How far back can employers check references?

Written by james rada, jr.
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When you apply for a new job, you will submit a resume or application that will have a variety of references that can be investigated by a prospective employer: educational, work, personal and professional. Experienced workers can have extensive histories with many references that can be checked out to develop an idea of your work style and ethic. The average employment history for employers to check, however, is about five years.

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Work Contacts

To verify your work history, a potential employer will call either the human resources department at the businesses where you worked or your supervisors that you list on your resume. Employers might ask for verification of the employment dates, your job titles, salary and any other questions that they are legally allowed to ask. Since it is generally recommended that you need not list work history further back than five years, this is far back as an employer will check.

Personal and Professional References

Personal and professional references are people whom know you better than a work contact, though they may also be someone whom you worked with at a former job. Employers are most likely to check professional references first and then personal ones. Professional references also have more credibility, according to the Career Doctor website. Since you choose who you list as a reference, the employer can check as far back as you list a reference. You will want to focus on people who can give you a positive recommendation, but the more recently they have observed your work habits, the better.

Education Contacts

Employers are not as concerned with your education history unless you are a recent graduate. Employers will contact your schools and verify your dates of attendance and degrees awarded. These are set dates that you can't change so an employer can verify as far back as your education goes.

Avoiding Liability

Employers need to verify your information and capabilities before hiring you to avoid negligent hiring liability. Depending on the job responsibilities, this may involve performing a background and criminal check on you. Typical criminal checks will go back at least seven years verifying information and checking your history.

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