Reference Checks

Category: Published Articles
Date: Jul 20, 2018 06:29 PM

This article was published in the July/August 2018 issue of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA)’s Net Assets Magazine.

Checking references should be a part of every school’s hiring practice.  It increases the likelihood of making a well-informed hiring decision, protects against claims of negligent hiring, and demonstrates fairness, equity, and transparency in the recruitment process. Yet we repeatedly find that schools fail to undertake this critical step – and that they do so to their detriment.

Schools may be reluctant to initiate reference checks because they anticipate that former employers will not provide meaningful information.  That concern is not only speculative but can be remedied in at least two ways.  First, require all applicants to sign a release permitting information to be shared without fear of defamation or other claims.  Former employers may similarly require a release before sharing information.  A refusal to provide a release is itself telling.  Second, require all applicants to approve of sharing their personnel records.

When seeking references, speak to those who actually supervised the applicant.  Include that information on your application. Prepare a list of open-ended questions that will be used consistently. Examples include:

  • How would you describe the applicant’s personal characteristics, such as maturity and the ability to get along with others?
  • Do you have any concerns about the applicant working directly with or supervising children?
  • Has the applicant ever been disciplined?
  • Would you rehire the applicant?

Finally, document the information you sought and obtained for each reference check.  It’s a best practice whose time has come.

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