2.11 Employment Verifications and Professional References

Employment verification is required for all prospective faculty members, and professional references are required for all final candidates seeking employment at Berklee, whether staff and faculty. Reference checks are an essential component of the selection process and should be handled carefully and thoughtfully. Reference checks can give a hiring manager important information about how a final candidate has actually performed. Past performance is the best predictor of future success.

Conducting an Employment Verification

An employment verification is required for all prospective faculty members identified as final candidates for an open position prior to an offer of employment being made. An employment verification is typically obtained by contacting the Human Resources Department of the candidate’s current or most recent employer to confirm dates of employment, position held, and if possible, the direct supervisor's name and whether the individual is eligible for rehire. If the candidate indicates that their current employer should not be contacted, the candidate should be told that the lack of the current employer’s verification may affect the hiring decision. Employment verifications serve to validate not only the final candidate’s employment history, but also the information provided through a professional reference check.

Employment verifications will be conducted through Workday by Berklee's Human Resources Department once a final candidate has been identified for an open positon. An employment verification is not a substitute for a professional reference; it is an additional step. Any employment experience that is used to provide a professional reference should be verified as a way to validate the legitimacy of the professional reference. Employment verifications will be documented and kept on file in Human Resources.

Conducting Professional Reference Checks for a Final Candidate at Berklee

At least two positive professional reference checks must be obtained prior to extending a job offer to a faculty member or a staff member. At least one professional reference must be an individual who has had direct supervisory or management oversight of the candidate or an individual in a positon of authority over the candidate. The most recent and relevant employment references should be checked and information gained during those checks weighed accordingly. References from previous supervisors or managers must be obtained, but references from colleagues or clients may also be considered when appropriate. Furthermore, references from any party that may have a direct conflict of interest should not be used in meeting the required minimum check (e.g., relatives, friends).

Berklee's hiring managers will conduct the reference check in Workday as they are most familiar with the job duties and qualifications presented by the candidate.

As a best practice, the same questions should be asked of all references, but individual follow-up questions may be included. The most useful reference checks are obtained using a conversational approach, as opposed to only asking a list of questions. The hiring manager may find it helpful to have the final candidate's application, résumé, and interview notes available during the reference check. Refer to what the candidate said in the interview and what is written on the application or résumé so that the reference validates the information provided. In addition to listed questions in Workday, sample reference checks can be obtained from Human Resources.

Requests for References from Former Berklee Employees

When inquiries are made to Human Resources for employment verification or a reference check, Human Resources will typically only verify dates of employment, position held, and salary at the time of separation. If a former Berklee employee has been involuntarily terminated for misconduct, Human Resources may share that information with prospective employers when inquiries are made to Human Resources. The prospective employer may be notified that the former Berklee employee was terminated for violation of Berklee policy. In the case of an investigation or a finding where the person has already left the community, Human Resources may inform prospective employers who contact Human Resources that the person left pending an investigation into a policy violation.

When reference inquiries are made to department leadership or others at Berklee, do one of the following:

  • Consult with Human Resources.
  • If you are contacted for a reference for an individual who was involuntarily terminated from Berklee for any reason, please refer the caller to Human Resources at 617-747-2375.
  • Don’t give a reference if you’re not comfortable doing so or if you are not prepared. Tell a requester that you need to review your records and will call back, or refer them to Human Resources.
  • Clarify the nature of your relationship with the candidate and the basis upon which you are assessing their performance (i.e., if you are/were not the supervisor, state whether you are/were a coworker, fellow committee member, etc.)
  • If you feel that you cannot give an objective reference for any reason, you should decline and refer the requester to Human Resources at 617-747-2375 for verification of employment.
  • If you do not have sufficient knowledge about an individual’s job performance or reason for leaving, or if you did not supervise or work closely with the person, tell the requester the nature of your relationship, that you do not have sufficient knowledge to give a meaningful reference, and refer them to Human Resources.
  • If you have concerns about the candidate’s past performance and feel that you could not back up your statements with objective evidence if asked, or if there is something about the individual’s employment history with you that makes you hesitant to provide information to any external employer, consult with Human Resources. Options include declining to give a reference, asking the job seeker to sign a waiver, or ask the prospective employer to send you a waiver signed by the job seeker.

References should be balanced, truthful, free of subjective impressions that lack objective support, and given in good faith without malice. You should never seek out a prospective employer to give an unsolicited reference.

In cases where the individual has voluntarily resigned and left in good performance and behavioral standing, you may provide the following information:

  • Verify dates of employment, position held, and description of responsibilities as outlined in the job description.
  • Discuss the person’s performance, attendance, and reason for separation (e.g., voluntary resignation).
  • You have an obligation to give a balanced picture about an employee’s job performance.
  • Review the file, adhere to aspects of the individual’s performance that you know, and do not respond to questions about areas you do not know.
  • Do not say anything to a reference about a former employee’s specific performance that you would not say directly to the former employee.
  • Do not reveal information that would violate the rights of the affected former employee, e.g., involvement in labor organizing or other legally protected activities.

An applicant may have a right to access to information provided in a reference. You, as the reference provider, should be able to back up your statements, preferably with performance appraisals and other written documentation.

Berklee reserves the right to amend, suspend, or cancel this policy at any time, with or without notice.


December 2018