Where does the employment verification information come from?
November 23, 2021 12:51 PM   Subscribe

I recently got a new job where the company hiring me used an online employment verification service. I was honestly worried about this because I suspected there would be stuff that wouldn’t match despite my best efforts to get them right. Turns out, EVERYTHING was right expect this inconsequential part time on call job where I worked maybe 10-15 hours a month. I would love any insight in this and perhaps reassurance that this is ok?

The discrepancy occurred with the job title and end date. Turns out, whichever database they’re looking at has me as a current employee, despite the fact that they are no longer in business (acquired by another company) and I was not retained as an employee. I have all the documentation I need to dispute the discrepancies, and the former leaders at this company have made contact with this other company to explain that it would not be possible that I am still a current employee of a business that no longer exists. I think the job title issue is ultimately ok. I sent them my offer letter from the company in question that lists the job title I provided. But everyone is a bit confused. In what are they seeing this information? How would this end date issue occur? I’m freaking out that this weird issue is going to jeopardize this opportunity (and others like it!).
posted by ancient star to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I flounced out of a doctoral program in such a way that I didn't know my formal end date. It's never even come up, except for a job I recently started, which ran a background check that included contacting every university I attended. I put down the date my masters in passing (which is what's on my resume from that school) was awarded, and then spent several days agonizing over "Well, what if the school says my end date is [about 18 months after that, exactly when is unclear], and [new job] decides that's unacceptable dishonesty and cans me after I've already given notice at [old job]?" As it turns out, the PDF I got from the background check company does include both the date I gave, and the date the university gave, but it's not flagged as any sort of problem, and nobody's ever mentioned it to me. And now I've got the formal end date, in case I ever need it again for whatever reason.

If nobody's flagged it as a problem, it's probably not a problem. If they are concerned, then it sounds like you've got the right contacts to sort this out between the company that wants to hire you, and the company you no longer work at, so it's probably not a problem.
posted by Alterscape at 1:00 PM on November 23, 2021

I would just contact the hiring company's HR department and ask for clarification with a verbal description of the problem.

I had to give manager references to 'prove' my employment at all my prior jobs, and when I explained there were several I could not provide (up to and including individuals in jail, dead and out of the country), I was agonizing over it and even tossed the question to askme too. I just called the hiring manager and they were like "oh that's fine, don't worry about it." It never came up after that.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:03 PM on November 23, 2021

Response by poster: Yea, I suppose I’ve been acting a bit proactively today. I saw that there were discrepancies this morning and then I worked to correct them, but it was never actually made explicit to me that it was a problem. I contacted the onboarding person and they said to provide and supporting documentation of the discrepancies, but it’s possible she was just thinking ahead as well…

I’m honestly mostly curious where this information came from, since it clearly didn’t actually come from my previous employer. Is there a database? How is that built?
posted by ancient star at 1:12 PM on November 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have had weird stuff borked on those background checks before and nobody has batted an eye. It's likely that the dissolution process of that old company scrambled the data so it doesn't really make sense to whatever algo puts together the results. Usually when you fill out the approval form for background checks there's a comment field for anything weird you want to flag, you can just say "it's come up before that my job at X has no end date and it looks like I still work there, but they went out of business in 20XX." (I had a roommate who always had to warn prospective employers that if they background-checked him he was NOT the person with the same name and birthdate with a felony for sexual assault, check the SSNs, so...it could be worse.)

I would not want to work at a company that made a big deal about this. Unless you need a security clearance this whole process is intrusive bullshit.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:15 PM on November 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm in HR and I field VOE calls and paperwork all the time. The only thing we ever disclose is dates of employment and job title. These calls fall into three broad categories:

- Calling re. someone who's worked here in the last few years, we have all their data on file, the call is over in 30 seconds.

- Calling re. someone we have no record of at all. This could be an accident (e.g. someone was vague on a resume but mentioned the industry but not the employer and our SEO is good enough we're the top result for the industry) or it's someone who used to work for a company we acquired but years before we acquired them, meaning we have zero data on them as employees whatsoever.

- Calling re. someone who worked here in the dark startup ages of the company before people were keeping good records. I usually only know THAT someone worked here at SOME point, but can't provide any accurate data. VOE people hate this because these are generally outsourced hires filling in boxes on a form, and there's no good input option for "they worked here but I don't know their title and they must have left prior to 2015." Sometimes this is "I don't have a term date for this employee," which I suppose someone could interpret as "active hire." I wonder if this is what happened to you.

If I were you I would worry about this a very small amount to not at all. You could call the previous employer to clear things up, but personally I wouldn't change any of our HR records because some rando called me on the phone. From the employer/hiring side of the chair, I figure (I say because my company doesn't run this kinda crap, it's a waste of time frankly) it has to be EXTREMELY common to get bad data during VOEs. Honestly if it puts your offer in jeopardy beyond something you can clear up in a quick chat I would put that as a strike against the potential employer. If they're that nitpicky about something that goes wrong literally all the time, they will probably be micromanaging dickweasels about all kinds of shit.
posted by phunniemee at 1:23 PM on November 23, 2021 [4 favorites]

I’m honestly mostly curious where this information came from, since it clearly didn’t actually come from my previous employer.

I think I was typing my response when you wrote this but it almost certainly came from your previous employer, or whichever contact phone number result comes up first on google when you search for your previous employer.
posted by phunniemee at 1:42 PM on November 23, 2021

Response by poster: re: phunniemee — they’re no longer in business, so I’m not sure who they’d have called.
posted by ancient star at 1:51 PM on November 23, 2021

Best answer: I know that Equifax runs one of the big third-party verification services. I think they just have a huge database of employment records that they probably buy from employers or payroll companies? But like with your credit report, there are going to be some mistakes. Probably when your old company wound down they didn't close out all their employee records correctly or something with the payroll company. I'm guessing it all ties into whatever the heck is going on when TurboTax automatically downloads my W-2 from ADP.

I'm trying to access my own record in the Equifax database right this minute because you got me curious!
posted by mskyle at 2:08 PM on November 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Most employment history checks only check the last three or five employers, and just verifies that you did indeed work in the job and company you said you did. The end of employment should be of no relevance. Checkr.com for example indicates they can show candidates' last three employers.
posted by kschang at 2:14 PM on November 23, 2021

Best answer: There is one database run by Equifax called The Work Number. As I understand it, companies (including my employer) voluntarily submit data on their own employees, and then direct all external verification requests to that service. I pulled my own report, and can see my current title (in exactly the same format as it appears in our internal system), and annual pay history going back to when I started, and info from each paycheck going back to 2016. There's an "Employment Status" box where I'm listed as "Active". And if your company stopped sharing at the time of the acquisition, that may be the last reported status for you, though there's also an "Information Current as of:" date field that should clue someone in on that.

They market themselves as allowing me to perform instant self-service employment or income verifications, but I can also see that four businesses I have credit with (3 credit cards and a bank) have accessed my data in the last 24 months. It wouldn't be surprising that someone in the business of doing employment verifications would use this or a similar service.

Note that (assuming you're in the US), if the employer decides not to hire you as a result of a background check, you have specific rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Notably, they have to tell you what service they used, and that service has to let you dispute the data, and give you copies of the report.

And echoing the other commenters--you should probably sit back and wait until the new employer asks you about the discrepancies. It sort of sounds like they opted to forward you the report anyway, and you saw the language about correcting discrepancies, but no one ever said that there was any actual issue? I would expect that (unless the title that came back was more junior than your actual title), your new employer shouldn't make a big deal about this.
posted by yuwtze at 3:04 PM on November 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

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