One of the questions I get asked quite often is what type of information will employers ask when they verify my previous employment or check my references. The question often correlates to the broader question of are they going to catch me if I fudge my dates of employment or my job title or the salary I was earning?
What Employers Check
The answer is that it depends... It depends on how much verification the employer does during the hiring process. Some employers will confirm, very thoroughly, every detail of your resume or application. Others may do a cursory check or none at all. So, the problem with stretching the truth or embellishing your resume (other than that it's lying) is that there is a chance that you'll get caught, either now or at some point in the future. If you do get caught, you won't get the job or, if you've already been hired, you might get fired.
How to Explain an Employment Gap
What can you do, instead, to put a positive spin on gaps in employment or jobs that aren't so great? One solution is to be creative and write descriptions of your position that put a positive slant on your responsibilities. "Extensive work with visual standards and merchandising high-ticket items." sounds much better than "Set up clothes racks." "I recently taught at risk preschool children. This position enabled me to provide those students with a head start in mastering basic skills." is much more effective than "Teacher assistant for Head Start." Take a look at our resume and cover letter samples to get some ideas on how to write a resume that will work for your situation.
How about filling in gaps on your resume? When listing dates on your resume you don't need to list the month/year if you were in a position for over a year or if your position spans years. You can say 2004 - 2007, for example, which will give you some room to cover gaps.
You don't need to list all your positions on your resume. The rule of thumb is typically to limit your experience to 15 years for a managerial job, 10 years for a technical job, and 5 years for a high-tech job. You can leave your other experience off your resume or list it without dates in an "Other Experience" category.
Include Other Work
Remember, too, that any volunteering, freelance work, consulting or can be listed in the employment section of your resume. List it just as you would list your other jobs - with job title, company name, dates of employment, etc.
Keep in mind, that there are a lot of people who have been out of work for a long time. It's not going to be a concern for most employers, because so many candidates are in the same situation. Finally, if you're asked why you weren't working during an interview, tell the truth. It's perfectly acceptable to say that you were home with your family, or laid-off or whatever else you might have been doing.
Being flexible and creative instead of padding or fudging your resume is going to get you much further in the long run and you won't have to lose sleep over whether someone is going to ask the wrong question and catch you!Employment Eligibility Verification
Finally, when hired for a new job, employees are required to prove that they are legally entitled to work in the United States. Employers are required to verify the identity and eligibility to work for all new employees. An Employment Eligibility Verification form (I-9) must be completed and kept on file by the employer.