You did your homework, nailed the interviews and sent thank-you notes. Will the company make you an offer? That decision can depend on what happens during the next steps in the hiring process: employment verification and checking professional references.

During the vetting process, potential employers will likely contact your former employers and references to confirm details you provided in your job application and interviews. If they can’t get a quick response, you may have to wait a while for an offer.

“More and more, what I am seeing is that when large companies conduct employment verifications, candidates’ former employers aren’t responding. That can delay a job offer or a new employee’s start date. It can also complicate the entire process, especially if an employee has already quit their previous job or is relocating,” says Kathy Downs, a senior recruiting manager at global talent solutions firm Robert Half. “So don’t resign from your current position or put the wheels in motion to relocate until the job offer is signed, sealed and confirmed by your new employer.”

You may be able to help speed the process along by having two important details ready in case the potential new employer asks for them: documentation of previous employment and professional references

Keep your W-2s handy

Employers need proof of when and where you worked previously, as well as your position and salary. “In some states or industries that have strict compliance standards, like financial services, they may ask for employment history as far back as 10 to 15 years. If your former employer has been acquired by another company or is no longer in business, it can be difficult to verify employment,” Kathy adds.

In cases where a former employer can’t be reached, a potential employer may ask you to provide copies of your W-2s and pay stubs for verification at a moment’s notice. It can take time to access these forms — Kathy recommends getting them in advance so you’re ready if the new employer needs them. Here are a few tips on how to find them:

  • Look through your old tax returns.
  • Search your email for “W-2 forms” or instructions on how to access them online.
  • Contact your previous employer’s human resources department, payroll department or third-party payroll administrator.
  • Call or email the IRS. You’ll need to provide the representative with the company's Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Before you send W-2s or pay stubs to a new employer, check with your city and state to make sure employers are allowed to request this information from job applicants. Currently, no federal laws prohibit employers from asking for salary details. But in recent years, nearly half of U.S. states and more than 20 local governments have banned employers from requesting this information to protect applicants from potential discrimination. If you’re concerned about sharing details that could reveal your age, race, disability or other protected information, black out sensitive details in forms before submitting.

Update your professional references

References help employers see how your prior responsibilities, skills, abilities and achievements contribute to your growth potential. Talking with your former co-workers, including managers, helps hiring managers assess whether you’ll be a collaborative team member and mesh well with their organizational culture.

Make sure your references are relevant to the position you applied for. Choose professionals you’ve worked with fairly recently who are likely to give you positive reviews and can speak to your accomplishments and demeanor. Also confirm their contact information and preferences and let them know who may be contacting them. (You can find more tips for managing references in this post.)

So, before beginning your job search, take some time to track down your old W-2s and update your references. Helping your potential new employer complete the employment verification process more efficiently can help clear the way for you to receive a formal job offer faster.

Connect with Kathleen Downs for more job search tips or to confidentially discuss new opportunities.