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How to Find Your Complete Employment History

If you are applying for a job, chances are that you will need to disclose at least some details about your employment history. Most employers have a “work history” section on their job applications where you’ll be asked to provide past companies, dates of employment, and job titles for the last several jobs that you’ve held. Most positions will also require you to submit a resume with an account of your professional history.

How should you compile your employment history report, and how can you find or verify details that you don’t immediately recall? In this post, we will explore these questions in detail.

What Is an Employment History Report?

While you may associate the term “employment history report” with a type of background check, the truth is that there is no background check service that will allow an employer to get a full list of your past jobs. Instead, employers rely on applicants to self-report this information via job applications and resumes. As such, you should think of your employment history report as a resource that you compile on your own.

These days, most professionals present or save their work history in multiple places. The average job seeker has a resume on their computer that they can update and tweak at a moment’s notice if they need to apply for a job. Many professionals also have LinkedIn pages, which include a list of past employers and jobs.

If you already have this information at the ready in one or both formats, then you shouldn’t have much trouble updating your employment history report when it’s time to submit a resume.

What Is Included in an Employment History Report?

The work history section on a resume follows a commonly-accepted format in which each entry includes four key types of information:

  • Job title
  • The name and location of the employer
  • Your dates of employment
  • A list of your job duties, responsibilities, and key accomplishments

In some cases, you may also need to provide names and contact information for your past bosses or supervisors on the job application.

How to Find Your Employment History

How can you find your own employment history? No one will have a better knowledge of your work history than you will—in fact, most candidates can prepare their own employment history reports from memory.

It is possible to forget key details about your previous employers or jobs over time. If you are trying to compile a full account of your past work, you may be able to recall recent jobs without issue but struggle to remember employment engagements from earlier in your career. Alternatively, maybe you remember some things about a particular job (such as where you worked and what your general responsibilities were) but have trouble remembering others (including specific job titles or employment dates).

How important is accuracy in employment history reporting? Companies will often verify job histories for their candidates—especially for more recent jobs—by contacting former employers and asking about details such as job titles, dates of employment, responsibilities, salaries, and reasons for leaving. Because resume lies are a common problem hiring managers have become vigilant about checking this information. 

Disparities between your resume and what a prospective employer learns through a verification check can raise red flags and potentially cost you a job. As a result, you need to aim for complete accuracy when compiling your employment history report.

If there are details about past jobs that you don’t remember, there are steps that you can take to find your own employment history.

Step 1: Review documents that you may have in your possession.

You may have documents that will help you revisit your work history. Copies of your tax returns, for instance, can be helpful for recalling company names, employment dates, and salaries. Past drafts of resumes and cover letters might also include information that you’ve forgotten.

 

Step 2: Contact former employers.

If you’re having trouble recalling exact employment dates or job titles, one strategy is to contact the employer directly and ask. Human resources departments keep this information on file for past employees and should be willing to provide it to you.

 

Step 3: Request details from the Social Security Administration.

f you need considerable assistance reconstructing your work history, you might contact the Social Security Administration (SSA). Since you provide all employers with your Social Security Number for tax purposes, your entire employment background should be trackable via SSN. You can submit a “Request for Social Security Earnings Information” to obtain an itemized SSA list of where you’ve worked in the past. 

The drawback to this option—and the reason why employers don’t use SSA searches to verify employment history—is that there is a substantial cost and a lengthy timeline involved with these searches. A “certified” version of your earnings statement will cost you $122, while a non-certified statement will cost $92. Wait times can be three or four months, depending on how busy the SSA is at the time when you submit your request.

You may also be able to obtain relevant Social Security information, including job history details, by submitting a request to your local unemployment office.

Employment History on a Resume

Once you’ve compiled a detailed and accurate rundown of your employment history, you can get to work building or updating your resume. Listings should include job titles, employer names and locations, employment dates, job responsibilities and skills, and job accomplishments. Updating the document regularly and saving both digital and paper copies are critical ways to keep track of your employment history to make sure that you aren’t forgetting key details over time.

You are not expected to submit a full list of past jobs and employers on your resume. Especially in the age of the gig economy, many professionals have nontraditional work histories that span many more work arrangements than traditional jobs. Instead of holding five or six jobs throughout a career, it is more common these days for an individual to work a dozen jobs or more. 

Keeping to the standard one-page limit won’t provide you with enough space to list every job that you’ve ever held. Instead, balance your resume between your recent employment and the jobs or gigs that best display your qualifications and skills for the specific position that you are seeking.

FAQs

 

How do you know if you passed a background check?

Employers are required to notify you in writing if they are taking adverse action against you, such as rescinding a job offer, due to background check findings. If you have failed a background check in a prospective employer’s eyes, they are legally required to inform you of that fact.

Why do I have to pay for my own background check?

If you wish to conduct a background check on yourself—such as by paying the SSA to pull your work history—you are taking that step for personal reasons and must cover the expense. Most employers will cover the costs of any pre-employment vetting that they wish to perform. However, an employer can ask you to cover the cost of your own background check; this practice is not common. 

What shows up on a pre-employment background check?

Pre-employment background checks can reach far beyond job history. In addition to contacting your past employers, hiring managers might pull your criminal records, check your credit report with credit reporting agencies, call a college or university to verify your degree, chat with professional references about you, and more.

What is on a background check?

A background check is any investigation into your past, whether it includes criminal history, credit card history, past employers and jobs, education, civil court history, driving record, or other details. Companies use background checks to verify details about candidates such as their resume information and to search for red flags that might make employing a candidate more risky.