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Division of Human Resources


Checking References

Before making a hiring decision, you are required to conduct a thorough reference check on your top candidate for the job.

The following are some guidelines to help hiring managers with checking references:

  1. You should state during the interview with a job applicant that references will be checked. Also, don’t just rely on letters of reference or personal references provided by the job applicant. 
  2. A verbal reference check takes less time than a written reference check and usually more information is gained. Forms rarely uncover negative information. Employers hesitate to put into writing what they may say in a conversation. 
  3. The hiring supervisor should make the contact because he or she is most familiar with the information received from the applicant and the responsibilities of the job.
  4. Supervisors should also be prepared with a written list of questions to ask. 
  5. When contacting an applicant’s reference, identify yourself immediately and tell the reference about the position for which the applicant is being considered. 
  6. To gain as much information as possible, let the person speak without interrupting. If the reference pauses in the conversation, it usually means he/she has other information and is hesitant to share this information. Get them to talk about everything that would be helpful, but only ask for information that will be used in your hiring decision. 
  7. Ask only job-related questions and document all answers. Avoid questions that can be answered "yes" or "no." 
  8. The most important question to be answered is whether the previous employer would rehire the applicant you are considering.
  9. Avoid questions that screen out minorities, women and persons with disabilities, or will bias the reference in terms of age, gender or religion.
  10. Avoid personal questions. If you have doubts as to whether you should ask a question, don’t. Questions you should avoid include:
    • Does the applicant have any disabilities or health problems?
    • Is the applicant married or have children?
    • Has the applicant made child care arrangements?

Human Resources has created a reference check form [pdf] for you to print and use.