What Is an Employment History or Work History? (With FAQs)

Updated September 30, 2022

Keeping a detailed employment history can help you show that you are a good match for a position you apply for. Regardless of your job experience and qualifications, knowing your employment history can have a direct impact on the success of your job search. Keeping track of your employment history is a valuable job search tool, but it requires research and organization. In this article, we discuss what an employment history is, why it is important and provide several ways in which you can collect this information.

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What is employment history?

A person's employment history is a record containing relevant information on their previous workplaces. It is typically used by candidates in their applications and by people who apply for unemployment benefits. Some companies are only interested in recent employment history, spanning over the previous few years, while others may require a more extensive employment history containing all the candidate's previous workplaces. The employment history is usually listed on the resume, in the job application or both places.

Related: How to Share Your Salary History

Elements of employment history

An employment history usually contains each previously held job titles, along with company names and the duration of employment for each. Some employers may also request the names and contact information of your previous supervisors while depending on specific state and local laws some potential employers may request access to your criminal record, salary history and credit history.

Why does employment history matter?

Your employment history can help hiring managers assess your work experience and acquired skills, helping them determine whether you are a good match for the role you are applying for. They can also gather information regarding your company loyalty, as an employment history with many short-term roles can be an indicator that a candidate is not interested in staying with a single company for many years. They can also be a method of verifying a candidate's honesty, as many employers conduct parallel background checks to verify the information on the resume or job application.

Related: Functional Resume vs. Chronological Resume: What's the Difference?

How to determine your employment history

There are several ways in which you can get information on your employment history if you can't remember the details yourself. Some of them are:

  1. Reach out to previous employers. One of the most straightforward ways of getting information regarding your previous jobs is directly contacting the respective companies. Most companies have detailed employee records and they are able to answer any inquiry regarding your role in the company and the duration of your employment.

  2. Check your state's unemployment office. Many state unemployment offices can provide detailed information regarding the employment history of people living in that state. If your employment history spans across multiple states, however, you will have to retrieve the information from each state's unemployment office.

  3. Check with the Social Security Administration. You can request information regarding your previous earnings and work history from the Social Security Administration by filling out a form. You may be charged a fee, depending on the level of detail you need in your search and the length of your employment history.

  4. Examine your tax returns. If you keep your tax returns and tax forms, the information on them should give you relevant details regarding your previous workplaces.

  5. Check credit reports. While credit reporting agencies will probably not have direct information regarding your employment history, if you applied for a loan, credit card or any other credit-related matter, your report may have information regarding your employer at that time.

  6. Keep your own records. Once you collected all needed information on previous jobs you can start to compile a list of all company names, roles, and the first and last days of employment. You can update it when needed and retrieve it any time you need it to apply for a new job.

Related: How to Choose Which Jobs to List on an Application

Do you need help with your resume?

Frequently asked questions about employment history

How should employment history be listed on my resume?

The most common place for your employment history is under the “Experience” section. It should, however, also contain information regarding your job duties and most notable achievements in each position, along with the company name, exact role and time interval for each. It is usually a good idea to only include work experiences that are relevant to the job you are applying for, but it should also match any public professional profile you may have, to avoid inconsistencies.

How can I start keeping track of my employment history?

After getting up to date with your work history up to the present day, you can create a computer file or a physical log of all professional developments. Write down every new job, promotion, new job duties, any significant accomplishments or awards and any other information you may find relevant. Although you may not use all the information you have written down, having detailed records allows you to use the details that are relevant to the position you are applying for.

Do you have to list all employment history?

The number of previous positions or the number of previous employment years that need to be detailed in your work history depends on the preferences of the hiring manager. In some cases, they only ask candidate to provide the last five to seven years of work history, while in other situations they will require a complete list of every job you have had throughout your career.

What do I write in employment history if I have none?

People with no relevant employment history can showcase their skills rather than their experience. Any history of volunteer work or academic projects can also be helpful, as well as a well-written cover letter. The goal is to let the hiring manager know that you have the soft skills required for the role and you are willing to work hard to acquire the hard skills.

How do I fill out a gap in my employment history?

Being unemployed for more than six months can significantly affect your future job searches, as employers may think you no longer have the required skills for a certain role. It's best to try and fill any gap in your career with contract-based work, volunteering work and any form of training courses or classes.

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