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Employment History: What It Is & How to Find It

This one goes out to all the jobs we've ever had before

Women welding in the 1940s
Photo courtesy of Science in HD

What is employment history?

Employment history is simply a record of your previous employment. Many job applications will ask for your employment history as a listed document of employer names, job titles, start and end dates, and job responsibilities. Since the hiring manager might want to verify your history by calling employers or completing a background check, it’s necessary to have access to the most accurate and up-to-date information. Plus, having your work history handy is also helpful when creating or updating your resume, and applying for benefits or licenses. 

If you’ve worked at various places over the course of many years or have had lots of seasonal side-hustles, it might be difficult to remember the timeline of every single job you’ve ever worked. If you’re stumped on your complete personal work history, there are several steps you can take to help find it. 

Read more: Is Lying on a Resume Ever Okay?

How to find your employment history if you don’t have it:

1. Search through copies of your tax record 

At the end of every year, employers are required to send full- and part-time employees W-2 forms. Those forms can help you fill in work history gaps relating to previous employers’ names and addresses, how long you worked at a specific company, how much you earned, and how much money was withheld for taxes. 

If you haven’t kept any copies of your previous tax returns, you can request a copy online from the IRS—just keep in mind that they can only issue returns from the past seven years. And although your tax forms won’t outline your job responsibilities, seeing the company name and job title might start to jog your memory. 

Read more: How to Respond to: May We Contact This Employer?

2. Look through files saved on your computer

Yes, it may be tedious, but sifting through old files on your laptop’s hard drive might help you find a document related to a previous job that’ll help you fill in your work history timeline. 

As a last resort, you can even try looking through old journal entries to see if you wrote down any information about a job that you loved (or despised). 

Read more: Ask a Recruiter: How Can I Move On After Working in a Toxic Environment?

3. Use Social Security records

You can use your social security records to find previous employment details since employers usually have access to your social security number to verify that you’re eligible to work in the US and report your income. To access your records, you’ll have to pay a fee and fill out a form online with your name, social security number, and date of birth. 

Once you receive your record, you’ll be able to see all of your employment history that’s attached to your social security number. You can either send those records directly to a potential employer or use it to inform your resume. 

4. Search your name on the internet

Put on your detective monocle and do a deep search engine dive of your name. Keep an eye out for any previous job information that could pop up like an old article you wrote for a job or a work event you attended that was covered in the news. Look for blog entries, social media tags, search images—anything that could give you insight into a previous job. 

5. Check your credit reports

Credit reporting agencies don’t always keep records on an individual’s employment history, but you might be able to find some information about your previous work history if you provided information about your employer when applying for a loan or a credit card.

Ask for a free credit report at the end of the year to check if there’s an employment verification date or a date when your employment status was last reported.

Read more: Employment Verification Letter: All The Goods

6. Search through your inbox history

Get creative and look back through your old emails to see if you can find information or emails from a previous employer. Try searching for work-related or industry-specific keywords that you can remember. Perhaps you remember a former coworker from a past position but not the dates you worked at that company—searching for that coworker’s name could give you a better idea of when you worked at the company. You could look for emails relating to interview scheduling, contract signing, two weeks’ notice, etc. 

Read more: Reasons for Leaving a Job: How to Talk to an Employer About Yours

7. Talk to human resources at a previous job

If you remember a previous company name and your job responsibilities but not the exact dates you worked there, you can try contacting their HR department (if you were fired or experienced badmouthing from this former employer, this might not be the best route). Chances are, they’ll probably have a record of your start and end dates and might be able to offer you even more information about your time there. 

Read more: How to Make Any Employment Gap Sound Good

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