Reference Check Best Practices

Before the Reference Checks

  • Prepare in advance: Before contacting the references, review the candidate's application materials and identify any areas you would like to discuss with the references.
  • Obtain consent: Ask the candidate for their permission to contact the provided references before you contact them. Candidates may have listed their current supervisor but may have not informed them that they are interviewing for other employers/positions. This ensures the candidate is aware their current supervisor may be contacted.
  • Maintain confidentiality: Respect the confidentiality of the information shared by the references. It is important to inform the references the conversation will be strictly confidential and used only for evaluating the candidate for this position
  • Avoid questions about the candidate’s personal life: this may include information on age, marital status, familial status, religion, race, country of origin, sexual orientation, disability, personal health, etc. These questions may be perceived as discriminatory.
  • Prepare a structured set of questions: We recommend using our provided template for reference checks. If you need help developing any further questions specifically for the position you are hiring for, please contact your strategic business partner.

During & After the Reference Checks

  • Verify information: You may also use this opportunity to cross-reference the information provided by the candidate during the hiring process. Ask for specific examples or instances to get a comprehensive understanding of their skills and work experience. If the candidate said they were a lead on an IT project, you can ask the reference to provide a specific example of their involvement in that project.
  • Be mindful of biases: Be aware of potential biases that can occur during reference checks. Evaluate the reference's answers objectively and compare them with other information you have from the hiring process.
  • Take notes: Document answers and/or direct quotes from each of the reference checks. Notes will help you compare multiple candidate reference checks to the same questions or relay this information to the search committee.
  • Maintain professionalism: Conduct the reference checks in a professional and respectful manner. Actively listen and thank the references for their time and input.
  • Consider multiple references: Try to speak with multiple references to gather different perspectives on the candidate. This can provide a comprehensive view of the candidate's ability and skillset.
  • Use the information as part of the decision-making process: Do not rely solely on reference checks when making the final decision. You should combine the reference answers and insights with other information, such as their interview or resume, gathered during the hiring process.

Page last modified June 22, 2023