Before making the first reference call, you should be prepared with
a set of questions that are related to the position and valuable in
helping you make a decision.
Your Human Resources & Equal Opportunity (HR&EO)
representatives can assist you if you would like help in developing
At the beginning of the conversation with the reference, it is often
helpful for you to describe the position that the candidate has applied
for and describe what you are looking for in the ideal candidate.
This should assist the reference responder in framing their responses
in a more meaningful way for you.
When calling a reference, introduce yourself, state that you are checking
the reference on (name), a candidate for (state the position and UMD
Department) and you have the candidate's permission and/or an authorization
and release to talk with the reference.
If they want to see the signed authorization and release form before
responding, make arrangements to fax or mail a copy to them. If they
refuse to provide a reference, ask them what their policy is on providing
references for current or past employees.
Try to assess whether the issue is their blanket policy on providing
references or the fact that they will not provide a reference for this
particular employee (or former employee). Questions regarding attitude,
skills, experience and performance should be asked. For example:
- Did the candidate work under your supervision?
- During what time period did you supervise the candidate?
- Are you familiar with the candidate's former job? If yes, please
describe the position the candidate held (or holds) in your organization.
Review: a) duties, reporting relationships, scope of responsibility,
level of autonomy; b) how long they were in the position and what
other positions they held in the organization; c) confirm dates of
employment, job title, salary and dates in current or last position.
Always compare this information to what was provided on the application.
- What were the candidate's strongest skill areas?
- Using a 1-5 scale, with 5 being the high, how would you rate the
candidate in the following areas:
a. List the specific knowledge, skills, abilities, or tasks that are
pertinent to your position.
- Describe how the candidate interacted in the workplace with: subordinates,
peers, immediate supervisors and management (use each one that is
appropriate for your position).
- Was the candidate a person whom you had to motivate or were they
- What aspects of candidate's job did (he/she) do well? In what aspects
of their job did they require a higher level of supervision or seem
to struggle with?
- Describe the candidate's quality and quantity of work.
- Did the candidate understand, follow and respect workplace rules
and administrative processes (this could include dependability, attendance,
- Did the candidate demonstrate flexibility when appropriate?
- Describe the professional areas that the candidate either struggles
with or should continue to work on developing?
- Was the candidate a "team player"?
- UMD is an organization that values diversity. How has the candidate
demonstrated his/her commitment to diversity in your workplace? Describe.
- Based on the description of the position that the candidate has
applied for and reviewing their current or past job description, can
you foresee any problems with the candidate being able to perform
the duties of the position for which they have applied?
- Would you re-hire the candidate if given the opportunity?
- Is there anything else relevant to the candidate's performance and
attitude in your workplace of which I should be aware?
- Would you recommend the candidate for this position?
For Supervisor/Manager candidates the following should be covered?
- How long has the candidate been a supervisor/manager?
- Describe the number and title of the employees that the candidate
- Describe the number of people indirectly supervised by the candidate
(number of people reporting through other supervisors to the candidate).
- Did the candidate do the following: (Clarify as to whether they
had the authority and had actual experience in each of these areas.)
ii. Establishing job duties
iii. Recommending pay increases
vii. Supervising/managing in an union environment
- Describe the candidate's supervisor/management/ leadership style
(You should clarify and evaluate if it was an effective style).
Click here for a Sample Reference Checking Form.