Reference checks

Factors to consider and sample reference check questions

Prior to making a job offer, you should conduct a reference checks on a selected applicant. Reference checking allows you to speak with previous supervisors to discuss performance relative to the position for which the applicant is being considered. 

Reference checking is designed to protect hiring supervisors and the university from potential negligent hiring and ensure a good match for the position.

Complete reference checks even though you are required to request a background check. The employment section of a background check verifies:

  • dates of employment
  • job title
  • salary
  • eligibility for rehire

A reference check assists you in determining an applicant’s suitability for the position.

When to conduct reference checks

Prior to the interview

The purpose of conducting reference checks prior to the interview is to screen out similarly qualified applicants in order to establish a more manageable interview pool.

Following the interview

The purpose of conducting reference checks following the interview is to verify and document that your top candidate(s) is in fact the best choice.

The hiring supervisor may conduct reference checks or he/she may charge the screening committee to do so. If any of the candidates are current university employees, the hiring supervisor may contact their Human Resources Analyst or Consultant and request to see the employee’s performance appraisals. Performance appraisals, whether they be previous or current, should not be used in lieu of contacting the applicant’s current supervisor for reference checking.

It is always important to document the name, job title, and working relationship of the person providing the reference to the candidate (i.e. supervisor, co-worker, friend). Also document the names and dates of references you were unable to contact or those that resulted in no reply or a refusal to comment.

If you are not successful in contacting the applicant’s previous employer(s), then document reason(s) (e.g. out of business) and contact another reference. This may mean you will need to ask the applicant to provide an additional name and telephone number. You may contact any individual from the applicant's previous employment.  We recommend that you speak with a supervisor or someone within the chain of command, who has experience working with the applicant and can discuss their performance.