verification of employment

Verification of Employment: What Managers Should Know

Getting ready to welcome a new employee to the team? Before you make it official, conduct a verification of employment so you have all the details you need to make the best choice.

Why is this step between interviewing and hiring so important? In this article, we answer that question and discuss what you need to know to conduct a verification of employment check correctly.

Table of contents

Verification of employment vs. reference check

Women checking verification of employment

It’s not uncommon to hear the terms “verification of employment” and “reference check” used to refer to the same activity. While both are types of background checks — and there is some overlap between the two — they are actually very different things.

A verification of employment is:

The act of confirming the facts on a candidate’s résumé.

Such facts may include job titles, dates of employment, wage or pay ranges, etc.

Because verification of employment relies on facts, the process is decidedly objective (i.e., not based on or influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts).

A reference check is:

The act of contacting the references the candidate provides on their résumé.

Such references can be both professional and personal.

When considering a reference check, it’s important to keep in mind that the candidate chooses whom they write down so they may “stack the deck” with individuals who will speak well of them.

Because a reference check relies on the thoughts of those you talk to, the process is decidedly subjective (i.e., based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, and opinions).

Both are effective tools for determining the background of a prospective employee, but only the verification of employment gives you all the facts you need to make the right decision.

Why conduct verification of employment?

Management going over resumes

While opinions and personal feelings gleaned from a reference check can be a useful indicator of a candidate’s potential, the information you can gather from a verification of employment is much more valuable.

Here are some of the reasons to initiate this process for all prospective employees.

1) Verify essential facts

Verifying essential facts is one of the main reasons for conducting verification of employment requests for every prospective new employee.

Basically, this serves to confirm that what the candidate has written on their résumé is true and accurate.

2) Confirm salary

Asking the previous employer to confirm salary ensures that you’re not over- or under-compensating the prospective employee. That said, some states have laws on the books that make it illegal to ask for someone’s salary or wage history.

3) Explain short employment

It can be tricky to deduce the reason for short stints of employment on a résumé.The candidate may tell you that their previous employer cut jobs, relocated positions, or eliminated the role, but it’s better to hear it “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

4) Uncover safety risks

Running a verification of employment check is a good way to uncover safety risks before you bring someone new into your business.

This is especially important for skilled jobs like heavy-equipment operators, truck drivers, and other positions in which a person’s health and safety might be affected by the actions of the job candidate.

5) Check alignment with company culture

A verification of employment request also serves to help you see if the candidate will fit into your existing team structure and company culture.

Your company culture plays a significant role in the success of your business, and hiring someone who might disrupt the values and habits you’ve got going would be detrimental to everyone involved.

Information sought from verification of employment

Every business needs different information to make an informed decision about whether to hire a candidate. But there are some variables that all managers would like to know during the hiring process.

These variables include:

  • Length of employment at the previous job
  • Job title(s) the candidate held
  • Time spent at each position
  • Wage/salary history (if it’s permissible to ask)
  • Job performance
  • Reason for termination/separation
  • Skills
  • Safety violations
  • Behavioral violations

Your business may need more or less information. Either way, these variables are a good place to start.

Verification of employment laws

Verification of employment laws


At the federal level, there aren’t really any laws that govern the verification of employment process.

Because of that, employers you may contact regarding a potential new hire aren’t obligated to respond. Similarly, if another business contacts you about a previous employee, you’re not obligated to respond either.

That said, a lot may be riding on the verification of employment — e.g., loan approvals, lease applications, and house purchases — so it’s just good practice and common courtesy to respond as quickly as possible.

The one caveat to all of that is if a federal entity contacts you or your business. Employers who fail to respond to requests from a federal office can suffer fines and other penalties.


While many verification of employment requests involve basic information, such as job title, responsibilities, and dates of employment, you may need to confirm other, more personal data as well (we’ll discuss these variables in the next section).

Every state has its own laws regarding what employers can and cannot disclose about current and former employees.

Be sure to consult the laws where your business operates — and, perhaps, the laws where the other business operates — before initiating or responding to a verification of employment request.


Most counties and cities have adopted their state’s employment laws, but there are exceptions. New York City, for example, has its own guidelines for what you can and cannot request or disclose during the hiring process.

If in doubt, consult with an attorney who is familiar with your industry and where it operates.

How to conduct verification of employment

Women looking up how to conduct verification of employment

In the past, verification of employment requests were often conducted via letter or over the phone. While those channels are still viable, many businesses now use email as their method of choice.

Whichever method you use — or the business you’re contacting uses — it’s a good idea to abide by a few basic rules.

1) Write out targeted questions

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing, calling, or emailing for employment verification, it’s more productive to write out targeted questions so you’re sure to get the information you need (and not forget anything).

2) Review your candidate’s résumé

Before initiating the request, take a moment to review your candidate’s résumé to refresh your memory and make sure you’ve asked all the necessary questions.

You can even go over any notes you took during the interview so that you’re as prepared as possible.

3) Be brief

Do your best to be as brief as possible. This is especially important when conducting an employment check over the phone.

With letters and email, you can ask for more detail, but, when you’re on the phone, try not to go much beyond the questions you have written (unless something jumps out at you and you need clarification).

4) Be respectful

Be respectful of the other person when conducting or responding to a verification of employment request.

Do your best to follow these guidelines when interacting with someone from another business:

  • Don’t speak disparagingly of the candidate
  • Use professional language at all times
  • Don’t swear

Keep in mind that you are an ambassador for your business and your brand. You want whoever you talk to to come away with a good impression. Being respectful goes a long way toward that goal.

5) Ask if the candidate is eligible for rehire

Though the employer you talk to may not be willing to answer this question, it’s always good to ask. The insight you receive if they do respond to this question can be invaluable.

6) Say thank you

At the closure of the phone call (or letter or email), thank the person on the other end for their time and effort responding to your employment verification request. Doing so paves the way for any future communication you may need to have with that person or that business.

Managing your team better

Woman managing her team

After you’ve conducted a verification of employment and brought your new employee on board, provide plenty of structure and support so their first few days and weeks run as smoothly as possible.

It’s also a good idea to provide that same structure and support to your entire team. Sling can help.

With advanced features, including a built-in time clock, cloud-based storage and access, budgeting and labor cost tools, reporting, and communication tools, Sling is an all-in-one solution to help you manage your team better.

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This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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