Can Employers Check Unemployment History?

Application for employment and pen
Tetra Images / Getty Images

Can employers check your unemployment record to find out when and how long you were unemployed? The short answer is: sort of, but they won't get that information from the government. There's no secret file out there with your name on it, containing your entire work history and its ups and downs – at least, not that employers can access.

Getting Information From the Unemployment Office

The unemployment office can't disclose any information about you because it's illegal for government agencies to divulge information regarding any unemployment benefits which you have received.

In other words, if a prospective employer wants to uncover the gaps in your employment history, they can, but they have to be willing to dig for it. The bad news is that it's pretty easy to find out whether or not a candidate has been continuously employed, so if you were hoping to keep that under wraps, it's time to make a new plan to address any concerns that might come up during the interview process.

What Employers Can Check

Employers or the third parties with whom they contract to run employment background checks can research your employment history and uncover any gaps in employment that way. Organizations can call former employers and share the information which you have supplied in your resume or job application and ask them to confirm its accuracy.

Using that information, an employer can compile your work history and the time you weren't working will be obvious.

Don't Lie on Your Resume

The ease with which employers can uncover this information is one good reason why it's a bad idea to lie on your resume.

Even though employers can't directly get the information, the bottom line is that candidates should be truthful and accurate when supplying information to prospective employers. It's just too easy to get caught.

Furthermore, even if you get away with fibbing about your work history and get an offer, you'd have to commit to covering up that lie for the rest of your career, long after you've left the job for which you're interviewing.

That's a lot to carry, in addition to your regular job responsibilities, and some pretty high-profile people have lost their jobs once their past resume fictions came to light, including C-level executives. You don't want to work your way up the org chart only to get caught once you get to the corner office.

As Mark Twain once said, "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."

Be Prepared to Address Employment Gaps

The best thing to do if you have gaps in employment is to proactively cultivate and supply positive recommendations to counter any potential negative information that might be uncovered if an employer checks your employment history.

It is often advisable to anticipate employer concerns about significant employment gaps and address the gaps for which you have a good explanation directly during the interview.

How to Conduct a Job Search When you Have Gaps in Your Resume

Finally, although you should expect your employment gaps to come to light during the interview process, and be prepared to explain them, you don't have to volunteer the information during the job search process.

One way to make sure a potential employer sees your skills and qualifications and not the months you've been unemployed is to prepare a functional resume, rather than a chronological one.

This type of resume highlights what you can do, without offering up a linear work history.

While a prospective employer could – and probably will – still uncover the gaps in your employment history during the background check phase of the process, a resume that shows off your skills might get your foot in the door.

Read More: Employment Background Checks | How to Find Your Employment History | Employment Credit Checks