Employment Verifications 101: What You Need to Know
“The Great Resignation” is a phrase we’ve been hearing a lot lately, referring to the roughly 33 million Americans who have quit their jobs since the spring of 2021. The current job market puts job seekers in the driver’s seat. In fact, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are 1.6 available job openings for every one unemployed person.
If you’re one of those job seekers, you likely expect a smooth process when applying and interviewing for a new role. And because employers are highly motivated to hire you, they’re also looking for more ways to make the hiring process faster and easier for you while making sure you’re the right candidate for the role. That’s where verifications of employment come in.
Before we describe in detail how verifications of employment work in the hiring process, it’s important to understand how verifications work generally.
What is The Work Number, and how does it support verifications?
If you’ve ever leased an apartment, purchased or leased a car, or applied for a mortgage or government benefits, you have probably benefited from instant digital verifications from The Work Number. That’s because The Work Number partners with more than 2.5 million employers - large and small - to obtain employment and income information that is updated every pay period. So if your employer uses The Work Number, it means you’re less likely to be burdened by stacks of printouts or pay stubs or slowed down by phone calls to verify your information.
The Work Number can help you receive faster, more streamlined decisions during your important life events through three main types of verifications:
- Verification of Employment (VOE) - In pre-hire situations, this helps to confirm the employment history you provided on a resumé or job application. In lending situations - like when you’re applying to lease an apartment or buy a house - this can help provide a clearer picture of your financial stability and ability to pay, because the lender can verify that you have a job. A VOE does not include any income data.
- Verification of Income (VOI) - This type of verification is used primarily in high-dollar lending situations, like when you’re buying a house or a car. Verifying your income helps confirm your ability to pay the loan’s principal and interest and eliminates the need for you to gather tax returns and pay stubs to prove your income.
- Social Service Verification (SSV) - This is used only to help government agencies verify that you are eligible to receive benefits from social service programs, like Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Depending on the type of benefit, government agencies could also request income and employment data to confirm your eligibility.
Now that you understand verifications in general, let’s look more closely at pre-employment verifications.
Why do companies need to verify my employment?
When you apply for a job, you typically fill out an application or provide a resumé or similar document detailing your previous work history. Employers may want to verify the information you provided, including your current job status, your previous experience and in some cases, your academic degree(s).
Verifying this information happens in a few ways. Some hiring managers do it themselves, reaching out directly (typically via phone) to your current or previous employers to request official verification. Alternatively, employers may use professional background screening firms and/or an employment verification service such as The Work Number® from Equifax.
For that to happen, the prospective employer first needs to gain your permission, according to a U.S. federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), to verify your employment. The hiring company would ask you for that permission as part of the job application process. Before your employment is verified, there should be a document presented to you that discloses that the employer will verify your employment and may use a consumer reporting agency (such as The Work Number) to do it. You will be asked to sign that document, giving your permission for the verification to occur.
Who can request my information?
The entity (such as a lender, employer, or government agency) that requests your information is called a “verifier.” Under the FCRA, any verifier requesting your employment and/or income information must undergo a thorough credentialing process prior to using The Work Number, as well as prove they have a legally required, permissible purpose for accessing your data. Additional laws at the state or local level may also govern who can access your data, and Equifax follows all such laws.
Information in The Work Number is not used for any purposes outside of performing authorized verifications, so you can rest assured that your personal data is not being sold to data brokers or other entities for additional purposes such as marketing.
How is my data used in the hiring process?
If the employer’s process includes pre-employment verifications from The Work Number, they will first request your permission for the verification to be performed. If you provide that permission, the employer will then request employment data, and on rare occasions, income data, from The Work Number.
The Work Number benefits both job seekers and employers by facilitating the consensual exchange of digital employment information. When hiring companies or background screeners use the “manual” method for verifying employment, they have to make a series of phone calls to your current and previous employers. The Work Number is more discreet - it won’t notify your employer that you are actively seeking a new role.
A common question is whether employers use The Work Number to access the income of prospective employees. In practice, this occurs only in rare circumstances and prospective employers must comply with all laws within their jurisdictions. Additionally, Equifax requires all verifiers to obtain consent from the consumer prior to obtaining income information from The Work Number.
How can I see what information is shared?
Remember, you are in the driver’s seat. The best way for you to prepare for a prospective employer seeing your employment history is to know and understand what information is available.
You can (and should!) visit the “My Personal Data” section of our website to view and download your Employment Data Report (EDR). You’ll also see a list of every entity that has requested information on you through The Work Number within the past 24 months.
When you request your EDR, you’ll start off by searching for your current employer. Some employers contribute data through a third party, like a payroll provider, and in those circumstances, your employer might not appear in that search. You can search for a past employer and may still be able to view your EDR, or you may call the number provided on the website, and if we are able to find an employment record for you, you can receive your EDR that way.
When you access your EDR, you’ll see a comprehensive list of ALL records that any employer has provided to The Work Number. This doesn’t mean that all of this data is provided to every entity requesting a verification. For example, an employer requesting a verification of employment in the hiring process will not see your salary history.
How can I take control of my employment data?
The Work Number receives its data directly from employers and payroll providers. However, if you’re concerned that the information in your EDR may be inaccurate, you can dispute it under provisions of the FCRA, and find instructions from doing so on the “My Personal Data” section of our website.
Also, keep in mind that it’s normal for your EDR to contain information from some employers but not others. That’s because not all employers participate in The Work Number service.
In addition, you can prevent access to your employment information with an employment data freeze. This freeze means that verifiers will be unable to view your data from The Work Number. (Just keep in mind that a freeze could slow down application processes for things like a loan, a job, or social service benefits.) You can request an employment data freeze at any time and at no cost by visiting the “My Personal Data” section of our website.
To access the “My Personal Data” section of our website, please visit employees.theworknumber.com. For general information on The Work Number, please visit theworknumber.com.