't handle company resources either, but that often is not the case. In fact, in my region, even embezzlers have been hired back after paying restitution. Credit checks are seen as invasive and embarrassing, even when nothing is wrong. Some companies don't want to hassle with the processing of wage garnishments and that is their rationale - to avoid it. Identity Theft also causes credit problems that are not the person's fault.

I think many people are not working right now because of credit checks.

Thanks for your post.

Mo on November 09, 2008:

Yes I think job references are important but I also think companies have gone way to far when some companies ask for CREDIT CHECK!! Companies that ask for CREDIT CHECKS I think are a total personal violation of personal information!! It does not matter what a persons CREDIT CHECK is unless you either are buying a house, car, or work in the banking industry other than that I believe CREDIT CHECKS for all other companies should be made ILLEGAL. If a person is college graduated and well educated than I think no companies have any right to do CREDIT CHECKS unless it's a bank or buying something (house, car etc...). It does not matter how a person takes care of his credit or pay off his debts!! What if especially now in economic hard times that people can't pay their debts and don't have such good credit because they are laid off of their work!! Looking at CREDIT CHECKS for employment other than banks and buying big items should BE MADE ILLEGAL PERIOD!!!!!!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 03, 2008: September 2, 2008

EDITORIAL: Verifying employment/ Immigration raid highlights shortfalls

A voluntary federal program called "E-Verify" has been a cornerstone in the Bush administration's fight against illegal immigration. Employers willing to join up would be able to run would-be employees through an instant electronic check, confirming the validity of their Social Security cards and other forms of American identification.

But the arrests last week of nearly 600 immigrant workers at a manufacturing plant in Laurel, Miss., has renewed the debate over E-Verify.

In the largest immigration sweep at a single site in U.S. history, federal agents raided the Howard Industries electrical transformer plant Monday ... despite the fact that the company joined the E-Verify work eligibility system last year.

But The Washington Post reports a key weakness in E-Verify is that, while it can determine whether a Social Security number presented by a worker is an "issued number," it often cannot determine whether the number belongs to the applicant. Many workers thus manage to evade detection by using another person's number -- sometimes a number stolen from some far-away American who doesn't even realize his or her identity has been purloined.

...E-Verify also creates a temptation for employers to discriminate against legal immigrants in hiring because they don't want to hassle with trying to sort out the system's mistakes.

...Congress still must decide whether to extend E-Verify beyond November (2008 elections). The purpose of the program has merit, but lawmakers should fund it only if it really works -- and they should stop passing the costs on to employers, who have enough trouble creating new jobs and still making ends meet. One possibility is to bill the nations whose citizens are rejected by the scans -- and who benefit from their ill-gotten "remittances" -- on a pro-rated basis. When they refuse to pay, seize the amounts due out of their assets in this country.

lawfuel from New Zealand on June 22, 2008:

useful information indeed. It may seem obvious to many, but also amazing how many don't do the basics.

SocSec on May 11, 2008:

Good tips on employment verification. When reporting suspicious Social Security cards, here's the best way to find Social Security offices near you :

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 18, 2008:


Thank you for the additional information that will be useful to readers and employers alike.  I know of only a few companies locally in my area that have accounts with professional firms to do background checks and such, but I believe the trend is beginning to spread and become more common. All the more reason for folks to have a well written, honest resume that displays their real talents well. (reasons employees get fired)

 Best regards!


Anne Holmes from Galena, IL on April 17, 2008:

Hi Patty,

As a business owner who has hired hundreds of empliyees over the past 15 years, I totally agree. I've done the research and was hugely dismayed to discover that the statistics on employee fraud are nothing short of daunting, and employers who do not check their prospective employees' backgrounds might as well be putting a gun to their heads, or handing out bags of money. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, employee fraud cost the country more than $600 billion in 2003 alone. According to the Department of Commerce, one third of all workers steal from their employers. The same findings suggested that 68.6% of employees who steal do not have criminal records. According to the US Department of Commerce, more than 30% of all business failures can be attributed to bad hiring practices.

There is obviously a big problem when it comes to hiring. It is extremely difficult to separate the honest and effective employees from those potential employees who will end up driving your business into the ground. That’s not all: most employers agree that hiring time is a time of extreme stress, which just adds to the possibility of hiring mistakes. Most employers begin their employee search when they are short-handed and short on time, meaning that the resources needed to make careful decisions are simply not there. Most employers want to hire fast, which sometimes means just cursory looks at potential worker applications. Combine that with the fact that according to Security Management Magazine, anywhere between 30% to a whopping 80% of resumes contain lies and you have the potential for real trouble. It is simply very difficult to decide who the best candidate in this environment is.

Reference checking is not enough. Even if you have carefully hand-checked each candidate’s file, I still believe that a private investigator and pre-employment check is a must. Hiring background check experts is the most cost-effective, time-saving way to really know who you are hiring. It is the only real way to know which employees will not be a liability. Hiring an investigator lets you run a pre employment check to check criminal background, verify resumes and check other personal background details. Background investigators can tell you whether employees have financial problems (which may make them more apt to steal) or whether candidates have drug abuse problems, or a poor driving history. Some background investigators will even run complete pre-employment screens on all your candidates, so that you do not have to pre-screen and narrow down the candidates yourself.With an investigation, you get a more complete picture of a candidate. Background check companies and background check investigators simply have the hiring experience and background check experience every company needs to hire the best – and the safest – employees. Without these professionals, companies are simply hiring blindly and hoping – against everything the statistics show – that everything will work out for the best. A much better alternative is to look to the Worldwide Directory of Private Investigators. can help employers find the local background check experts they need right away.

One additional note of caution: When hiring a company to do any type of pre-employment screen you should make sure that they are a licensed Consumer Reporting Agency and provide their services in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Anne Holmes

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 02, 2008:

Amzing. All mine were always called. I think sometimes with women and othrr minorites, companies try to find misrepresentations about degrees and jobs -- the old 'do 3 times as much work for 1/2 the recognition' sort of thing. "A woman COULDN"T have done this."

I hope this changes.

Rhym O'Reison from Crowley, Tx on March 01, 2008:

I dont think I have ever had any of my references called or checked before I was hired. It would be interesting to know how many employers skip this step and hope for the best.

adventure from U.S.A. on February 27, 2008:

Good info.

Mschanl from USA on February 26, 2008:

Hi! This is a wonderful hub Patty, very informative!

Blizzard Gaming Forum on February 13, 2008:

I live in texas as well, and they always ask me past hourly wage/salary....

and yes, ive been told i can lie about past work experience as well, but i prefer not to do that

Gary on February 11, 2008:

Great hub here! I'll definitely be back

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 06, 2008:

Check your state laws for specifics on reference replies.

Meanwhile, some people calling for references will ask anything they think they can get away with or persuade the former employer to answer (just like interviews). Some former employers will reply, "Off the record, and I'll deny saying this, but ...[negative comments...].

seamus on February 05, 2008:

Great info! I thought there was a law against people asking more than dates of employment. Am I confused on that?

That is odd you were told to fake work history. I could never do that, because I would not remember what I'd said. It's so much easier to tell the truth.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 10, 2008:

Yes, Just Toyia you are right!

I am even more surprised by two professional HR and manager types that told me a few years ago I should lie and add more to my references and work history. I have too much as it is! Then to lie about having more?!? Whazzup with that?

Just Toyia from Tennessee on January 10, 2008:

Great advice- I interview people for a living and we do internet background checks but you would be surprised at how many people don't think you really do and still try to gain employment by lying.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 03, 2008:

Yes, experience is a great teacher.

aperd1 from Malaysia on January 03, 2008:

great information there. It's a great thing when you knw what to do when thing gets out ta hand.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 07, 2007:

Thank you for that information, JR Balliett. It is certainly good to know! That policy is good for privacy and wages cannot be used against a person by a new employer, as in ' youonly made $X.00 at your last employer, so we won't pay you more than that...'

JR Balliett on December 06, 2007:

Great advice and article, however, in Texas an employer can not ask for the wages or salary, and the previous employer can not divulge it.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 02, 2007:

Thanks for the comment, matt.

Some folks do not believe references are ever checked and they all need to be checked. I have experienced two HR executives tell me to fake extra work history, because it would never be checked. First, I have too much to put on a resume to start with, and second, now I know why these folks don't have their jobs anymore!

mattford1 from Mustang, OK on December 02, 2007:

wow thanks for the info