Campus Human Resources Services

Reference Checks

It is difficult to overstate the importance of this step.  If your screening and interviews indicate that one candidate is clearly the best match to the position, it is sufficient to do reference checking only on the one person as long as the checking does not turn up any information that changes your mind.  Doing reference checking on more than one finalist would be appropriate and necessary in the event no clear front-runner has emerged up to this point, and the added information is needed to "break the tie".  If you are considering an internal applicant or someone who has worked for USM before, make sure you contact current and former supervisors here (and of outside employers if the person has worked here a relatively short time).  The same is true for external candidates.  You may save yourself from a bad hiring decision by taking the time to do these checks.  It may save you a lot of headaches later on, and it also in some cases may serve to protect the university from liability.  If no current or former supervisor is listed as a reference, contact the applicant for that information.   Failure to give a current or former supervisor as a reference may be a "red flag".

Reference checking takes place throughout the search process in the following ways:

1. Unexplained gaps in work history
  Carefully examine the resume and "Application for USM Employment" for suspicious gaps in work history or other things that don't look right. (Examples: Did applicant explain why left past jobs?  Do answers to interview questions match what person put down on application/resume?  Does it look as though the applicant was doing two things at the same time -- such as full-time student and full-time employee -- that may be unlikely?).  Make a note to ask about them during the interview.  Sometimes it is an attempt to conceal employment that ended badly due to poor performance or other problems, or even time spent incarcerated for a crime (Note: the existence of these may not by themselves automatically remove the person as a candidate, but you need to know about them).
2. Call personal references
  The applicant will provide names and phone numbers of references.  Consider whether these are people with knowledge of the person's work, or whether they are simply friends.   Be aware that the person is likely only to list those from whom they expect positive things to be said; if you call one or more who are less-than-enthusiastic about the candidate, that should raise a red flag.
3. Call current and former supervisors listed on the "Application for USM Employment"
  At a minimum, confirm the applicant's dates of employment and position held.  We recommend you ask some, if not all, the questions on the Reference Check Form. Try to get useful information about past performance and disciplinary records.  A recommended question is "would you hire this person again?"
4. Verify required credentials
  Unfortunately, studies show that many applicants do not have or exaggerate their education level, number/type of licenses, or even having a driver's license when that is required.   Ask to see proof.
5. Conduct criminal background check
  This will be requested by the ESO on the person selected to fill the position.  Should the check turn up information judged by the University Counsel to make the person unfit for the position, the offer will be withdrawn (or, since these checks take time and we are unlikely to have results until after the person has started work, the person will be dismissed during the probationary period).