Human Resources
Office: (417) 873-7434
Fax: (417) 873-6987

Conducting Reference Checks

Processes & example questions

Reference checking allows you to ensure that you are finding the most qualified person who is also a good fit for the position and Drury.

Why perform reference checks?

These checks help you confirm information on the candidate’s application form and resume. You will also gain greater insights into the candidate’s skills, knowledge, and abilities from someone who has actually observed the candidate perform. Failure to check references can result in poor hiring choices that are costly in time, energy, and money.

Obtain reference names and contact information and the candidate’s consent

It is important that during the interview process, you obtain consent from the candidate to contact their references and ask employment-related questions. This permission is obtained when the applicant signs and dates the Drury staff employment application. A common mistake managers often make is asking candidates to choose their references. Instead, you should tell the candidates that you wish to speak to the people who actually supervised them. This information is also obtained on the employment application in the employment history section. It is good practice to speak to two or three work-related references. If their current employer does not know they are seeking work elsewhere, then go to their previous employers.

How to conduct reference checks

The Human Resources staff can conduct reference checks on your final candidate or you can choose to conduct them yourself. If you will be checking the references, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Identify yourself, your title, and tell them you are calling about a reference for a candidate you are considering.
  • Ask if now is a good time to talk or whether they would rather schedule a call at a later time.
  • Make sure they understand that you have the consent form the applicant and that responses will remain confidential.
  • It is important to give a brief description of the role you are considering the applicant for so that they can comment in context.
  • Give them time to answer your questions. Let them respond, and do not cut them off or put words in their mouth.

Prepare: Develop questions before making the call

Before making the calls, make a list of questions so that you are asking the same set of questions, giving you a consistent frame on which to base your decisions. The Human Resources office has a Telephone Reference Check form you may use. You may also add your own position –specific questions to this form. All questions should be job-related and legal. You cannot ask questions during a reference check that you are prohibited from asking during an interview. Determine how you are going to weigh information in advance, and weigh information in the same manner for all applicants – what disqualifies one should be the basis for disqualifying any other

Be Consistent

  • When possible, contact at least three previous employers
  • Always check references before making a job offer
  • If references were checked for some applicants, do not hire another applicant without checking their references
  • Ask the same questions in each reference check
  • Always verify basic data such as job title, functions, salary and dates of employment

Questions you can ask

While it is important to tailor reference check questions to Drury, the job and the applicant being considered, below are some common examples of questions that can be asked. Ask questions that are designed to bring out the supervisor’s observations of the applicant’s work behaviors.

  • In what capacity were you associated with the applicant, and since what date?
  • In what capacity was the applicant employed, and what were his/her job responsibilities and salary?
  • Was the applicant successful in filling his or her duties?
  • What was it like to supervise the applicant?
  • Was the applicant a valuable member of the team?
  • What unique skills did the candidate bring to your organization?
  • What were his/her strengths?
  • What were the weaknesses or areas that needed improvement?
  • How would they describe this applicant’s absenteeism record in relation to other employees?
  • Did you ever find it necessary to reprimand or discipline this person? If so, what were the circumstances?
  • Considering the job being applied for, do you think the applicant is suitable?
  • Why did he/she leave employment with your organization?
  • Would you rehire the candidate; why or why not?
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

Document the Reference Check

The reference check questions and answers for each reference should be documented in writing. You may use the Telephone Reference Check form, or you may document them via your own written list of questions and answers for each reference.

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