If you are looking at an external candidate, you should encourage them to provide you with names of references that can provide meaningful, job-related data. You might suggest that they provide former employers with a release to facilitate the information sharing.
Checking References for Regular Non-Academic Positions
- The purpose of checking references is to verify the individual's work and performance history in order to select the best-qualified applicant for the job. It is best practice to contact at least two previous employers for each finalist.
- Checking references can result in making a good hiring choice, since the information gathered in a job-related reference check can factor into the hiring decision. Failure to check references can result in poor hiring choices which are costly in time, energy, and money.
- Check references before making a job offer.
- Check references after the interview process so that you may objectively evaluate the applicant's qualifications and information gained during the interview.
Preparing for the Reference Check
- Be consistent.
- If references were checked for some applicants, do not hire another applicant without checking their references.
- Develop a set of behavior based reference check questions from the interview questions used for each applicant interviewed.
- Ask the same question in each reference check.
- Weigh information in the same manner for all applicants: what disqualifies one should be the basis for disqualifying any other.
- Consider the source. Remember that information is limited by the perception of the person giving it. If negative information is received about an applicant, weigh it with information from other references before making a hiring decision.
- Never allow the individual to give you "confidential" or "off-the-record" information.
Conducting the Reference Check
- State the purpose of the call.
- 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, functions, salary and dates of employment.
- Ask job-related questions about the applicant's knowledge, skills and abilities as they relate to the vacant position.
- Ask questions that are designed to bring out the supervisor's observations of the applicant's work behaviors.
- Document in writing the questions and the answers.
For questions, contact the Employment staff.
Purpose of Reference Checks
Checking references is essential before making a final hiring decision. The purpose of reference checks is two fold: 1) to verify work history provided by the candidate and 2) to gain additional job-related information. As in interviewing, questions posed to references should be job-related rather than personal in nature.
Guidelines for Reference Checks
The applicant’s (electronic) signature at the end of the UTEP Application for Employment gives consent for reference checks with previous employers.
A previous employer may, on occasion, have rules regarding supplying references and may provide only the position title, dates of employment, salary, and eligibility for rehire. If this is found to be true, the hiring department should document this on the reference contact form.
Some organizations may have a policy of not providing references when contacted because of potential liability in the misrepresentation of information. If this is the case, do not let it bias you against the job applicant. Organizations with this policy typically provide no information, either pro or con; so the withholding of information should not be viewed as negative. Organizations that are hesitant to give references may be willing to verify information if it is provided to them. In this situation, try phrasing your questions so they simply request verification of what you’ve already been told; e.g., “The applicant says she had excellent attendance while working for you. Can you verify that?” Finally, if you do get an unfavorable reference for a job candidate, remember to weigh the information along with other available evidence.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Department should not raise any questions that fall under the EEO discriminatory practice areas, such as questions regarding sex, race, color, national origin, age, disability, or religion.
- The same questions should be asked for all references.
- Department should not tell the applicant or the reference source(s) that he or she is conducting reference checks because the applicant has “been selected” for the position. He or she should only indicate that the applicant is “being considered”.
- Department should not accept references from friends, relatives, or persons who have not had the opportunity to observe job-related performance.
- Written letters of reference may be attached to the paperwork, but should not substitute for telephone contacts.
- Do not put anyone’s current job in jeopardy. We recommend the department delay contacting the applicant’s current employer until it is determined that the applicant is a finalist for the position.
- Questions and answers should be recorded.
- At least two telephone references are documented for the applicants selected.
Sample Reference Check Form
If an outside employer asks you for reference information, you should have them call the Human Resource Services Office at 915-747-5202.