Does a Background Check Show Employment History? Spoiler: Yes, Here’s What Employers See

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March 28, 2024
Edited by
Camille Trent
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min read

3 key takeaways:

  • There are seven background check types commonly used to screen job candidates.
  • An employment background check includes information about your past jobs.
  • Teal's AI Resume Builder allows job seekers to manage their entire work history and customize endless resumes for specific applications.

Background checks allow potential employers to verify the qualifications, work history, and other details listed on your resume or job application are truthful. An employment background check specifically reviews past jobs you’ve held.

While background checks are meant to validate candidates’ history and qualifications, there's also a lot of uncertainty around what these checks can access.

If you're nervous, don't worry; you're not alone. Online forums are chock-full of people concerned over what is and what isn't on a background check.

In fact, on Reddit, posts like these aren't uncommon:

One Redditor asks if background checks show full work history on r/jobs

In this post, you'll learn the ins and outs of background checks, what they include, how long they take, and how to keep track of your full job history.

What is a background check?

Background checks are comprehensive processes to verify an individual's history and qualifications. 

While these checks can serve many purposes, such as housing applications, gun purchases, or certain volunteer positions, this article will focus specifically on employment-related background checks. 

And in the context of employment, a background check is a process where an employer, lender, or other third-party verifies certain aspects of a job candidate or applicant's background. 

Again, the purpose is to confirm the job applicant is who they claim to be and determine if any potential concerns regarding their history may impact their suitability for a role.

There are several types of background checks commonly used for employment screening:

  • Employment verification: Confirms your work history, positions held, dates employed, salary, and reason for leaving. This information is verified through your listed employers.
  • Education verification: Confirms the institutions you attended, degrees/diplomas awarded, dates of attendance, and course of study. Academic transcripts may be reviewed.
  • Reference check: Your listed references are contacted to gather information about your skills, work style, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Criminal history: Checks court records for any criminal convictions you may have. Arrest records may also be verified.
  • Sex offender registry: Cross-references your information against public sex offender registries.
  • Credit check: Examines your credit history and score (relevant for certain financial and security-related positions).
  • Driving records: Checks state DMV records for any moving violations, accidents, DUIs, and license validity (required for driving-related jobs).

A standard background check for employment will dig into your criminal history, job history, and education. It aims to uncover any misrepresentations, discrepancies, or concerning conduct employers should know.

Do background checks show employment history?

A background check conducted to verify previous job history, also called an employment background check, typically includes verifying an applicant's job history. This allows potential employers to confirm the accuracy of the work history presented on a resume or job application.

Specifically, an employment background check may show:

  • Positions held at previous companies
  • Dates of employment
  • Job titles
  • Reasons for leaving the company (as provided by former employers)

Some key details that may be verified in a background check include:

  • Company names
  • Locations
  • Dates employed
  • Job title and responsibilities
  • Salary/pay rate
  • Performance reviews
  • Circumstances for leaving the role

Background checks generally cover the most recent seven to 10 years of job history. However, some checks can go back further, especially for certain industries like financial services.

It's important to note that background checks rely on available records and are not always 100 percent accurate.

Example circumstances that could lead to inaccurate background check results:

  • Small businesses may not have formalized record-keeping that background check companies can access
  • Reasons for leaving a job may be misrepresented or subjective as they’re noted by former managers
  • Employment dates may vary slightly across records

As an applicant, you need to be upfront and honest about any potential gaps or issues in your work history. Trying to cover up discrepancies is likely to raise red flags.

Focus on presenting your history accurately and with full transparency, prepared to briefly explain any problem areas.

With some preparation and diligence, background checks don't have to be a major stress point in your job search. Understanding what they entail can help you put your best foot forward.

For more insights on presenting your work experience effectively, check out our guide on relevant resume work experience.

Do background checks show criminal history?

Yes, some employment background checks include criminal history.

Employers may hire a third-party company (like a background checking agency) to conduct a background check, which can involve checking criminal records at the county, state, or federal level. These checks provide information on an individual's criminal history, including arrests, convictions, and any other relevant details.

It's worth noting that the scope of the background check can vary depending on the industry, job position, and local regulations.

Some industries, such as healthcare or education, may have stricter background checks due to the nature of the work and the need for public safety and trust.

Employers must comply with regulations, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in the United States, which requires obtaining the candidate's written consent before conducting a background check and following specific procedures if any adverse action is taken based on the results of the check.

If you have concerns about your criminal history and its impact on your job prospects, be proactive and communicate openly with potential employers about any relevant issues. This can provide an opportunity to explain the circumstances and provide context.

Importance of accurate employment history

Ensuring your work history is accurate and up-to-date is critically important when undergoing a background check. Any discrepancies between the work history you provide and what the background check uncovers could raise red flags with potential employers.

Presenting your history accurately isn’t just about avoiding exposure. Here's why understanding—and actively communicating—your work history matters to you as a job seeker:

Job Fit

The roles you've held and the skills you've acquired play a significant role in determining whether you're the right fit for a job.

Omitting information about previous jobs could even work against you, leading potential employers to believe you lack the necessary qualifications or experience for the position.

Legal issues

Significant inaccuracies in your work history could be viewed as an attempt to falsify your background, which may have legal consequences.

It's important to be truthful about your previous jobs to avoid potential legal ramifications.

Trust and integrity

When there are unexplained gaps or misleading dates in your stated work history, it raises doubts about your honesty and integrity.

Employers want to be able to trust their employees, so it's essential to provide accurate information about your previous jobs.

Future checks

Inaccuracies or inconsistencies in your job history may impact your ability to pass background checks with the same employer in the future. If employers discover discrepancies or false information, it could negatively affect your professional reputation—putting you on the company’s “do not hire list” and hindering your chances of career advancement.

Not only does this allow for transparency and integrity, but it also ensures the information provided aligns with the expectations of potential employers.

Remember, accuracy matters in every aspect of your job history. It serves as the foundation for trust, eligibility, job fit, legal compliance, and future background checks.

How to correct mistakes in your employment history

Mistakes on a background check are not uncommon. But knowingly providing false information is taken very seriously. It may not be a federal law that puts you in prison, but it's a surefire way to ruin your professional reputation.

If your employment history contains errors, here are some tips:

  • Review your background check when received and quickly identify any incorrect or missing employers.
  • Politely explain the discrepancy to the employer and provide any documentation to support your explanation, like pay stubs or performance reviews.
  • If records were lost or your employer went out of business, provide the information you do have and context on the situation.
  • Start managing your work history in Teal to get (and stay) organized. Having a centralized source of truth for your work history will make the entire job application process much less stressful.

With some transparency upfront, you can often resolve inaccuracies without issue. But intentional deception is hard to overcome. Always be truthful when confirming your job history, and avoid coming across as defensive.

Finding your employment history

Keeping an accurate record of your job history is crucial, as discrepancies could raise red flags in a background check.

Here are some tips to track down your past jobs:

  • Give your resume a second look: Review your resume and update it if needed. Make sure all companies, titles, and dates are correct.
  • Search through past documents: Go through old emails and files to find offer letters, pay stubs, performance reviews, etc. These provide proof of employment.
  • Look at your tax history: Check your tax records and W-2 forms, which will list employers.
  • Update your LinkedIn: Log into your LinkedIn and verify that your work history is up-to-date. You can download a PDF copy for records.
  • Clear up any discrepancies: If there are gaps, make a list of what you were doing—education, contract work etc. Keep backups, like transcripts.
  • Call on your former network: For decades-old roles, reach out to former managers or HR to request confirmation if needed.
  • Keep a central source of truth: Document everything in a master list. For ongoing roles, collect recent pay stubs and workplace IDs.
  • Store both digital and physical copies of employment proof: Keep them secure in a locked drawer or safe.

Keeping meticulous records minimizes headaches later if employment details are ever called into question.

Incorporating Teal's AI Resume Builder into your routine for managing work history will drastically help the way you archive, update, and utilize your work records. With Teal, you can easily input and adjust your employment details, making sure every version of your resume reflects your most accurate and current history. 

Teal's AI Resume Builder makes it easy to write achievements for past roles with an AI assistant

It's a better solution for keeping meticulous records, significantly reducing the hassle if your employment details are ever scrutinized. 

As a result of proactively managing your work history, you're putting your best foot forward on applications.

How long do background checks take?

The amount of time it takes to complete a background check varies quite a bit depending on several factors:

  • Type of background check: More extensive checks that include items like a criminal record search, employment and education verification, and drug testing will take longer than a basic check, looking at identity and social security number (SSN) validation only.
  • Number of employers to verify: The more employers there are to verify during employment verification, the longer the check will take. Each employer verification tends to take one to two days.
  • Respondents' speed: Background screening companies depend on getting responses from courts, employers, schools etc. The speed at which they respond can greatly affect turnaround time.
  • Scope of check: The more counties searched geographically (i.e., living or working in multiple states), the more time-consuming. International background checks often take longer.
  • Priority and volume: Turnaround time also depends on whether the check is being expedited as a priority order, and the general volume of orders the screening company handles.

The typical turnaround time for a standard background check is usually two to five days on average. Here are more time estimates based on background check type:

  • Employment Background Checks: one to five days
  • Federal Background Checks: two days
  • Fingerprint Background Checks: one to three days
  • Universal Background Checks: two days
  • Criminal Background Checks: one to two weeks

To ensure a background check is done in time, start the background check process as early as possible, provide accurate personal details, and expect variability depending on the complexity. Preparing relevant information ahead of time helps facilitate a smooth check.

How to manage employment history online

As mentioned, keeping your work history up-to-date and accurate is crucial for passing background checks and presenting yourself effectively during your job search.

But with the average person changing jobs 10 to 15 times in their career, managing and tailoring your full work history for each application can be a real challenge.

That's where Teal's AI Resume Builder comes in.

The Resume Version Management feature allows you to easily create, edit, customize, and archive unlimited unique versions of your resume from a central dashboard.

save multiple versions of your resume in Teal
Job searchers can create and save several versions of your resume within Teal

Here are some examples of how this can help your job search:

  • Archive old versions of your resume before updating for a new job search. This preserves work history details that you may want to reuse later.
  • Create a base resume with your full work history. Then, make tailored versions that only highlight the most relevant experiences for each application.
  • Customize your resume work history details based on background check and job description requirements of different employers. Check out this guide on how long your resume should be for tips.
  • Maintain consistent formatting and content across all your resumes while only changing key details.

With Teal, you'll always have your full work history readily available in one place with the ability to easily toggle roles, skills, and achievements on or off for certain applications. No more frantic scrambling to recreate lost resume versions or forgetting past job details.

Get a firm grasp over your work history today with Teal's AI Resume Builder to pass any background check and put your best resume forward!

Take control of your work history

Background checks have become a standard practice for employers. They rely on these checks to verify a job candidate's previous job history and ensure the accuracy of their employment claims.

To meet this expectation, it is crucial for job candidates to actively manage and maintain an accurate job history.

Not only does it demonstrate integrity, but it also helps build trust with potential employers.

Failure to provide accurate information could harm one's chances of securing a job and lead to legal consequences, as federal laws require job candidates to provide truthful information about their previous employment.

Fortunately, with a platform like Teal, keeping track of your work history is easy.

Teal allows candidates to present the most relevant skills and experiences to each hiring manager, increasing their chances of standing out in a competitive job market.

Teal's resume builder showing previous employers and experience
You can toggle certain roles, dates, and achievements for different resumes in Teal

Ready to get started? Sign up for Teal's AI Resume Builder and try the Resume Version Management feature today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly does a background check show?

Background checks can include verification of your work history, education, criminal record, and other aspects of your background. For employment, background checks typically confirm past employers, positions held, employment dates, and reasons for leaving. Some checks only go back seven to 10 years while others can go further. You can upload your job history from LinkedIn to better manage your full work history in Teal’s AI Resume Builder.

Will a background check reveal my entire work history?

An employment background check will show your work history for the timeframe and positions that are verified by the screening company, which is typically seven to 10 years. Some checks may uncover additional history. You can request a copy of the background check to see what was included. Once you have it, you can transfer that information to Teal’s AI Resume Builder to save your full work history and use it in your resume.

Can background checks find out why I left a previous job?

Yes, the employment verification portion of a background check will show the reason you left a previous job if that information is provided by your previous employer. This could include termination, layoff, resignation, etc.

How long does it take to complete a background check?

Most employment background checks take two to four business days on average. More extensive checks requiring extensive employment or education verification can take up to a week or longer. Factors like volume of applicant requests can also affect turnaround time.

Should I be concerned about a background check as a job seeker?

If you know your background check will raise red flags, proactively explain circumstances to the employer before the check. Otherwise, background checks are a standard part of the hiring process, so don't let it cause undue stress. Focus on putting your best foot forward.

Nathan Thompson

Nathan is a professional content marketer who's been lucky enough to write for some of the best SaaS brands on the planet, including Twilio, Trello, OptinMonster, TrustPulse, and more. When he's not obsessing over performance metrics, Nathan spends most of his time wrestling around with his kids.

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