Conducting Reference Checks
Checking a candidate’s references is a key step in the hiring process at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to interviews, reference checks are a critical component of a thorough review and consideration of the candidate’s recent and/or past performance, which is often the leading predictor of future success. While not required, hiring managers are highly encouraged to conduct reference checks on all top or finalist candidates for staff positions before making a hiring decision or an offer of employment.
Benefits of Conducting a Reference Check:
- Offers additional information on a candidate’s skills, performance, knowledge and work history from a source other than the candidate themselves
- Helps you assess the candidate’s potential for success in the position
- Helps you rank candidates and move to a final selection
- Protects the university from claims of negligent hiring
For more information on CMU’s reference check process, best practices and legal compliance, please review the Guidance on Conducting Reference Checks for Staff Positions [pdf].
How to Conduct a Reference Check
Upon identifying finalist candidates, the hiring manager should notify their HR recruiter of their interest in conducting references. The HR recruiter will initiate the reference check process.
- External reference checks are handled through SkillSurvey, the university’s automated, web-based reference checking tool. SkillSurvey’s reference checking process is tailored to the position through job-specific surveys which are intended to help predict the success of the candidate. This process is initiated and managed by the HR Recruiting team. Final reference results are summarized in a report and shared with the hiring manager/search committee. For more information, please refer to the SkillSurvey FAQs [pdf].
- While not recommended, hiring managers who prefer to handle the reference checks on external candidates themselves are responsible for following the appropriate steps as outlined in the Guidance on Conducting Reference Checks for Staff Positions [pdf]. When conducting the references, managers should use only the approved reference check templates:
- Internal reference checks are handled by the hiring manager. Prior to the hiring manager conducting the reference checks, the OHR recruiter will notify the candidate of the request to conduct a reference check, allowing the candidate the opportunity to notify their supervisor of their interest in the position they are being considered for.
- Once the internal candidate has been notified, the hiring manager can proceed in reaching out to the internal candidate’s current supervisor to obtain an employment reference. The hiring manager is responsible for documenting the responses of the reference check using the appropriate reference check template: