When you apply for a job, you are required to give (minimally) the names of other companies you’ve worked for in the past, what you did there and the dates of your employment.

Sometimes this information is requested on an application; other times it is supplied to a potential employer in your resume.

Verifying the validity of an applicant’s stated work history confirms whether the applicant has the necessary experience and tests the applicant’s honesty. Lying on either document will guarantee that you won’t get an interview, much less a job.

Checking Through References

Most applications include a section where the applicant must provide the names and contact information of professional references, including the company they work for now.

Before you contact a reference, look up online the company the applicant works at to verify that the company exists and that the phone number on the application looks as though it goes to that company (same area code and probably the same first three numbers).

If it turns out that a reference does not work for the company indicated on the application, ask that company’s personnel department whether that person has ever worked for the company and, while you’re at it, if the applicant has either.

Go to the state's Secretary of State website to see whether a company has gone out of business. You can discover whether the company ever existed and the dates it was in operation.

Checking by Phone, Email or Fax

Another way to check someone’s employment history is to call, e-mail or fax the human resources department of a past employer. Sometimes all you must do is say you’re checking on an applicant’s employment history and give the personnel department the name of the applicant, the stated employment dates and the job title. They can then confirm or deny that the information is correct. Other times companies will ask you to fill out a legal form and fax or e-mail the completed form to their personnel or payroll department, which will then verify or deny the information given by the applicant.

Hiring a Third Party to Check

Making those calls and filling out those forms take time.

Some personnel departments, recruiters and managers are too busy to do it themselves, so they hire another company to check their applicants’ employment history and report the findings. These companies can inquire about an applicant’s job title, tenure, and salary claims, her reasons for leaving and eligibility for being rehired and potential problem areas that a potential employer should be aware of. However, not all companies are willing or able to provide that information. Poor recordkeeping and high turnover can make doing so difficult, and employers are not required by law to divulge the information.