We’ve all been there to some degree when writing our CVs… Do we need to include that detail? Is this job worth putting on my CV at all? Maybe no one will notice if we enhance those responsibilities a bit… or will they?
Verifying a candidate’s past work history is an important part of the recruitment process, and the chances are, you’ll have your CV looked at in detail, including having your work history checked. It not only gives potential future employers a good idea of your past experience and qualifications, but it also shows your reliability and trustworthiness. Whether they do it themselves or hire a third party, ultimately employers can tell false employment, missing information and fake responsibilities by fact checking your CVs.
But do employers check all of your past employment details? Should you include details of every job you’ve had on your CV? And how about references – do we still need to include them on our CVs? Keep reading on to find out everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
- What to Include on Your CV
- Do Employers Verify All Past Employment?
- How are Past Employers Verified
What to Include on Your CV
Before getting into the details of how employers verify your employment details and whether they actually do at all, it’s important to think about what information you put on your CV in the first place. The most important point to remember here is to always be honest.
No, not every employer in the world will check every fine detail included in your CV, but the odds are that they will – and what does it say about you as a person if it turns out you have misleading information on your CV that can’t be excused as an admin error? It’s never a good look to get caught in a lie, so you should always give factually correct information on the documents you provide to current and potential employers, whether that’s your employment dates, job title, or the responsibilities you held.
However, if you’ve been in the world of work a while, it’s not advisable to list every single job you’ve had, including dates and responsibilities. It’s unlikely that your new boss at the medical centre will care about the Saturday job you had restocking shelves when you were sixteen… For that reason we recommend you just include jobs you’ve had that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
If your employer asks about gaps in your work history on your CV, you can always fill them in briefly in your interview and explain why you took a break from your chosen career at a certain point in time. Not everyone knows what they want to do for a living when they start working and even fewer reach their goal through a linear path. As long as you’re honest with your employer if they ask, there’s no shame in deviating from your career path.
It’s also a best practice of CV writing to avoid using the phrase “references available on request”. In previous years this was a great way of saving the space of all your previous superiors’ contact details, but nowadays, it’s quite unnecessary. Your future employer knows they can contact your references at their request, so save yourself the space on your CV.
Should You Include Everything on Your CV?
While you don’t have to include everything on your CV, especially if it’s not relevant to the job you’re applying for, you should try to avoid omitting crucial information as it may still be found out when your employer checks your employment history and raises some awkward questions.
Refraining from giving information is not the same as lying, however, so if you have a stain in your work history, such as being fired or coming to a disagreement with a previous employer, you don’t need to volunteer the information, but you should still be prepared to talk about it if questioned about it during your hiring process. Sometimes, if you’re upfront about any problems you’ve had at work in the past, your future boss will probably respect you more for your honesty.
Can Your Current Employer be Contacted?
Job hunting is not an easy task, and it can be made even more difficult if you’re still in employment when you start searching and interviewing. If you don’t want your current employer to find out that you’re looking to leave, you can of course ask the interviewer not to contact them as a reference. Employers understand the difficulties that can arise in this situation and are usually respectful of it, but it’s important that you still have some good references, such as colleagues, academic supervisors or even HR – they are sometimes more objective – to support your applications.
Do Employers Verify All Past Employment?
If you have several locations in your employment history on your CV, it’s possible that your future employer won’t investigate all of them. That said, that’s no reason to start making up jobs you had in the hope that you won’t get found out.
Employers will look into the most relevant and recent references to get a better idea of what you’re like to work with, what qualifications you have, what programs you’re able to use, if relevant, and what overall experience you have in the industry you’re looking to work in. If your CV only has old references or colleagues instead of supervisors, this can be a tell-tale sign that you’ve either lied about your references or left a past employment on bad terms. Either way, your new employer will want to know the details and will ensure they find out.
If you only have three to five places listed in your work history, your employer will most likely verify each of them as this is not a particularly time-consuming process, and can be crucial in choosing the right candidate for the job. Given that it can cost 6-9 months salary to replace an employee, it’s important for businesses to reduce their employee turnover, and that includes ensuring they employ the right people in the first place.
Why Do Employers Have to Verify My Employment History?
Of course employers want to choose the right candidate for the job, but reducing the costs of employee turnover isn’t the only reason. Your future employer will want to know that you’re the right fit for the job in terms of your capability in fulfilling the tasks required of the role, but they’ll also be looking for what other skills you can bring to the table that aren’t listed on your CV.
A great reference will show your new employer how dedicated you are to performing to the best of your ability, how you take the initiative when completing tasks, or how quick you can be to come up with new ideas. These are all precious skills that can make you stand out from the other candidates, so when asked for references, think carefully about who’ll promote your talents!
They’re also looking for some kind of character reference, as this information isn’t available on a written document. Of course you can gain some information on a person from their interview, but most of us are nervous for interviews so our true nature doesn’t necessarily come across. This is also important to consider when choosing the people you would like to act as your references – some colleagues may know you better than your supervisors so can be better ambassadors for your personality.
How are Past Employers Verified?
Depending on the size and resources of the company you’re applying to, either the employer themselves, the HR representative or a third-party company will look over your CV and contact each workplace listed or each reference you have given. Typically, they will ask for your job title, the amount of time you worked for the company, the responsibilities you had in your role and any other important information that your former employer might like to offer.
Even if you add the contact phone number for your chosen reference, it’s likely that your future employer will search for an official phone number for the company you have listed, to legitimise the reference and ensure the phone number doesn’t belong to a close friend you have asked to pretend to be a former employer. Believe it or not this does actually happen, but can usually be very easily spotted!
Do Employers Check Social Media?
While you may endeavour to keep your private life private, you should be aware that employers do often check the social media accounts of prospective employees. Applications such as Instagram can be made private and don’t usually give away much useful information to employers except for general character traits anyway, however you should be careful with LinkedIn and Facebook.
These sites often have work colleagues and current or past work information in different comments sections or photos, so it can be easy to determine who you have worked with and who you are currently working with. So make sure you’re honest on your CV and about your employment history – it doesn’t take long to find a photograph or comment that tells the truth about your job history.
What Do Past Employers Say?
Even though it’s incredibly likely that your future employer will do a background check of your past employment, there is actually no guarantee that they’ll get the information they’re searching for. Some companies have policies where they only give out minimal information on previous employees to avoid libel suits, as there have been cases of former employees suing companies who share negative information about them leading to them losing, or not getting, a job.
To avoid your former company refusing to give out any information to support your application, you should check that they are happy to act as a reference for you before including them in your application. However, generally, most companies happily provide confirmation of employment, job title and start and end date, even if they don’t comment on your performance.
There’s no guarantee that every employer will check each of your past jobs, especially if you have a long employment history, however it is always best to assume that they will. Make sure you’re honest on your CV about every detail and be prepared to answer difficult questions even if you’ve tried to hide aspects of your work history from your employer. If you can do this, you’ll show you’re an honest person with great integrity and most employers will respect you because of it.