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Choosing a Finalist - General Guidelines for Conducting Effective Reference Checks

  • Introduce yourself and explain the purpose of your call
  • Give the reference the option to speak to you at a more convenient time
  • Verify the information provided to you by the applicant (title, dates of employment, etc.)
  • Take notes
  • Try to use straight forward and open ended questions
  • Follow up on any vague or negative statements with a request for explanation or clarification
  • Ask for elaboration about what you feel are incomplete or hesitant responses from the reference
  • Seek examples of the applicant’s specific role or contribution in their previous position
  • Disregard any comments related to ethnic background, age, disability, and/or any legally protected status
  • Consider asking the reference for the name of anyone else who might have direct knowledge of the applicant’s work
  • Thank the reference for taking the time to talk to you


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