Staff Manual: Reference Checks

Revised 12/05.


Reference checks are a necessary and important part of selecting qualified persons for Library positions. Through them a supervisor can gain additional useful information about a candidate’s skills and abilities. They are used primarily in the final stage of selection when only a small number of candidates are still being considered. Reference checks can be made for two or more of the better qualified candidates to gather additional information that will lead to a final decision. Or a check can be made only for a favored candidate in order to substantiate data gathered from that person’s application and interview. Reference checks do not serve merely the negative function of disqualifying all but one of the candidates. They serve, rather, to help reveal the most qualified candidate and to provide additional information that can be used by a supervisor in the person’s orientation and training.

As the staff member most familiar with the duties of a position and directly responsible for supervising the employee in that position, the immediate supervisor conducts the reference checks. A written summary statement on each reference check must be submitted to Library Human Resources, along with other materials related to a job search. All reference checks and other materials are kept in separate, confidential search files by the Library Human Resources Office for four years, after which they are destroyed.


Conducting a Reference Check

The person conducting a reference check should first take the following steps:

  • Request the names of persons who can provide information on the candidate’s current or past work performance. The length of time that each person supervised the candidate should be included in the information.
  • Confirm with the candidate that each person given as a reference may be contacted.
  • Contact persons listed as references (usually by telephone).
  • Record the information received from each supervisor/employer. The data should include each person’s name, position, working relationship with the candidate, and length of time supervising the candidate. The evaluation of the candidate’s abilities and actual performance should be reported in detail. This information should be signed and dated by the individual conducting the reference.

The following describes procedures for contacting persons who have been given as references differ according to the current employment status of a candidate.

For internal candidates from the Library system

The person conducting the reference check should:

  • Contact the current Library supervisor to request information on the candidate’s work performance.
  • Ask the Library Human Resources Office for additional information, when needed, from the candidates’s personnel record.
For internal candidates from elsewhere in the University

The person conducting the reference check should:

  • Contact the current supervisor to request information on the candidate’s work performance.
  • Ask the Library Human Resources Office to have the University Staff Human Resources Office provide additional information from the candidate’s personnel record.
For external candidates

The person conducting the reference check should:

  • Contact the current supervisor or employer to request information on the candidate’s work performance.
  • Contact the reference(s) given for the most recent former employer. If conflicting or unfavorable information is indicated, check with another employer reference.

Suggested Questions

A reference check is conducted like an interview. Supervisors should ask for details, clarifications, and concrete illustrations and should pursue points that merit additional attention. The following questions of former and current supervisors and employers are suggested here because their points of information are often helpful in reaching a hiring decision. Specific job requirements and circumstances could prompt other suitable questions, as well.

  • What job title and responsibilities did the candidate hold?
  • How long was the candidate employed? Did he/she receive any promotions or other changes in status or assignment during that time?
  • What is the supervisor’s overall evaluation of the candidate and, particularly, how does the supervisor rate the candidate in relation to others in the same or a similar position?
  • What were the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses as a worker?
  • What was the candidate’s major contribution to his/her job and department?
  • Was the candidate able to work well independently? Was he/she able to work well under close supervision?
  • Did the candidate respond to directions and suggestions in a positive manner?
  • What specific problems in the candidate’s performance did the supervisor have to address, and what was the candidate’s attitude toward counseling and correction?
  • What kind of working relationships did the candidate have with other members of the staff? Specifically, how did the candidate deal with difficult and stressful situations?
  • Did the candidate organize work efficiently, meet deadlines, and inform the supervisor of problems?
  • What was the candidate’s attendance record? Were there any noticeable patterns of poor attendance or tardiness?
  • Would the supervisor re-hire the candidate?
Page maintained by Richard L Schrader
Last modified: 03/31/2009