Perception is as important as reality to the applicant, especially women and persons of color. We encourage adding at least 1-2 questions regarding the candidate’s experience with diversity and inclusion strategies within the scope of their work or responsibilities. The questions should be job related and it is important not to assume that everyone is interested or able to work with a diverse community such as WCU. To avoid unlawful inquiries, everyone participating in the interview process should be acquainted with the pre-employment inquiries chart in the appendices section.
Though search committees are required to use a standard set of questions, members are still free to ask some questions that are specific to each candidate or triggered by the candidate’s response. There may be something in an applicant’s background that will be unique and may warrant other questions, e.g., different kinds of research or other kinds of experiences. These different questions are appropriate as long they are job related.
The Search Chair leads all reference calls and have as any members as possible participate. Never have one person check references alone. Please remind members to use the approved reference check questions and keep track of any notes they take for each recommended candidate. (Once again, these and all search notes will need to be returned to you after the committee has recommended a candidate for hire and before the hiring proposal is completed by the Hiring Manager.)
Reference checks are a critical part of the selection process. There are two primary reasons to conduct reference checks: 1) Employers need to be able to demonstrate that they have made reasonable efforts to find out about a future employee’s previous work performance, and 2) Employers who don’t do their best to check references can be held liable if the candidate hired has known violent tendencies or other tendencies that could have been discovered through reasonable efforts, especially if those tendencies result in threats or injuries to others in the new workplace.
Employers can minimize the risk of hiring an employee who won’t be able to succeed in the new job if they take the time to try to find out about previous job performance. The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Even if it proves difficult to obtain information from previous employers, the prospective employer can still demonstrate that a good faith effort to check references was made. Reference checks may be conducted relatively early in the hiring process to assist in identifying a smaller group of finalists, or at a later stage, to help select one candidate from among finalists, or after a final selection has been made, but before an offer of employment, as a means of verifying job-related information.
Don’t 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. Try to contact the same number of references for all candidates. Ask the candidate if there is anyone you should not contact and why you should not contact this person. Ensure that all references are individuals who have worked with the candidate in a professional capacity or who have knowledge of the candidate’s skills, abilities and performance record. When calling a candidate’s reference:
- Identify yourself immediately; tell the reference about the position for which the applicant is being considered.
- Verify dates of employment, titles, and educational credentials.
- Ask only job-related questions and document all answers. Avoid questions that can be answered with only a “yes” or “no.” Instead, ask open-ended questions such as “Describe the applicant’s ability to...”
Develop a standard set of questions to be asked of all references, based on the requirements for the job. Job related questions are the key to a good reference check. Follow-up questions may be asked, but must be job related. Remember that the illegal questions used for interviewing also pertain to reference checks. The most important question to ask is whether the previous employer would rehire the applicant you are considering. If you get no other response, try to get this question answered. Search Committees and/or hiring officials should check the references of an internal candidate in the same manner as any other applicant, including contacting current and former supervisors. Needless to say, always check more than one reference. It is permissible to contact references other than those provided by the applicant, but again, applicants should be so informed.
Meeting after the Reference checks meeting:
With the entire search committee, determine the outcome of the reference checks.
Notify the Hiring Manager as to which candidate(s) are recommended. Be sure to provide job-related reasons for everyone not being recommended and email the Hiring Manager/Dean, and Human Resources via email.
Human Resources will review the information provided and consult with the Hiring Manager/Dean. As part of this discernment, Human Resources may ask for additional information. When the Hiring Manager, Dean, and Human Resources are in agreement with the search committee’s recommendation, identify the top candidates, “Recommended for Hire”.
Ask support person to collect from the committee members all of the Selection Criteria Sheets used, all of the telephone inquiry notes, all of the on-campus interview notes and reference check notes.
The support staff person will group these documents into six separate items and then scan and send them to the Hiring Manager as six separate items by type of item (not by candidate):
- Any and all reference check notes.
- Any and all Campus Interview notes.
- Any and all Phone Inquiry notes.
- Any Selection Criteria Sheets and spreadsheets evaluating multiple applicants.
- Any and all Employment Applications signed by interviewees
- Any and all Essential Functions Identification Form signed by interviewee
Congratulations and thank you for completing your search!