Verification of Employment Letter: Everything to Know
A verification of employment letter is a letter confirming someone’s current or former employment status with an employer.6 min read
Verification of Employment Letter
A verification of employment letter is a letter confirming someone’s current or former employment status with an employer. Employees sometimes need these letters for future employment, a mortgage or credit application, or a rental application. Employers need to be careful in the drafting of these letters to avoid any potential liability. Employees also need to understand the rules surrounding these letters to ensure they get a letter which will serve their purposes.
The Basics of Employment Verification Letters
Purpose: Employment verification letters are used for a number of purposes. A prospective future employer may want one to make sure the information provided by a job applicant about their prior employment is accurate. Some departing employees request them in order to supply with job applications. Verification letters for current employment are also often required by mortgage lenders, finance companies (for car loans, for example) and landlords to verify an ongoing source of income. These letters are sometimes also needed for insurance reasons, or by government agencies in wage garnishment situations.
Contents: In general, an employment verification letter will include:
- Employment Status
- Dates of Employment
- Job Title
Occasionally the request for the letter will ask for more information, for example, employment history, the address in the employee’s file, salary growth and/or an assessment of job performance. Issuers of employment verification need to be very careful in responding to such requests because of the liability risks associated with certain information disclosures.
Making A Request for an Employment Verification Letter
Request from the Employee: When an employee requests an employment verification letter it’s important to handle the process professionally. If the company has an HR department, that is where the request should be directed. If you are a current employee, check with your HR department about the process. Often, they will prepare the letter, or provide you with a form or template for your manager to use. If you don’t have an HR department at your company, speak with your manager about the request. If they don’t have a template or form, it is a good idea to offer to prepare one for them to minimize the burden of preparing the letter. This will also help to ensure that the information you hope to have included in the letter is included—but be mindful that there are some things your manager may not be permitted to include in the letter for liability reasons. For example, don’t ask them to state that you were the best employee ever or that your salary should be doubled. Keep your request reasonable and professional.
Request from A Prospective Employer or Other Third Party: If you are making a request to verify a person’s employment for credit or other non-employment reasons, keep the request brief and professional. Typically, all that should be requested is name, title, salary, and dates of employment.
Request from a Prospective New Employer: If you are seeking to verify the employment of someone you are considering hiring, you may want to go further with your request. Verification of past employment is an essential part of applicant screening, and many prospective employers prefer to do this using a letter rather than over the phone. It’s important to ensure that prospective employees have given you accurate information. Human resources professionals will tell you that many people inflate their background and salaries in seeking new employment. While there are other sources of employee references, like reference letters they supply or include on their LinkedIn profiles, there are risks to relying on these alone. Reference letters can be faked, and recently there have been situations of applicants falsifying LinkedIn references by having friends create them or even making up fake profiles to create them themselves. More concerning, online businesses have cropped up where you can actually buy fake LinkedIn references to have posted to your profile. This has become enough of a problem that recruiters have developed strategies for how to detect a fake LinkedIn recommendation.
There is nothing wrong with verifying that the information an applicant has provided you is truthful and so it is acceptable to ask about performance, reasons for leaving, normal working hours, skills you are concerned the prospective employee may have exaggerated, etc., to see if anything was mis-represented. Not all former employers will answer all the questions on your form, but it cannot hurt to have them there. However, be careful not to stray into impermissible inquiries like questions about the employee’s health status. It’s a good idea to prepare a standard form you will use for all employment verification requests and then have a lawyer review it to make sure there are no red flags.
Be sure to include dates of employment in your verification request. False dates of employment are a red flag that may point to an issue your applicant is trying to hide. Request the specific hire and departure dates from former employers and compare them carefully to the applicant’s submission.
Providing an Employment Verification Letter
Employment verification letters should be written professionally and with care, like any other formal business correspondence.
Manager Writing the Letter: If you are asked for a verification letter from a current employee, remember that there may be important issues on the line for them like a mortgage, a loan for a child’s college, new apartment, and so on. This may be a chore for you, but it is important, and probably stressful for the employee and needs to be taken seriously.
If you are writing a verification letter for a departing or former employee the issues are equally serious as you do not want to include anything in the letter that could become evidence in a court case—whether from the employee for wrongful dismissal or damaging their future employment prospects or from a new employer who claims you “oversold” the applicant.
If your company has an HR department check with them on the process for verification letters. They may want to prepare the letter out of the HR department or may have a form they want you to use, or may want to review your final letter before it is provided to whoever made the request.
If you write the letter yourself, make sure it is as professional as any other piece of business correspondence you might issue. You want the letter to reflect positively on your business. Here are some basic tips:
- If the request relates to a current employee and they have not mentioned it to you, check with them first to ensure they authorize the disclosure
- If the request relates to a former employee check with HR or your exit file to ensure that there is a release of information on file. If not, check with HR or your attorney about how much information if any you should release. If the request includes the employee’s signature, check it against their signature in your files.
- Use official letter head or business letter format
- Type the letter, do not supply a handwritten note
- Include your contact information
- Include the recipient’s contact information if you have it
- Include a formal business salutation
- Keep the letter brief
- Do not include information over and above what the request asked for
- Include a final sentence indicating that you are available if the recipient has any further questions
- Review the letter for errors or typos before signing
- Include a handwritten signature
Employee Writing the Letter: If you are writing an employment verification letter to be signed by your manager or HR department, follow these guidelines:
- Check first to be sure they are OK with you writing the letter and if they prefer that HR or the manager draft the letter, don’t insist on writing it yourself. Many companies have policies on this issue.
- Use company letterhead if you are a current employee of the company verifying employment
- Include full contact information for the manager who will sign the letter
- Write in the first person as though you were the person signing the letter
- Keep the tone professional
- Don’t exaggerate your income or duties
If you are a former employee seeking a verification letter, chances are the former employer will want to prepare the letter rather than having you write it. If you are asked to draft a letter on behalf of a former employer, follow the guidelines above but provide your draft to the former employer on plain white paper and ask them to transfer it to company letterhead and include appropriate contact information.
Things That Should Never Be Included in the Verification Letter or Request
There are a number of impermissible disclosures that should not be included in any verification letter. In order to avoid any potential issues with state or federal fair employment and privacy laws, steer clear of ever mentioning race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or health status in a verification letter. Gender usually will come up in the letter through the use of the proper name of the person the letter is about, and pronouns, but beyond that should not be commented on.
Avoid over-disclosing information you may have about the employee’s personal life, for example, any future plans to have a family or obligations they have related to their kids. In general, stick to the facts and to what was specifically requested and have HR or a lawyer review any disclosures you feel uncomfortable about before you make them.
If you need help with a verification letter, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe and Twilio.