The hiring official may check references prior to offering employment. One of the best sources for information related to an applicant is a former employer, unless the student has not had prior employment. On-the-job performance is the most useful predictor of future success. A “personal reference” can seldom give work-related information.
When conducting a reference check, hiring officials are encouraged to talk with a former supervisor. The supervisor can speak specifically to an applicant’s quality and quantity of work, reliability, potential problem areas, and job behaviors. It is recommended that hiring officials contact at least three past employers to find consistent trends in the applicant’s past performance. Calling several employers will also help balance the information you receive and guard against making a decision based on opinions or information that may not be factual.
It is important that the solicited information relates directly to the applicant’s ability to carry out the responsibilities of the job. It can be challenging to persuade the former employers to speak frankly about the candidate. Oregon legislation (ORS.30.178) passed in 1995 protects current or former employers from civil liability when they, in responding to the request of prospective employers, disclose information about employees “in good faith”. “Good faith” is violated if the information is knowingly false or deliberately misleading, is rendered with malicious purpose, or violates any civil right of the former employees (such as disclosure of confidential medical information, or other protected information).
The information received from a reference is a critical part of your evaluation of each candidate. If the reference raises any doubts, additional references and follow-up interviews with the candidate should be scheduled. Never reveal the information received from a previous employer to the applicant. This information is to be kept as confidential as the law will allow. The information received from a reference must be filed with the recruitment file, separate from employee's files.