Obtaining and checking references

References should be used to inform the final decision-making process by validating the information that the candidate has provided during the selection process. If you have any concerns about the information provided in a reference then you should contact your Faculty Human Resources Manager immediately.

For Research and Teaching roles a reference can provide important confirmation of the candidate's academic ability and track-record, and references are therefore taken up for all candidates short-listed for interview.

For Professional Services roles the reference is best used for confirming factual information such as employment history, and references are therefore taken up at the appointment stage for the selected candidate only, with the offer of employment made subject to receipt of satisfactory references.

All candidates are asked to provide the contact details of two people (three for academic and research roles) on their application forms who can act as employment referees for them. If the candidate has confirmed that they need to give permission before you contact a referee then you must always respect this. Such cases usually arise when the referee is the candidate's current employer, and the candidate does not wish to disclose that they have applied for another job until they have been invited for interview or, occasionally, until they are offered the job.

If you have agreed with your Faculty or Divisional HR Team that you will take up references for a Research and Teaching role locally, please be aware of the following:

It should be remembered that references do provide potential for bias and unsubstantiated opinion. Also, anti-discrimination legislation and the Data Protection Act mean that the contents of a reference and its use in the selection process could be scrutinised or appealed against. Therefore if the contents of a reference are potentially going to play a major role in determining the most suitable candidate it is best to discuss the issues involved with your Faculty Human Resources Manager.

You may have heard about some employers using social networking sites to 'check' candidates out before proceeding to shortlist or offer employment. You are strongly advised not to enter into this practice: social networking sites often contain highly personal information which, taken out of context, should form no part in the selection process for employment; not least because this practice may lead to allegations of discrimination, as such sites will often identify the person's age, sexual orientation, marital status etc.   

These principles should also be born in mind when you are asked to provide a reference for someone and the University has guidance on writing references.