The Meaning of Work History In Career Applications

The Meaning of Work History In Career Applications


Updated January 19, 2019

Your work history, also known as your work record or employment history, is a detailed report of all the jobs you have held, including the company name, job title, and dates of employment. Here is some insight into when you need to provide your work history and how to provide it, along with tips for building your resume.

When You Need to Provide Your Career History

When you apply for jobs, companies typically require that applicants provide their work history, either on their resume or on a job application, or both. The job application may ask for information on your most recent jobs, typically two to five positions. Or, the employer may ask for a number of years of experience, typically five to ten years of experience.

Employers generally want information on the company you worked for, your job title, and the dates you were employed there. However, sometimes the employer will ask for more detailed employment history and more information on the jobs you have held as part of the hiring process. For example, he or she might ask for the name and contact information for your previous supervisors.

What Employers Are Looking For

Employers review employment history to determine whether the jobs the applicant has held and their experience are a good match for the company’s requirements. They also look at how long the person has held each job. Many jobs of short duration may imply the candidate is a job hopper and won’t stay long if hired.

Prospective employers also use your work history to verify the information you have provided. Many employers conduct employment background checks to confirm the information is accurate. Background checks have become increasingly common in all work industries, so make sure that the information you share is accurate.

Recreating Your Job History

Sometimes, it can be difficult to remember elements of your job history, such as the specific dates that you worked at a company. When this happens, don’t guess. Because background checks are so common, it is likely that an employer will spot a mistake on your history, and it could cost you a job.

When you can’t remember your work history, there is information available that you can use to recreate your personal employment history. Below are some suggestions for creating your job history:

  • Contact Prior Employers. Contact the human resources departments of your previous employers. Say that you would like to confirm the exact dates of your employment with the company.
  • Look at Your Tax Returns. Check out your old tax returns and tax forms, which should have information on your employment over previous years.
  • Check with your state unemployment office. Often, unemployment offices will provide individuals with their employment histories. However, they typically only have information on in-state employment histories.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration. You can request earnings informationfrom the Social Security Administration (SSA). After filling out a form, the SSA will usually release information on your work history. Keep in mind that sometimes the SSA charges a fee, depending on how far back you want the information to go, and how much detail you need.
  • Don’t Pay for Information. With the exception of the SSA, you should not pay someone to find your work history or to create a list of your work history for you.
  • Keep Track of Your History. Once you have your work history, compile it into a list and save it somewhere. Be sure to update it regularly. You can then refer to this list any time you apply for jobs.

What It Should Look Like on a Resume

Job seekers typically include work history in the “Experience” or “Related Employment” section of a resume. In this section, list the companies you worked for, your job titles, and the dates of employment. One additional element to your work history on a resume is a list (often a bulleted list) of your achievements and responsibilities at each job.

You do not need to (and should not) include every work experience in your “Experience” section. Focus on jobs, internships, and even volunteer work that is related to the job at hand. One useful tip is to make sure whatever work history you include on your job applications matches what is on your resume and LinkedIn profile. Make sure there are no inconsistencies that could raise a red flag for employers.

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