Referee checks help you collect and verify information provided by the candidate. General referee comments can be included as part of selection and individual reports.
At a minimum, referee checking must be conducted in relation to the applicant recommended for appointment and (where applicable) on an order of merit. Referee checking for other applicants is at the discretion of the panel.
The panel decides when to conduct referee checks during the selection process. For non-public service applicants, consider the possible impacts of seeking references at an early stage.
Number of referees
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, at least 1 referee should have thorough knowledge of the applicant’s work behaviour, conduct and performance within the previous 2 years.
Where an applicant is a current or previous public service employee, the panel may consider asking the applicant to nominate a referee who can report on their public service employment.
If the panel believes there are referees other than those nominated by the applicant who hold information relevant to the selection decision, the panel may contact the applicant for additional referees. Where an applicant declines, the panel must make its recommendation on the information available.
Conduct a referee check
A telephone conversation with a referee is an effective way to assess the applicant’s suitability in terms of how they will fit into the team. The conversation can then be summarised in writing and a copy sent to the referee for verification and any further comment.
Use a structured approach rather than a casual conversation:
- document the conversation to ensure transparency in decision making
- base comments on observation of work—referee is providing information based on their own observations and / or experiences of working with the candidate
- use follow-up questions to test and clarify information
- seek behavioural examples from nominated referees regarding the candidate’s effectiveness in the key attributes (selection criteria), and to confirm qualifications and / or training
- clarify their role, effectiveness in the role, why they left / want to leave, strengths, areas they need to develop, and specific role requirements.
Public service supervisors or managers have an obligation to provide an honest account of an applicant’s performance and workplace conduct relevant to the role.
If negative information is uncovered, consider its source and check its accuracy with other sources before making a decision about the applicant.
Where the information adversely affects the proposed recommendation for selection it must be put to the applicant for response and the response considered by the panel ahead of them making the final recommendation.