Recruitment & Advertising

Evaluating Candidates and Checking References

In this section you will find information on:

  • Interview Assessments
  • Evaluating Candidates
  • Making the Selection Decision
  • Checking References

Interview Assessments

The interview panel should spend 10 – 15 minutes debriefing between interviews to assess each candidate’s performance. This initial assessment should focus on capturing first impressions, interview feedback on responses, and general information about each candidate. It provides an opportunity for the interview panel to share impressions and identify if further probing or follow-up is required and what specific questions should be asked of references.

Evaluating Candidates

When all of the interviews have been completed, the Chair’s role is to facilitate the evaluation process and guide the interview panel to consensus regarding the top candidate(s). The goal of the candidate evaluation process is to objectively evaluate candidates against the selection criteria, the department needs and preferred competencies and determine if there is a good match among any of the candidates.

The evaluation involves considering a number of factors such as:

  • Application documents (resume and cover letter)
  • Certifications, education credentials
  • Interview assessments (incorporates selection criteria)
  • Team meeting feedback (if applicable)
  • Test results (if applicable)
  • Personal suitability / fit

Personal suitability factors are specific to an individual work unit and often include consideration for the work environment, the level of professionalism and work location, existing team member competencies, and the level of team work and support available. For instance, a Vice President’s office may require a higher degree of professionalism Interpersonal skill competencies become critical when working within a team to achieve unit results. Personal suitability factors should reflect important facets of the department/unit and the work environment.

Making the Selection Decision

With a goal of minimizing subjectivity, each candidate should be evaluated against the same selection criteria and factors. To assist in evaluating and comparing candidates at a glance, it may be helpful to create a grid or spreadsheet, with the selection criteria and factors listed along one axis and the candidates’ names along the other. Keep in mind that some criteria and factors will be more important than others so avoid giving each element the same evaluation weight.

Avoid making on the spot or quick selection decisions. It is important to take the time to consider all of the factors and to ponder the evaluation results over a day or two before proceeding with reference checks on the final candidate(s).

The evaluation results may also indicate a close match between more than one candidate therefore requiring a second round of interviews and/or checking references on all of the top candidates before a final selection decision is made. Alternatively, it may become obvious that none of the candidates meet the requirements and it may be necessary to re-post the job and start the recruitment process over.

The official note taker should record the outcome of the competition, summarize the evaluation results and list the rationale for the selection decision. In the event the interview panel needs to defend their selection decision they will be able to access this information from the competition file.

The final selection decision should always be confirmed through completing thorough reference checks.

Checking References

Reference checks are a tool that can substantiate and validate candidate information and provide further insight into a candidate’s skills, abilities, and knowledge. To avoid hiring mistakes, selection decisions should always be corroborated by checking a candidate’s work related references.

A minimum of two, but ideally three references should be checked by a member of the interview panel to ensure that follow-up questions from the interview and assessment can be probed. Telephone reference checks are the most informative and valid method of obtaining reference information. Letters of reference and non-work related references should be avoided and used cautiously.

The candidate’s list of references must include a current supervisor and/or recent supervisor(s). If the current supervisor is not included in the list of references be sure to find out why and follow-up with suitable alternates (more than one previous supervisor, colleagues, clients, team members).

Ensure the candidate signs the Consent for Collection and Verification of Information form to prevent any legal or FOIPP implications. This form also indicates that for current and previous University of Alberta employees, reference information may be obtained from their personnel file as well as from their current and previous supervisors at the University of Alberta. When considering a previous or current University of Alberta employee for a position, departments are encouraged to contact their central Human Resources Consultant prior to making an offer.


Conducting the Reference Check  

Located in the HRS Forms cabinet is a standard Pre-Employment Reference Guide that can be used and/or customized to the specific job requirements. Questions range from verifying candidate information to identifying and confirming levels of competencies.

Start the reference check by introducing yourself, explaining the purpose of the call, confidentiality standards, and whether this is a good time (or confirm a call back time).

  • Establish a rapport and provide a brief description of the position
  • Listen carefully to what is said and what is not
  • Probe for details if flags are raised
  • Human rights legislation applies just as in the selection interviews

For positions where credentials are required, it may be necessary to confirm that candidates have the credentials they indicate. This may include confirming educational accomplishments, previous employment, research or licenses/certifications. Reference information must be compiled and kept in a locked file for one year to ensure compliance with privacy and FOIPP legislation.

When reference checks are complete an update should be provided to the interview panel/selection committee to confirm the top candidate. However, if the reference check(s) were not positive, other alternatives such as requesting additional references from the top candidate; checking references of the second or third ranked candidates; or re-posting and starting the recruitment process again will have to be discussed.

Inform all the applicants of the outcome as soon as possible, whether successful or unsuccessful and keep in touch if the decision is delayed. Upon request, provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates.