UNM Today

Contact Us
Current Issue
Editorial Policies
Previous Issues
Publication Dates

Subscribe to
email edition



Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: November 25, 2002
Volume 38, Number 10

Human Resources
Tips offered for reference checking

By Susan A. Carkeek, Associate Vice President
Director, Human Resources

Checking references is not easy. When done well, reference checks can provide helpful information to make employment decisions. Following are some tips to help you give and receive references:

Giving references

Reference checking has been a frequent subject of employment litigation. As a result, many employers have adopted a policy of not giving references, either positive or negative. However, employers who fail to reveal misconduct of an employee who later causes trouble in a future employer’s workplace, can now be held legally responsible. To avoid such repercussions, it is advisable to give a reference, but in doing so to follow these steps:

  • Insist on a written authorization from the employee/former
    employee who will be the subject of the reference.
  • Return the call prepared. Collect file information.
  • Only give a reference if you have direct supervisory
    knowledge of the employee/former employee’s performance.
  • Speak from first hand knowledge. Do not offer hearsay.
  • Confine your remarks to job related performance issues.
  • Speak to those issues that you have addressed in
    performance reviews.

Under New Mexico law, an employer is immune from liability for communicating information about job performance as long as he or she acts in good faith and without malice. (NM Stat. Sec. 1 Ch. 152). In New Mexico, immunity does not apply when the employer:

  • Deliberately gave false or misleading information
  • Gave information with malicious purpose
  • Disclosed information in violation of the employee/former
    employee’s civil rights

Receiving references

When seeking references for an applicant, the following guidelines should be followed:

  • Make sure you have permission from the applicant before
    you begin. Most departments check references after the
  • If you conduct references prior to the interview, an applicant
    Signature Page” can be downloaded from the HR website
    and sent to the applicant.
  • Prepare questions in advance. A recommended “Reference
    Checking Guide” may also be accessed from the HR website.
  • Make sure you speak with someone who has direct
    supervisory knowledge.
  • Describe the job and ask if they think the applicant would fit
    the vacancy. Let the person talk freely. Be alert for any
    pauses or seeming reluctance.
  • Restate the person’s opinion to affirm or deny what you
    have heard out of the conversation.
  • Check more than one reference. One poor recommendation
    should not automatically disqualify an applicant.

If you have questions about conducting references, contact your employment services representative on main campus or human resources consultant at the Health Sciences Center.