References should not be sought without the prospective employee’s express permission. It could cause them embarrassment if you request a reference before they have had the opportunity to ask someone to be a referee or at least inform them that they have given their name and contact details.
Consent to seek references can be obtained by including a section on an application or applicant registration form which applicants are asked to sign. You may also wish to make use of the form included here.
The employment practices data protection code recommends that signed consent is received before seeking to conduct any checks involving the release of information from a third party.
If a candidate refuses to give consent for a reference request to be made of a previous or current employer you should explore the reasons for this and try to find out whether this is due to problems with their employment. It may just be that the candidate does not want to inform their current employer until the offer is confirmed and unconditional. In this situation, you should explain that the offer is conditional and that until a reference is provided the employment cannot be confirmed.
It may also be the case that the candidate may be concerned about telling you they had a bad relationship with their manager or that they left in negative circumstances. You should not necessarily withdraw the offer in this situation. If the candidate is being honest and open with you, and you accept that people do have jobs where they were not happy, you could consider requesting an alternative reference.
Never seek to make ‘secret inquiries’ about a prospective employee, whether on the telephone or in writing, however useful you think such inquiries might be. This could lead to considerable embarrassment and damage your relationship with the prospective employee before they even start.
If you require further support on this subject, please contact our team of HR Consultants at aspire cambridge today on 01223 855441.