Human Resources

Reference check best practices

Again, past behaviour dictates how a potential employee can expect to work for you. Asking the right questions to the right people who worked with or supervised the candidate will tell you a lot. Here are a few FAQ's related to checking a candidate's references.

Q. Should I check references for all final candidates?

A. Yes. The process should be handled consistently and thoroughly for all applicants who are under serious consideration in the interview process. Obtain several references for maximum objectivity. Plan and ask the same questions of each reference source. Documentation should be maintained on all reference checks as part of the selection process materials. 

Q. Who should I contact?

A. The most common reference sources are current or former supervisors, project colleagues, peers or customers. Use of personal references is less preferred because they probably won’t yield objective information. 

Q. How should I contact a reference?

A. The most effective approach is to contact a reference by phone or in person. The supervisor or a member of the search team should conduct the reference interview. 

Q. What should I consider when planning my questions?

A. Based on determined job competencies, and information obtained during the interview, create a written reference guide to ensure consistent questioning and to target the issues you seek to clarify. Consider the recentness of the position and similarity of duties to the vacancy. 

Q. Should I have a reference check completed before making a job offer?

A. Yes. The best practice is to check references before making a job offer. Otherwise, departments should consider making a job offer contingent upon obtaining satisfactory references.