Academic and senior professional/ administrative roles
The process for setting up and preparing for an interview for a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer/Reader, Chair or their clinical equivalents, and Professional/Administrative Grade J and above has some variations on the guidance outlined below. The Resourcing team will be responsible for obtaining references and will work closely with you through the entire selection process. Further information can be found in the Academic Recruitment Checklist.
References should be used to inform your 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 academic and research roles a reference can provide important confirmation of the candidate's academic ability and track-record, and references are therefore taken up at short-listing stage.
For support 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.
References should be requested in writing wherever possible. If telephone references are used, accurate records should be kept.
When requesting a reference it is important to state clearly the information required, and include a copy of the further details of the vacancy. This tends to improve the validity and reliability of the response. It should be noted that many employers, particularly from the private sector, will only provide basic factual information relating to the person's employment. This is generally a policy decision and should not be seen as a negative comment on the person's suitability.
Under the Equalty Act 2010 it is no longer permissible to ask questions that aim to establish how many days of sickness absence an applicant has accrued during previous employment prior to the candidate being made a conditional or unconditional offer of work; this means that such questions cannot be included in any reference request.
You may wish to use our example reference letter template as a guide.
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.
References should be requested in writing wherever possible. If telephone references are used accurate records should be kept.
At the end of the process references for the successful candidate should be returned to Human Resources with the Request to Appoint form. References for unsuccessful candidates should be also be returned to Human Resources with the unsuccessful application forms.
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.