Respecting reference boundaries and job candidate's privacy
Question: If a job candidate provides a specific person at a company for a reference, can the employer contact anyone at that company? Should the employer get consent from a candidate to contact any references?
Answer: If a job candidate provides the name of a specific person at a company for a reference, the employer should only contact that person, unless the candidate has consented to the employer contacting other individuals within the same company. The employer should always get consent from the candidate before contacting any reference. Employment information is confidential and the candidate has a right to the protection of that information. Privacy law protects the release of employment information unless the candidate has consented to the release of that information, usually in an application or interview.
Checking references is an important part of the hiring process and should not be viewed as a mere formality. Individuals who are external to the employer’s organization and have experience with the candidate are in an excellent position to give the employer an accurate estimate of whether the candidate will be able to perform the job. They can also provide perspective on the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in an objective manner. It is important when obtaining references to fully describe the job and ask open-ended, specific questions, and to take the time to listen carefully.
Reference checks are an important part of the hiring process, but the employee must always consent to the contact if reference checks are to be done in such a way as to not violate the candidate’s privacy rights.
Leah Schatz is a partner with MLT Aikins LLP in Saskatoon. She can be reached at (306) 975-7144 or [email protected]