Reference Check

Why Check References?

As a critical part of the hiring process at Yale, every hiring manager/supervisor is expected to secure references on the prospective employee(s) they wish to hire. Be sure to work with your Talent Acquisition Partner to let them know when you’re ready to begin checking references. During the reference check hiring managers should:

  1. Verify information the applicant has provided on their resume and during the interview.
  2. Obtain assessments of the employee’s skills, strengths and areas for development relative to the job you are filling.
  3. Past performance can be a predictor of future performance.

Whose References are Checked?

At Yale, we check the references of both internal and external candidates. References are checked only for the final candidate(s) whom you would consider hiring.

Who is a Reference?

  1. Previous and present employers
    1. Immediate supervisors (required of all final candidates) * 
    2. Counterparts, peers, subordinates, and/or clients with knowledge of the candidate’s performance
  2. Reference feedback should NOT be unauthorized, hearsay or rumor from colleagues or friends. Beware the rumor mill and keep your focus with the person who has actually supervised the work of the employee and can comment on performance.

*Many employers will only provide dates of employment, job title and salary information. If this is company policy, document this information and proceed to the next reference listed. 

Who Conducts the Reference Check?

The hiring manager who will make the final hiring decision. This person is most familiar with the position being filled and the competencies required to perform the duties of the job.

When Do You Check References?

  1. After you have interviewed all candidates whom you would consider hiring, and selected your final candidate. This is the candidate whose references should be obtained.
  2. Do not attempt to obtain references before receiving permission from the candidate or before deeming them as a final candidate. Permission is received during the interview or once a decision has been made to move forward with their candidacy. Contacting supervisors prematurely can impact the relationship between the employee and their current supervisor. 
  3. It is not uncommon for an applicant to withhold permission to speak to the current supervisor during the interview process. In this case, an offer can be made contingent on the receipt of a positive reference from their current supervisor.

What Are Some Appropriate Methods for Checking References?

Via Phone

  1. Obtain written permission from the candidate to contact references. For internal candidates, the hiring manager should obtain written permission to contact the candidate’s immediate supervisor and determine whether the supervisor is aware of the applicant’s job search.
  2. A phone call is an effective method and allows the reference checker to ask follow-up questions. List out job related questions to be asked of all final candidates (sample questions are attached).
  3. Keep all notes from the reference check in a supervisor’s file, NOT the employee’s file, and retain for 3 years.
  4. Begin the discussion by verifying employment information and assuring the reference that the candidate has given consent for the call.
  5. Advise the reference as to the job that the candidate has applied to, the essential functions of the position as well as the supervisory requirements, if applicable.
  6. Seek common ground with employer to gain greater rapport and an honest response.

Via Skill Survey

Skill Survey is the University’s preferred method of reference checking for M&P external new hires because it is:

  • More accurate: Anonymity encourages honest responses and feedback. The confidential process allows for more accurate information to be provided on a candidate’s prior performance.
  • Proven to result in higher quality hires: Feedback is obtained from references based on competencies and behavioral skills that are proven to correlate with success for the job role.
  • Time saving: The average report is completed in less than two calendar days. This saves you the time of calling each reference and scheduling time to speak.
  • Compliant with Yale hiring practices: With SkillSurvey, you can be sure that reference checks are being completed in a consistent and compliant manner.

Skill Survey Process

  1. Your Talent Acquisition Partner will initiate the reference checking process for you.
    • First, your finalist will receive an email asking them to provide up to 5 references, including at least 2 supervisors.
    • Next, their references will receive an email asking them to answer an average of 30 questions, which takes about 10 minutes to complete. Questions are competency-based and related to the position. References can also submit comments in an open text field.
  2. Once references are completed, you will receive a report with the results. Your Talent Acquisition Partner will share information on how to interpret those results.
  3. If you feel it would be helpful, you can follow up with references by phone, after receiving the report.
  4. The results are confidential, so you will not know exactly how each reference responded, but you will be able to view manager responses separate from peer responses.
  5. If the candidate is not comfortable sharing their current manager as a reference, you will need to call their current manager directly (if their offer is contingent on a positive reference from their current manager).

To learn more, contact your Talent Acquisition Partner and visit Skill Survey’s website for FAQs

Reference Checks for Internal Applicants

As with any final candidate, permission must be granted to speak to the candidate’s current supervisor. Do not accept names of references who do not directly supervise the employee (i.e. co-worker, non-work-related colleague, etc.).

What Types of Questions Should be Asked?

(View the reference check sample questions template)

  1. All questions must be related to the position and job responsibilities. Use the posted job description you have to develop questions regarding the candidate’s ability to do the essential functions of the job. 
  2. Ask for a brief description of the applicant’s previous job duties, size of organization, reporting structure, pace of work, etc.
  3. Analyze how the applicant performed previous job duties. What duties demanded most of the applicant’s time? Effort? Independent judgment? Innovation? Creativity? With what degree of success?
  4. Determine what the required job competencies or behaviors are for the position the applicant is being considered for, and ask the reference for examples on how the candidate demonstrated those competencies in their former position. When did the candidate demonstrate a high degree of customer focus? When did they need to take a difficult stand? Show leadership and manage a difficult employee issue?
  5. Did the person’s job change over the course of time? (Example: were they always a medical technologist during the 5 years they were with your organization?) What were their strongest points, major contributions to the organization? Areas for development? What makes them stand out among their peers??
  6. What are the candidate’s motivations?
  7. Were they able to meet the attendance requirements of the job? The question on “how much sick time did the applicant take?” cannot be asked.
  8. To the best of your knowledge, why did the person leave your organization? Would you rehire this candidate?

Receiving Negative Information

Should you recognize a negative pattern or significant performance issue in the references, this may be an indication of future performance concerns. Please speak to your Talent Acquisition Partner regarding this candidate.

You should know that it is illegal for an employer to purposefully give false information for the sake of harming a former employee’s reputation or preventing them from obtaining employment. Personal information that is not job related should neither be asked about nor provided by a prospective, present or former employer. If there are substantial discrepancies between the information you receive and what the applicant has stated, please contact your Talent Acquisition Partner for consultation.