An E-newsletter on EXCELLENCE in Leadership

Reference checking is crucial. A reference should be solicited from people who have direct knowledge of the candidate’s work habits and character. Supervisors for the past 10 years should also be included. In most cases, the candidate will provide a list of references. These should be contacted in addition to others you know who may help you get a clear picture of the candidate. Referents should be interviewed even if the candidate submits a letter of recommendation from the referent. The LCOE can provide a list of questions to ask.

Each referent should be asked the same list of questions. One question that should be asked of all referents is:

“Has (the candidate) ever been accused of sexual misconduct with a minor?”

The referent’s answer should be written down word for word, as well as the date and the referent’s name and position should also be recorded. An affirmative answer requires further investigation. You should come to closure on any allegation. It may be that the accusation was unjustified and the candidate remains employable.

Additionally, consider asking each referent:

“Would you hire this individual again?”

“What is the answer to the question I haven’t asked?”

All reference notes should be kept permanently but separate from personnel files.

February 2024 | Volume 12, No. 5

Recruitment Equals Reference Checking

By Kevin Kossick
Vice-President for Education—Georgia-Cumberland Conference



Back in the day, there was an oil filter commercial that said, "You can pay me now or pay me later." The same is true in the selection of personnel. If you put your work in early by conducting thorough reference checking, you will probably have to do less supervision or personal management with an employee later.

An additional reason extensive reference checking is essential is the law of human predictability, which states, "Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior."

As an administrator, it is important to utilize as many resources as possible before making a personnel decision, and one of the best tools is social media.

Since most people have a social media account, it is easy to visit their site and search through the friend list, seeking a common connection until you identify someone you know or trust. Now, you have a backdoor reference to provide further insight into the would-be employee's work and life history.

Once, I had a highly qualified candidate who had listed her pastor as a reference. When I called the pastor, he gave a glowing report and recommended the candidate for the position. Fortunately, I checked out the pastor's Facebook account and was surprised to learn he was not a Seventh-day Adventist. More investigation revealed that the candidate was a former Adventist who wanted to move to our conference to be closer to her new boyfriend. She knew how to use our reference system to her advantage. Think of the awkward position that would have placed everyone in if we had offered a contract only to uncover the whole story later!

Although 100% success in acquiring employees is difficult to achieve, it can be costly to make employment mistakes not only in the future lives of children but in the wasted expenses of relocation and interviews. But perhaps the most significant cost is to you, the leader, when credibility is lost due to sloppy teacher recruitment practices.

"Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior."

Reading Between the Lines

By Stephen Bralley

Director for Secondary Education—North American Division

IF YOU ENCOUNTER THESE things during your referencing, they should make you pause and consider the candidate.

A person’s tone during a conversation can tell a lot, even if they only give you employment confirmation. Are they staying formal or more relaxed? Are they hesitant? Can you “hear a smile” in their voice when they speak of the candidate?

Longer than usual pauses could mean they are editing their conversation in an effort not to share information they feel they should not or cannot.

If the reference is struggling to find positive descriptors, that could mean there is a problem.

How much do they have to say about the candidate? A brief or abrupt conversation does not give you a good idea of how the candidate worked.

These statements should make you pause. “They could be a good worker in the right job.” “Our position was not right for them.”

Anytime a reference’s comments contradict the candidate’s resume or conversation, it is a red flag.


Searching for General Descriptors

Qualified Statements



Contradictions or Inconsistencies

Reference Request Responses

By Murray Cooper
Director of Education—Southern Union Conference

One challenge in the referencing function is when you are called upon to give a reference for a teacher or principal in your school or conference.

Generally, when a person applies for a teaching or principal position, they grant permission for us to conduct reference checking. This allows us to talk with their listed reference names and use the informal network among principals and superintendents.


When the educator is a good to great teacher, the conversation with the potential hiring conference is easy. While we may not want to lose a quality educator to another conference or even school within a conference, we can quickly identify several positive characteristics of the educator and speak of that person in glowing terms.


When asked about an educator who has been fired, counseled to resign, or is a teacher who is not effective in the classroom, I believe it to be a professional obligation to inform the possible hiring conference why this educator is not being rehired. In good conscience, I cannot give a good recommendation for someone who is not an effective teacher or has significant negative issues. I do not want to be known as someone who just passes ineffective teachers along, as that is not in the best interests of the students that would be served by that educator.


Refer to the link below for what you can and cannot say in a reference check in your state. It is also recommended to check with your conference human resource department for guidelines in local conference policy.


Newsletter Editor

Berit von Pohle, Editor

Vice President for Education

Ed Boyatt, Editorial Advisor

Issue Coordinator

Berit von Pohle

Vice President for Education

Pacific Union Conference