By Myles Harding, Managing Director, Inline Reference Check
There are many employment verification methods on the market today, but not all are created equally. With that in mind, we wanted to explore: what exactly is The Work Number and is it good for employees?
What is The Work Number?The Work Number is Equifax’s employment and income verification service. Originally created by TALX Corporation, it was acquired by Equifax in 2007. Some pre-employment screening agencies use The Work Number to verify employment history and income claims. The Work Number is also used by financial institutions, social service agencies, landlords and property managers.
Employment Verification is their flagship service - it provides details about an employee’s work history including who they were employed by, their job title, their employer’s headquarters, length of employment and current employment status. This service doesn’t disclose the employee’s salary, but their Income & Employment Verification service does.
Is it good for employees?With the latter service, detailed information about an employee’s compensation will be disclosed so long as it’s been provided by the employer. That information could include wages, commissions, and bonuses along with historical and projected pay increases. It’s easy to see why this information is valuable to employers, but it’s also simple to understand why the disclosure of these details may be less advantageous for candidates and employees.
Imagine for a moment that your current employer is paying you significantly less than the market value for your role based on your skills and experience, and attempts to request a review of your compensation have been rejected. You may then consider looking for work elsewhere. It’s likely that the question of your current salary will come up at some point during the interview process with a potential employer (though recently introduced legislation may prevent this in the future).
What would you do in this situation? On the one hand, if you’re honest about how much you currently earn, the potential new employer may be reluctant to offer a significantly higher wage… even if it is the “market value”. On the other hand, if you exaggerate your current salary to reflect a figure that’s on-par with what you should be earning, you risk getting caught in a lie when that employer screens you using The Work Number. Clearly, neither situation is ideal.
Criticisms There have been other concerns raised about The Work Number. In 2013, NBC reported that “some consumers have complained [...] that the data in its database is inaccurate. Some workers find that when they try to use the information for employment verification, their titles are outdated or otherwise misrepresent their work history.”.
That same year, The Work Number was also criticized for selling people’s private information to third parties, including debt collection agencies, without obtaining informed consent.
In 2017, The Work Number was under scrutiny again when it was reported that salary histories for employees of tens of thousands of companies in the US were exposed as a result of the Equifax security breach.
There's also the question of profit motivation. According to The Work Number’s website, the cost of Employment Verification is $35.95 USD. If income verification is required, the fee is $42.95 USD. Unclear on whether those fees are payable by the employee or the employer, we called The Work Number to find out. According to the customer service rep we spoke to, it's at the verifier's discretion - payment can be made via major credit card by either party - meaning the cost could be passed on to the candidate.
AlternativesBecause of these concerns, many employers are seeking alternatives to The Work Number. One such alternative is available from Inline Reference Check. Unlike The Work Number, Inline offers a safe and secure alternative that uses advanced technology including facial recognition and machine learning. Leveraging these technologies and making the service available from virtually anywhere, from any device, the entire process is quick and convenient for candidates, employers, and past employers.
For employers, recruitment agencies and human resources professionals looking to make a change to their pre-employment screening process, Inline offers free ID verification consultations. Contact Inline Reference Check today to see how we can help.