References are checked for three basic reasons:
- Verify employment
- Verify what you have learned during the interview
- Obtain employment recommendations
Department Responsibilities: Regardless of your impression of the interviewed candidate's qualifications, reference checks should be conducted for every finalist after you have completed your interviews. Please advise interviewees that the department will be checking references for final candidates.
Prior to contacting references, the department will review the candidate's application to determine whether the applicant has indicated if he/she wishes to first be notified prior to contacting current or former employers. Obtaining permission from candidates to check references is required prior to contacting references.
Use the reference checklist sample or develop your own job-related questions. Your list of questions should be developed ahead of time to ensure consistency and fairness to all candidates. Questions must be job related. Responses can be used in consideration only if documented. Ask is this information documented or a matter of record?
If the candidate is a current employee, you may review the employee's personnel file in Human Resources. Please contact Employee Relations for information on the procedure regarding this review. If you review the candidate's personnel record file, be careful/mindful of how the information is to be used. Compare information that relates to the new position in terms of skills, knowledge, abilities and experiences. Also, be aware that aged information that speaks unfavorably may no longer reflect the candidate's attributes. Check current references to ensure fairness to the candidate.
Keep records of reference checks at the department for 3 years.
Note: There is no legal prohibition against an employer's attempt to obtain reference information; however, for a variety of reasons, including adverse litigation decisions, employers tend to provide minimal to no information.