Checking References for Faculty Applicants

The search committee or department head should determine in advance how to collect reference materials.  Options include having letters sent directly to the search committee chair or search administrator OR soliciting references identified by the candidate.

In addition to letters of recommendation, search committees and/or department heads may choose to also contact references directly.  The group of candidates subject to reference checks should be identified at the beginning of the search process, e.g., all candidates identified as part of the ‘A’ interview pool will be subject to a reference check, OR only the ‘A’ candidates that progress to the 2nd round of interviews (campus visits).

It is important that regardless of the group of candidates subject to reference checks all reference checks are handled in a manner consistent for each candidate.  In addition the following should be considered for all reference checks:

  • The same individual or individuals should conduct all reference checks to ensure consistency in the evaluation.  The same method of reference checking should also be used for each reference; phone interviews are recommended as it allows opportunity for follow-up questions.
  • All references for all candidates should be asked the same or similar questions.
  • Do not stop at one reference regardless of how negative or positive it may be; contact all references for each candidate.
  • Questions that are legally prohibited of the candidate are also legally prohibited of a reference.
  • Questions must be related to the specific position and should be relevant to the candidate’s skills and qualifications.

Never reveal to the candidate the information received from a previous employer or other reference. This information should be kept confidential.