How To Find Your Employment History

By Chris Kolmar - Sep. 20, 2021
Articles In Guide

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While applying for a job, you’ll likely be asked to provide your employment history.

It works as a method of employee screening for employers as they conduct a background check, or it just helps give them an idea of your work experience.

Your employment history is a record of the work positions you’ve held in the past. It varies by employer, so sometimes you’ll be asked for recent history (the past couple of years), and sometimes for an extensive history going back many years.

This might be difficult for you to document if you don’t have much work experience or if you’ve been in the workforce for a long time and have worked many positions across many companies. Don’t worry too much; this is something you can put together on your own.

We’ll walk you through all the necessary components of an employment history report and how you can keep track of it moving forward.

What Is an Employment History Report?

An employment history report, also known as a work history report, is a comprehensive list of every occupation you’ve held in your life. This information is important for others to recognize what experience level and skill set you possess, which can be critical for determining whether you’re suitable for a job.

What to Include in an Employment History Report

As you apply for new jobs, you’ll be prompted to provide a list of all your previous work. Employers rely on this information for background checking, and it’s expected to be an accurate representation of dates and job responsibilities. You also need your recent work history when you apply for unemployment benefits.

In a report of your employment history, you should include the following details:

  • Your job title

  • Name and location of the company

  • Supervisor’s contact information (optional)

  • Start and end date of your employment

  • Duties and responsibilities of your position

Hiring managers use all of the above information as verification of your work background. If they’re especially thorough, they could potentially contact your previous employers to confirm what you’ve listed. (You might have been told to exaggerate your accomplishments on your resume, but that can do more harm than good.)

Some of the details you include could be listed in the job description provided by the company you worked for or a general summary of your daily tasks. If you worked on any unique projects or introduced ideas into your department, definitely include those along with duties and responsibilities.

It’s also a good idea to address any significant gaps between jobs. You could provide an explanation anywhere in the job application and dress the gaps up as skill-building opportunities.

Did you stop working while you prepared to go back to school? Mention that you value higher education, and that the research and application process helped you gain some time-management skills.

In the case that you don’t have much professional paid work experience, volunteer and nonprofit experience could translate to professional skills. Leadership roles in clubs, organizations, and societies also correlate to experience in a professional environment.

Problem-solving and adaptability,” “team-oriented work,” and “strong communication skills” are some buzzwords that we often see in early, starter resumes.

How to Find Your Employment History

Ideally, you remember the details of your employment background or have them compiled in a document somewhere. However, this isn’t always possible, especially if you have a vast job history or haven’t worked for a long period of time.

To avoid inaccurate information or an incomplete report, rely on outside resources if you know that your memory isn’t strong enough. If dates, company names, or job titles don’t match with what your employers discover through a background check, it could raise some red flags in the hiring process.

So what do you do when you can’t remember all the exact details of your past employment?

You can put together a work history report with documents from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the IRS, your past employers, credit reports, or online records.

  1. Requesting social security information. The Social Security Administration can give you a statement of your employment history after you submit a “Request for Social Security Earnings Information” form. Since you provide every company you work for with your social security number every time you’re hired, all of your employment is traceable through that number.

    Depending on how far back into your employment history you want to go, the SSA charges a fee. You have the option of a certified or non-certified statement, but a non-certified statement is standard when finding your employment history yourself.

    These fees are pretty expensive: $91 for a non-certified statement and $125 for a certified statement. It might be best to use this method as your last-ditch effort, to avoid spending money if your employment information is available somewhere else.

    Time is another variable factor when relying on the SSA. It may take up to four months to process a report, depending on SSA availability at the time of your request. You might not have this kind of time to spare during your job hunt. Consider putting in a request with the SSA and trying some of the other methods in the meantime.

    You can also request social security information at your local unemployment office, as long as you’ve worked for in-state employers.

  2. Referring to tax returns. Either you have saved copies of your tax returns over the years or you can request them from the IRS. There, you’ll find the W-2 forms you received from your employers. These forms will provide identifiable information about the company, as well as the income you earned while working there.

    You might also be able to access your tax returns from online tax prep services, if you use them.

  3. Contacting past employers. Check with the human resources department of companies you’ve worked for in the past.

    Maybe you remember the company name and your job title, but you’re unsure of the dates of employment. If you let them know that you’re seeking confirmation, they’ll likely have records of your job title, duties, and employment dates.

  4. Referring to credit reports. This method isn’t a surefire way to recover employment information, since credit agencies don’t generally keep that kind of information. But if you provided any details about your employer when applying for a loan or credit card, you might be in luck.

    Your credit report could possibly verify the date of your most recent employment status as part of your credit history. You get one free credit report per year from the three nationwide credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

  5. Online records. You may be able to find some of your previous work experience online if you have any profiles on networking websites. These could include past resumes or details about your past jobs.

    It’s a bit of a stretch, but you could also look through old emails for any correspondence with previous employers or coworkers. The search bar in your Gmail or Outlook account could come in really handy while searching for work-related keywords in your inbox or sent archives.

Employment History on a Resume

Now that you’ve done all that detective work and hunted down your work history, you can put it all together on your resume.

Most of the time, your employment history is documented in your resume under a header like “Experience” or “Employment”. You should list each job from most recent to oldest.

Though some of the above options for finding your employment history will remind you of a ton of varied experience over the years, you shouldn’t include all of it in your resume. Keep it limited to whatever is relevant to the job you’re applying for.

For example, if the prospective job is an editorial position at a publishing company, a few entries on your resume might look like this:

Gator University Press, Gainesville, FL — Editing, Design, Production Intern

AUGUST 2019 – MAY 2020

  • Evaluated academic manuscripts for production

  • Added typesetting codes to manuscripts

  • Proofread/copyedited texts and indexes for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors

Writers Literary Magazine, Jacksonville, FL — Fiction Website Editor

AUGUST 2017 – JUNE 2019

  • Reviewed and selected fiction content for publication

  • Proofread drafts of new magazine issues in preparation for publication

  • Represented staff in larger online presence.

Formatting varies depending on the template you use, but the information should follow a similar model. Always include the name of the company, location of the company, job title, start and end date, and a summary of responsibilities and notable accomplishments in a short bullet-point list.

Regardless of if your resume format is chronological, functional, or combination, it’s standard practice to write your work history in reverse chronological order. That means starting with the most recent experiences and working your way back through your past.

If you really want to optimize your resume, pay close attention to the job description. Take note of the keywords that are used, and look for ways to naturally and honestly incorporate those same words into your resume. If you can, quantify your achievements; hiring managers and recruiters are more impressed by the data-backed results you’ve accomplished, rather than qualitative assessments.

Keep Track of Your Employment History

If you’ve gone through the process of unearthing your work history, you want to make sure you don’t ever have to go through the trouble again.

The best way to keep track of your employment history is to update your resume regularly and save copies. Make changes as you move to different jobs, get promoted, or change work responsibilities. It might help to create a comprehensive document of all your previous employment, to keep a record of it all in one place. You can refer to it while crafting smaller resumes more tailored to specific job applications.

Your online profiles should stay up-to-date, too. Whether you’re using LinkedIn or job board sites in your job search, you should add as much detail to your profiles as possible.

Finding a job already has its fair share of anxieties and uncertainties. Keep extensive records of your work history, update your master resume regularly, and feel confident that you’ve got at least one part of the application process locked down.

Employment History FAQ

  • Can you lie about employment history? While you certainly can lie about your employment history, companies have ways of finding out whether you’re being truthful. If caught lying about your work experience, you won’t be offered the job.

    Additionally, if the company finds out about your lie after you’ve been hired, they will cause to terminate you. You’ll also lose them as a reference. A far smarter approach is using artful improvements to embellish your resume, without telling any outright lies.

  • Can I leave a job off my resume? Yes, you can leave a job off your resume. In fact, if the former job isn’t relevant or it’s from a long time ago, you shouldn’t include it on your resume.

  • How far back should work history go? Work history should go back between 10-15 years. For experience between 10 and 15 years, ask yourself whether the job is impressive or relevant enough to warrant including it. Also consider whether more recent entries cover your expertise well enough, making decade-old accomplishments seem redundant.

    A good rule of thumb is to shoot for between three to five work entries, as this is enough to showcase your range of experience. With more than five job entries, you may come across as a job-hopper and viewed as a flight risk.

  • What do I do if I can’t remember my employment history? If you can’t find your employment history, try referring to tax returns from the IRS, requesting your earnings information from the Social Security Administration, or contacting your former employers.

    If you can’t remember a job you worked in the past, there’s a good chance it doesn’t belong on your resume anyway. Don’t worry about leaving off some unimportant jobs — you can change your work experience dates to only years (2020) instead of months and years (March, 2020).

    That way, you’re not making unnecessary gaps in your employment history, but you’re still optimizing your resume to show only the most relevant experience.

Final Thoughts

Know your employment history is the first step to writing an effective resume. And seeing as your resume is a chance to make a great first impression, it’s worth the effort of tracking down exactly what to include in your work history section.

Just remember that resumes should generally be no longer than one page, so you shouldn’t include every detail from your employment history — only the stuff that’s most impressive and relevant to the job you’re applying for.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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