Employment Background Check

When recruiting for a vacant position in your organization you might be more interested in candidates’ skills and work experience than any academic qualifications. In that case, verifying an applicant’s work history with an employment background check is one of the first steps you should take in your screening process. 

Doing an employment background check helps you answer important questions about candidate work history, their experience and their integrity such as:

  • Did the candidate actually work at the places listed on their application?
  • Are they being honest about their level of responsibility in their previous positions?
  • How long did they work for a former employer?
  • What are the reasons for any gaps in their employment history?
  • What kind of salary were they earning?   
  • Why did they leave their previous employment?

Résumé fraud is rife – don’t take employment claims at face value

These questions are important because job applicants sometimes misrepresent, exaggerate or outright lie about their job history. In fact you can safely assume that at least half of the CVs you receive for any particular job vacancy could well contain embellished or even falsified information about employment history such as:

  • Stretching employment dates
  • Exaggerating salaries
  • False claims about their responsibilities
  • Fake references

To get the answers to these questions for our clients, our investigative team at InteliMasters look for clues that would indicate whether a candidate has been truthful about their employment history. Some questions can be answered by accessing relevant public records. Others might require us to contact those former employers directly.

Can you verify salary history with an employment background check?

You must be careful about asking job applicants to reveal their previous salaries when doing an employment background check. Applicants may or may not be happy to tell you how much they earned. Moreover in some locations there are laws prohibiting employers asking such questions as a condition of employment. However, one way you can get a good idea of their salary to date is by checking their tax records.

When someone leaves a job, whether they resigned or were fired, the employer should issue a form confirming the tax that person paid during their employment. In the US, employers issue a W2 Form. British employers issue a P45 once an employee has left the job. It shows the tax paid in the tax year up to the point the former employee left the job.

The tax documents serve as proof of employment dates. They also indicate the salary scale that the employee was on depending on the tax they paid during their employment. 

While there are privacy laws protecting prospective employees’ private information, which you need to be aware of depending on the location you are operating in, there are also ‘Reference Shield Laws’ which protect employers who share factual information about their previous employees to limit liability in case former employees decide to sue.


Remember that employment history is private and personal information that candidates have every right to withhold if they want to so you must ensure that you first have an applicant’s written permission to do an employment background check before contacting their former employers.