Reference Checks Best Practices

Reference Checks Best Practices For Religious Organizations: Questions to Ask When Conducting Effective Reference Checks

You’ve made it to the final stage of the hiring process! The reference check is the last item between you and your new employee.


This is critical in ensuring you make the best decision for the nonprofit organization.


To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of best practices for reference checks. This includes questions to ask, who to check, and what to avoid.


By following these tips, you can be sure that you are getting accurate information about your potential new hire.

What are Reference Checks, and Why Do Religious Organizations Need to Conduct them?

Reference checks are an essential step that religious organizations must take when recruiting new employees and volunteers who work around children and older adults.


By conducting reference checks, organizations can confirm the information provided in a job application or resumé, predict how a candidate will perform in the role, and gain insight into the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. This helps ensure that the best person is chosen for the position and that the organization is not exposed to legal risks.


Reference checks are also a great way to verify a candidate’s past performance and determine if they fit the organization’s culture.


By speaking to former employers or colleagues, professional hiring will better understand how the candidate performed in their previous job. This is important as past behavior is often the best indicator of future performance.


Reference checks are a critical step in the recruitment process for churches and religious organizations. They ensure that the best person is chosen for the position, help protect the organization from legal risks, and help confirm candidates’ suitability for the job.

Why Nonprofit Organizations Must Perform Reference Checks on All Applicants?

Why Nonprofit Organizations Must Perform Reference Checks on All Applicants?

1. They help employers verify the qualifications and experience of job applicants.

Reference checks help nonprofit organizations by providing insight into a potential employee’s past performance, qualifications, and behavior. By verifying information on employment applications, resumes, and interviews, as well as speaking to past employers and other individuals who can provide accurate information about the applicant, nonprofits can make more informed hiring decisions and avoid potential red flags.


2. They give churches insight into the applicants’ job performance, reliability, and personality.

Organizations can understand a potential candidate’s skills, qualifications, employment history, strengths and weaknesses, and behavior by conducting reference checks. This information can be used to determine if the applicant is suitable for the position and will be a good fit for the organization.


3. They help religious groups identify red flags and assess the risk level of candidates.

Reference checks are a valuable tool for religious organizations when assessing potential candidates for a position. Religious organizations can gain insight into a candidate’s background and experience by conducting these checks, spot potential red flags and warning signs about previous behavior, and verify facts and skillsets.


4. They help employers determine whether candidates are a good fit for the job.

Reference checks are an essential part of the recruitment process for nonprofit organizations. By speaking with former managers, supervisors, and coworkers, you can gain insight into the candidate’s skills, knowledge, and abilities, as well as their work ethic, working style, dependability, attitude, and communication skills.


5. Allows nonprofits to verify volunteers identify

A reference check helps a nonprofit verify the identity of volunteers by providing additional information about the candidate’s education, experience, and past performance. This helps them ensure that the volunteer is qualified for the position and that they have not misrepresented themselves on their resume.


Additionally, it helps the nonprofit assess the volunteer’s potential performance and effectiveness in the role and to detect any possible fraudulent activity. Through reference checking, nonprofits can also measure the effectiveness of content that a volunteer may interact with during their service.

When Should Churches do Reference Checks?

When Should Churches do Reference Checks?

1. Before making a job offer

It is essential to do a reference check before making a job offer to ensure that the candidate meets the minimum experience required for the vacancy. Reference checks can also provide insight into a candidate’s skills, knowledge, and abilities, helping to identify the strongest candidate for the role.


Moreover, conducting a reference check before making an offer can help protect the employer from potential legal issues. It is also essential to check the candidate’s written authorization and to inform them that references will be contacted.


2. Before allowing individuals to work around kids

When hiring an individual to work with children, churches must conduct reference checks before extending an offer. While background checks search for criminal activity that has been discovered, a reference check can provide insight into someone’s life when they have not been convicted of a crime.


When kids are involved in an open employment position, reference check questions must allow the person to share all relevant information and concerns about the person being considered for the job.


3. Before allowing people to work with older adults

It is essential to do a reference check before allowing people to work with older adults who may be more vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Recruiters and hiring managers of the nonprofit need to obtain various references from previous employers to ensure consistency of their performance and the safety of the older adults they may be working with.

Professional References

Best Practice of Who Should you ask for References for?

1. Current or Former Employer

When considering new top candidates for a job opening, it is essential to speak with their current or former employer. Ask questions about job performance, such as how they handled difficult situations, how well they followed instructions, and whether the person was a team player.


2. Professional Colleagues & Friends

It is also essential to reach out to professional colleagues and friends who can provide insight into the candidate’s personality and how they handle stress. These references should be able to speak to the individual’s work ethic, trustworthiness, and competency.


3. Clients & Co-Workers

Speaking with clients and co-workers of the potential hire is also essential in getting a complete picture of a candidate. These individuals can provide feedback on the person’s communication and interpersonal skills and their success in working with team members.


4. Academic References

Additionally, it is important to contact references from the individual’s academic background if applicable. These sources should be able to speak to the candidate’s work ethic and time management skills, as well as their ability to think critically and adapt to different learning environments.

Best interview questions

What are the Best Questions to ask People When Conducting Reference Checks?

When conducting reference checks, asking specific, targeted questions is essential to help you better understand the candidate’s qualifications and abilities. Here are some example questions to consider asking:


  1. How do you know the candidate?
  2. Confirm dates of employment
  3. What strengths or skills did they demonstrate in their work or studies?
  4. What weaknesses did they display, and how did they address them?
  5. How would you rate the candidate’s overall performance?
  6. Can you provide examples, if any, of the candidate working under pressure or tight deadlines?
  7. In what way was the candidate able to think outside the box or problem-solve effectively?
  8. What challenges or obstacles did they face while working with you, and how did they handle them?
  9. Would you recommend the candidate for the position based on their previous work?
  10. Is there any additional information that might be useful in assessing this candidate’s suitability for the job?


Your questions should always aim to assess the candidate’s skills, experience, work ethic, and potential to excel in their desired role. It is also essential to ask open-ended questions to get an honest, in-depth view of the candidate’s capabilities.


For example, you could ask:


  • How did the candidate handle complex tasks or challenging situations?
  • What specific skills or competencies do they possess that would make them successful in this role?
  • Can you provide examples of how their work contributed to their previous company’s success?
  • What was the candidate’s most significant accomplishment in their last role?
  • How did the candidate stay current on relevant industry trends and advancements?


By asking these questions, you can gain a deeper understanding of the candidate and decide whether they are suited for the organization.

Ensure your Church and Nonprofit have the Right Insurance in Place

When hiring people, it is critical to have church insurance in place to protect the employees and the nonprofit organization. Your human resources department needs to ensure the following coverages are in place before starting the selection process of a new or former employee:


  1. General Liability Insurance
  2. Workers’ Compensation Insurance
  3. Employment Practice Liability Insurance
  4. Employee Benefits Liability
  5. Group Health Insurance
  6. Group Life Insurance
  7. Dental and Vision Coverage


These benefits will help recruit new job candidates and protect your place of employment in case of a job-related accident. During the interview process, churches can discuss the benefits of accepting a job offer.

Frequent asked questions faq

What are the best practices for reference checks?


Regarding best practices for reference checks, there are a few best practices you should follow to ensure a successful hiring process.


  1. You should let your candidate know you are indeed performing reference checks. Doing so will help ensure they are truthful during the job interview.
  2. It is also important not to delegate the responsibility of conducting reference checks to someone else; If the candidate reports to you, you should perform the check.
  3. When conducting the check, ask the candidate what they believe their former employer will say about them. This will give you a good starting point and a better idea of which questions to ask the reference.
  4. Once you begin speaking with the reference, take detailed notes and verify employment dates and work history.
  5. Review any potential publicly accessible social media posts
  6. Avoid asking closed-ended questions
  7. Assure the reference of confidentiality.


By following these steps, you can ensure that you make the best and most informed hiring decisions for the church and other religious nonprofit organizations.


Who should be checked as a reference?


When considering who should be checked as a reference, several factors exist. It is essential to choose someone who can give an honest assessment of your skills and abilities. This could include:

  1. Former employer
  2. Supervisor
  3. College professor


What should be avoided when conducting a reference check?


When conducting a reference check, there are several things to avoid. First, it is vital to keep the line of questioning job-related and legal to protect against making potentially libelous statements.


Additionally, it is crucial to be aware of what questions are legal in the jurisdiction and to avoid leading questions or statements that fit the response the employer may be seeking.


Employers should beware of fake references that the candidate has planted. If discrepancies in the reference check arise, employers should ask more probing questions to determine the validity of the contact.


What type of feedback should be sought from references?


Looking for both positive and negative feedback is essential when seeking feedback from references. Positive feedback can help to confirm the candidate’s suitability for the role, while negative feedback should be taken seriously and investigated further.


What documents might be required for a reference check?


When conducting a reference check, documents that are required include:


  1. A signed authorization allowing the former employer to release job-related information to the prospective new employer
  2. A written outline of questions to guide the conversation and ensure inquiries are job-related
  3. List of different types of references from the candidate.
  4. Employers should document the name and title of the person with whom they spoke, the date of the conversation, and what job-related information was given or received.


What are the legal considerations when conducting a reference check?


Keeping the line of questioning legal and job-related is crucial to ensure the reference does not make potentially libelous statements. Ensure the conduct of reference checks following all applicable federal, state, and local laws and company policies. Nonprofit organizations should consult an employment attorney to obtain the appropriate legal questions allowed in their state.


What are the common weaknesses employers look for when conducting a reference check?


When conducting a reference check, employers usually look for the following weaknesses: a lack of job-specific skills, a negative attitude, poor work quality, difficulty working with others or following instructions, a lack of punctuality, poor communication skills, a lack of initiative, poor problem-solving skills, and a lack of attention to detail.


Nonprofit employers should also be alert for any inconsistencies between the candidate’s resume and the reference’s feedback, overly glowing references, or hints from the candidate that specific references should not be contacted.


What is the best way to ensure accuracy and consistency when conducting a reference check?


The best way to ensure accuracy and consistency when conducting a reference check is to have a straightforward process that all reference checks must follow. Start by creating a list of questions that you will ask each reference. These should be tailored to the job position and the skills needed. Additionally, it is important to ask open-ended questions that allow references to provide more detailed answers.


It is also important to document each step of the process and keep accurate records of each conversation with references and any other information gathered. Finally, utilize multiple sources, such as former employers, colleagues, or supervisors.


By following these steps, you can ensure accuracy and consistency when conducting reference checks and ensure you have all the necessary information before making any hiring decisions.


What is the best way to check references?


The best way to check references is to contact the references directly. This means calling them on the phone, emailing them, or even writing them a letter. Getting in touch with each reference and asking them about their relationship with the individual is crucial.


What are the do’s and don’ts of effective reference checking?


The do’s and don’ts of effective reference checking include:


  • Do ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer.
  • Don’t ask leading questions, as this can bias the results.
  • Do try to get an unbiased opinion from the reference
  • Don’t rely on just one person’s opinion.
  • Do have a plan in place for how you will use the references
  • Don’t forget to follow up if any issues arise after the candidate is hired.


What should you not say during a reference check?


When a potential employer calls to conduct a reference check, it is essential to remember that you should not say anything that could be seen as unfavorable about the applicant. Even if you have legitimate concerns or reservations, it is best to stay professional and avoid making any comments that could be considered damaging.


Instead, limit your answers to factual information such as job titles, dates of employment, and performance reviews. Avoid making assumptions about the future or speculating about the applicant’s future prospects; instead, focus on what you know from past experience.


Finally, do not offer personal opinions or judgments about the individual; keep your responses objective and strictly related to their professional qualifications.


What can legally be asked in a reference check?


Generally, it is acceptable to ask for information such as the length of time the applicant worked for the employer, job title and duties, reason for leaving, and performance reviews. It is also permissible to inquire about character qualities such as reliability, work ethic, integrity, and communication skills.


Employers should be careful not to ask questions that can lead to discrimination based on race, gender, age, national origin, or disability. Additionally, when conducting a reference check, it is essential to ensure that all references are treated equally and respectfully.


To ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, employers should consult their legal counsel before conducting reference checks.

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