Employment history is a person’s entire work record. Employers usually request employment history information from applicants as part of the hiring process.
A person’s employment history can reveal information about their past jobs, experience, training, skills, and accomplishments. HR departments can use this knowledge to make informed hiring decisions.
Employment History for HR and Hiring
Why is employment history important to HR professionals?
Employment history is an important element of the hiring process that shouldn’t be ignored. When you understand a job applicant’s employment history, you can effectively evaluate their suitability for your position. It can provide key information about a number of things, including the following.
Past employers – An applicant’s past employers can help you paint a picture of their experiences and how relevant they are to your position. For instance, have they worked for a prestigious firm or in an industry similar to yours?
Past performance – It’s often possible to piece together a picture of an applicant’s abilities from their promotions and career trajectory. Have they received awards or special recognition from past employers? Have they been promoted regularly? Or has their career stalled over the last few years?
Someone who has been regularly promoted and has likely performed well in their past positions may be a better fit than someone who has stagnated in the same job for 10 years.
Work experience and knowledge – An applicant’s past work experience can be very important if you’re hiring for a skilled position. Have they worked in a similar role before? If so, what were their responsibilities? What specialized training have they had that makes them suitable for your role?
How do you get a copy of someone’s employment history?
The easiest way to get a copy of someone else’s employment history is to simply ask them. On top of requiring the regular resume or CV, you could add an extra employment history form as part of your job application to gather more details.
However, not all applicants will provide an accurate history, so you may need to do some third-party verifying.
There are various online tools that are designed to help you verify someone’s employment history. For example, HireRight offers an online on-demand tool that you can use to look up someone’s history. GoodHire offers a similar service backed by a team of employment-verification specialists. These aren’t free, but they are definitely worth using.
Outside investigators are also used by some HR firms, especially when hiring for high-salary positions.
How is employment history used?
An applicant’s employment history is used to judge their suitability for an open position. There are three main steps involved in evaluating an applicant’s employment history.
Step 1: Candidate Screening
Candidate screening, or resume screening, is used to determine whether applicants meet the minimum requirements for a position. This is a broad step that involves looking at employment history alongside training, volunteer experience, and personality traits.
Here, simply look to eliminate candidates that clearly aren’t qualified. After a quick resume screen, you should have enough data to decide whether an applicant should progress to the next step or not.
Step 2: Candidate Shortlisting
Once you’ve screened your initial applicants, you can take a closer look at their profiles to see which are the most likely fits.
During this step, it’s time to take a closer look at the candidates’ education and employment history to see if any of them have your preferred qualifications. You should be looking at things like the following.
- Time in the industry
- Duration of each position
- Managerial responsibilities
- Career advancement and promotions
- Reason for leaving past roles
Based on this information, you’ll be able to make a more educated guess about how well-suited an applicant is for a position. Ideally, once you’ve completed this step, you should have a shortlist of candidates whose employment history appears to make them uniquely qualified for the job.
Step 3: Interviews
Once you’ve shortlisted a number of candidates, you can set up interviews so you can find out more about their experience. During interviews, make sure to ask more questions about an applicant’s employment history, filling in any gaps in your knowledge.
It’s a good idea to offer an interview to a decent number of applicants, as not all of them will respond.
What if an applicant’s employment history reveals problems?
Sometimes, an applicant’s employment history will raise serious red flags that disqualify them immediately, such as a dismissal for behavioral reasons. But not all past issues are deal-breakers, and many can be discussed in an interview. Here are some approaches to take.
Ask for more information – The first and probably the easiest thing to do is to simply ask an applicant for more information. Let’s say, for example, that the applicant hasn’t provided any details about a specific time period. There could be a good reason for this which you will be able to clear up with a quick email or phone call.
Speak with references – Reach out to an applicant’s references to find out more about their employment history. This can be particularly useful for clarifying exactly what a particular role or position involves.
Get a second opinion – If you’re still unsure about an applicant, even after trying to clear up any misunderstandings, you can ask a coworker, manager, or another team member for their opinion. Show them the application without voicing your concerns and see if they identify the same issues. Then, discuss the best way to move forward.
Employment History for Job Applicants
What details should be included in my employment history?
As a job applicant, you will usually be asked to provide details of your employment history as part of your application. Try to include as much of the following information as possible.
- Names of the companies you’ve worked for
- Job titles you’ve held at each previous workplaces
- The length of time you were employed in each role
- Your duties in each role
- Names and contact information of past supervisors (if requested)
- Your criminal record (if this is legal in your state)
At times, you may also be asked to provide information about your credit and salary history.
How can I find out my employment history?
If you’ve forgotten the details or don’t have a record of your employment history, there are a few different ways to recover it. Try each of the following.
Contact your past employers – If you can remember who your past employers were, you should be able to get in contact with them to ask about your employment history. Many companies keep detailed records and should be able to provide you with information about your position and the time you were employed.
Go over your tax returns – Your tax return and other tax documents should contain basic information about your employment history and positions.
Check unemployment records – In many states, you can retrieve a detailed employment history from the state unemployment office. However, this can become difficult if you have worked in more than one state.
Obtain credit reports – In some cases, it could also be useful to check your past credit reports. If you’ve applied for a loan or credit card, you may have provided details of your employment. You can also fill out a Social Security Administration form to request details about your work history and earnings.
When you recover your information, make sure that you store it in a safe place. Use it to put together a complete employment history that you can present to prospective employers.
An applicant’s employment history can provide a large amount of information about their suitability for a position. As a job applicant, be sure you’re sharing as much information as needed to give hiring managers a great idea of your relevant skills. As an HR professional, you’ll be using this kind of information to ensure you’re hiring the most suitable candidates for advertised positions.