Conducting oral reference checks

  • ANU Referee Report Form (HR89) should be used as a guide.
  • Confidentiality is essential. The information provided by referees must be kept confidential to the selection committee.
  • Ensure that persons who are not members of the selection committee are not within hearing distance when you conduct the reference check.

Starting an oral reference check

  • Introduce yourself.
  • Explain the purpose of the call and give the name of the applicant being checked.
  • Ask if it is convenient for the person to speak with you at this time.
  • Explain that the information provided by the referee is received by ANU on a confidential basis and on the clear understanding that the University will do everything in its power to respect and maintain that confidence however the University is subject to the Freedom of Information Act (1991) that may give persons the right to obtain access to documents, including referee reports, held by the University.


  • Ask behavioural questions which encourage referees to explain past situations where the applicants have applied their skills. Encourage the referee to describe the Situation, Task, Action the applicant took and the Result (STAR Approach).
  • Use open-ended questions to ensure referees address gaps in information in relation to the selection criteria.
  • Be aware that referees may have an interest in either keeping a valued employee or in losing an under-performer and as a result, the reference may not be an objective one (e.g. referees may only report on positive aspects of the applicant and not report any weaknesses and vice versa).
  • Critically appraise/ validate any statements - if there is a statement which is confusing or unsupported, do not hesitate to clarify with the referee what they mean and ask for a specific example to support the statement.

Closing a verbal reference check

  • Ask the referee if they would like to provide any further information in relation to the applicant's suitability for the position.
  • Once again assure the referee of the confidentiality of the information provided.
  • Thank the referee for their time.

A written record of all the information provided by the referees should be discussed with the other members of the selection committee and placed on the recruitment file.

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