An E-newsletter on EXCELLENCE in Leadership

Reference Checking NAD Principals’ Handbook Excerpt 


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, 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 hireable.

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

January 2018 | Volume 6, No. 5

Recruitment Equals Reference Checking

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.


Another reason why extensive reference checking is so important 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 give greater insight into the life of 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 and knew how to work 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 the acquisition of 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. In our current economic environment and questions of credibility it is a mistake we cannot afford to make.





Murray Cooper | Associate Superintendent,
Florida Conference



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

In the Florida Conference, when a person applies for a teaching or principal position through our application portal, they must grant permission for us to conduct reference checking. This allows us to talk with their listed reference names as well as using the informal network among principals and superintendents.

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

When asked about an educator that has been fired, counselled to resign, or is a teacher that just is not effective in the classroom, I believe it to be a professional obligation to inform the possible hiring conference of the reasons 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 that you check with your conference human resource department for guidelines in local conference policy.

State Laws on References and Statements By Former Employers (Barbara Kate Repa)

Reading Between
the Lines

Stephen Bralley | Superintendent, Kentucky-Tennessee Conference



 If you run across these things during your referencing they should make you pause and consider the candidate.

A person’s tone during a conversation can tell you a lot even if they are only giving 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.

long pauses
Longer than usual pauses could mean they are editing their conversation to make sure they are not sharing information they feel they should not or cannot.

searching for general descriptors
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.

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

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

Newsletter Coordinator

Murray Cooper

Associate Superintendent,
Florida Conference

Newsletter Editors

Berit von Pohle, Editor

Pacific Union Conference, Director of Education

Ed Boyatt, Editorial Advisor