Toolkit for Recruiting Association Executives

8. Conduct Reference Checks

Reference checks and background checks are two methods for obtaining additional information on candidates past performance and background. Before contacting references or conducting a background check, you must obtain written authorization and signed permission from the candidate.

Sample form -- Authorization to Release Information

I hereby authorize all former employers, persons, educational institutions, law enforcement agencies and military services to release information related to my work record or in reference to information provided to the (add association name) or its agents, and release them from any liability or responsibility from doing so. I understand that omitting or giving false pre-employment information is reason for disqualification or dismissal and that an offer of employment is subject to verification of employment history satisfactory to the (add association name).

Signature:______________________________________________ Date:___________________

Reference Checks

Reference checks can help you determine which candidate will be the best fit for the position. Companies and individuals may not provide professional references on candidates due to legal concerns. A negative reference is difficult to obtain because candidates are likely to share contacts that will provide positive comments. If you receive negative feedback during the reference check, keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that the person will perform poorly. You should allow the candidate to refute any negative references. In addition, a positive reference does not guarantee that the candidate will perform well in the position.

Reference checks should be done consistently for all candidates. Ask each candidate to provide a list of four to six business references that can be contacted such as past employers, supervisors, association leaders, members, subordinates, and colleagues.

Develop a list of job-related questions. A different set of questions may be developed for each group of references such as members and subordinates. A few customized questions can also be asked to address any areas of concern about each candidate. Ask references for specific job-related examples of performance.

Sample Questions

  • What are his/her strengths and weaknesses?

  • What did he/she accomplish that made a difference to your organization?

  • What was the biggest challenge that he/she faced and overcame?

  • How does he/she interact with leadership and members?

  • Tell me about his/her management style. Are you aware of any conflicts with staff?

  • How would you compare his/her work to others who had the same position?

  • Would you recommend him/her for an Association Executive position?

Background Checks

Background checks can be used to reduce the risk of theft, discipline problems, workplace violence, and discourage candidates from hiding information. Companies can be contracted to conduct background checks on candidates.

The following items can be obtained through a background check:

  • credit checks (Note: Discuss this with your attorney, because most states require you to inform the candidate if the decision not to hire is based on the credit check.)
  • criminal record checks
  • department of motor vehicle checks
  • education verifications
  • social security traces
  • public record searches

Links to Vendors: (1) SHRM Vendor page; and (2) Commerce Center Vendor Directory.

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