Reference Checks

Always check references of your top candidates regardless of your impressions of their qualifications. A mistake is costly in time, energy, and money; take the time to check references before making a job offer.

Reference checks can reveal information about an applicant's behavior with prior employers that could be critical to your decision, regardless of the applicant's skills, knowledge, and abilities. Failure to check references can have serious legal consequences for the University.

Tips for Checking References

  • Check references after you have interviewed the candidate. Checking references before the interview can create false expectations and affect your ability to evaluate the applicant's qualifications objectively. This includes University references.
  • Advise the candidate that you will be checking references and ask permission to talk with the current supervisor.
  • Ask the candidate for other references (other supervisors, co-workers, customers, etc.). Make sure to allow each candidate to provide you with the same number of references.
  • Develop a set of job-related questions to be used on all reference checks. As with interview questions, target your questions to the competencies needed in the job.
  • Use a written or electronic questionnaire form so that you can record notes next to the questions and to document the reference check. See Reference Check template.

Use the following guidelines when you are conducting all telephone reference checks, whether the candidate is a campus employee or an outside applicant:

  • Introduce yourself and state the purpose of your call.
  • Confirm that it is a convenient time to talk.
  • Briefly describe the position for which the applicant has applied.
  • Confirm the relationship between the person giving the reference and the applicant.
  • Verify basic data such as job title, duties, salary, and dates of employment.
  • For a campus employee, you may ask to review the candidate's personnel file.
  • Ask the same questions about all applicants. Weigh information you receive in the same manner for all applicants; what disqualifies one should be the basis for disqualifying any other.
  • Consider the source. Remember that the information is limited by the perception of the person giving it. If you receive negative information about an applicant, weigh it with data from other references before using it to make a decision.
  • Remember that there are special requirements for you, for the applicant, and for the reference-giver when the position is safety-sensitive and involves operation of a commercial motor vehicle. These include identification of certain prior employers by the applicant, and the results of drug and alcohol tests, which prior employers are legally required to provide. You, in turn, have specific guidelines for processing information received from both the applicant and the prior employers. Please consult your recruiter in Central Human Resources and review Appendix C, Drug and Alcohol Testing Information Summary, for a more complete understanding of your obligations.