Conducting Reference Checks
Before making a hiring decision, do you conduct a thorough reference
check on your top candidates for the job?
The Universityís Employment Office screens the more than 7,000
individuals who apply for jobs, but itís the responsibility of hiring
supervisors to check the references of those seriously being considered
for employment, says Employment Manager Ella Marshall.
"Itís impractical for us to conduct a thorough background check
on everyone," she says. "Our office screens applicants to determine
that each candidate meets the minimum qualifications requested.
This process also includes testing an applicantís typing and computer
skills if such skills are required for a position."
The Employment Office also is responsible for verifying an applicantís
educational background or obtaining a criminal background check
when requested by a hiring supervisor, Marshall says. To help hiring
supervisors with checking references, Marshall offers the following
- You should state during the interview with a job applicant that
references will be checked. Also, donít just rely on letters of
reference or personal references provided by the job applicant.
- A telephone 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.
- The hiring supervisor should make the phone call because he
or she is most familiar with the information received from the
applicant and the responsibilities of the job. Supervisors should
be prepared with a written list of questions to ask.
- When calling an applicantís reference: identify yourself immediately;
tell the reference about the position for which the applicant
is being considered.
- 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.
- Again, ask only job-related questions and document all answers.
Avoid questions that can be answered "yes" or "no."
- The most important question to get answered is whether the previous
employer would rehire the applicant you are considering. If you
get no other response, try to get this question answered.
- Avoid questions that screen out minorities, women and persons
with disabilities, or will bias the reference in terms of age,
gender or religion.
There are many personal questions you must avoid when conducting
a reference check. If you have doubts as to whether you should ask
a question, donít. 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 telephone reference
check form (108K) for you to print and use. The form is formatted
with Adobe's Acrobat Reader®. If you do not have Acrobat Reader,
you can download it from Adobe's
website for no charge.
For additional assistance on ensuring your hiring process is successful,
call the Employment Office at 803-777-3821.