How to write an employment verification letter
Human resource experts explain what should—and shouldn’t—be included.
Every once in a while, an employee or former employee will ask for an employment verification letter. Seems easy enough, but there are guidelines regarding what should—and shouldn’t—be included. Human resource experts explain how to handle the request.
Purpose of an employment verification letter
An employment verification letter confirms an employee’s past or current employment. There are a number of reasons employers may receive a verification of employment (VOE) request, but requests from landlords, property managers, and lenders are most common.
“I typically receive requests for employment verification letters when an employee is applying for a mortgage, refinancing a mortgage, or looking to move into a new apartment," says Jennifer C. Loftus, MBA, SPHR, PHRca, national director for NYC-based HR consulting firm Astron Solutions. She adds that on rare occasions, employment verification letters are requested when employees with green cards are returning to their home countries to have their passports renewed.
Other reasons a third-party may request employment verification include financial aid applications, adoption- or custody-related proceedings, immigration-related matters, prospective employers confirming past work histories, and loan reduction/referral applications.
Information to include
“Employment verification letters—or proof of employment letters—generally include an employee’s hire date, position within the company, and current wages or salary; if terminated, the reason for termination such as involuntary termination, voluntary termination, or layoff,” says Lynn Kitson, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CEO of Lynk Benefits and HR Solutions in Goshen, Indiana.
Brevity is key. “The letter is typically very brief, containing the employee’s name, current job title, dates of employment, work address, whether the employee is still actively employed, current pay rate, and pay frequency,” says Loftus.
Information to avoid
“When an employer says something about a former employee, it carries a great deal of weight,” says Kate Bischoff, SHRM-SCP, human resources consultant and employment law attorney at tHRive Law & Consulting in Minneapolis. “It’s critically important for employers to be honest and make careful decisions about what they want to share with others.”
Bischoff, who also serves as adjunct professor of HR compliance at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, recommends sticking to factual, employment-related information such as employment dates and job titles. Kitson agrees, adding, “A deep dive of the termination reason should be avoided.” If there’s a sensitive issue behind the need for the letter, such as a child custody case, content of the letter could become evidence in the case.
The person handling the letter needs to be current on federal, state, and local laws of disclosure. For example, certain states prohibit employers from asking for salary information during the recruitment process. Some states have created employment verification forms and processes for completing and transmitting the information. Before fulfilling employment verification requests, research relevant laws to ensure compliance.
How to streamline the process
Having a policy in place to process employment verification requests will save time in the long run. Kitson offers these tips for organizations seeking to formalize the process:
- Appoint a position, such as the HR manager or the person tasked with HR activities to respond to employment verification letters.
- Create a policy that indicates what information they will divulge and to whom. The policy may specify whether or not salary data may be disclosed to inquiring financial institutions vs. what would be supplied to a potential employer.
- Ask employees to sign an authorization to release information before releasing any data, unless the information is requested by a government entity and the employee’s release is not required.
How to format the letter
A standard business letter format works perfectly. “The letter should be on official letterhead, dated, and prepared by someone in HR, or for a smaller organization, an executive with access to the requested information,” advises Loftus.
Sample employment verification letter
April 2, 20XX
Mr. John Murphy
1 Main Street
Anytown, FL 55555
Re: Suzanne Lu employment verification
Dear Mr. Murphy:
This letter is confirmation that Suzanne Lu is employed at DEF Company as an accounts payable specialist. She was hired on May 15, 20XX and currently earns $XX,XXX per annum.
Please contact me at 800-555-5555 if I can assist you further.
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