Reference & Background Checks

Various forms of reference and background checks can provide useful information about candidates. Before providing a reference (e.g., when a former student is applying to another practice group), be sure that the candidate has consented to you providing a reference; this is especially important before providing a neutral or negative reference.

Reference Checks

Reference checks are a valuable source of information about candidates. It is reasonable to expect a candidate to be able to provide one to three references. Consider the relationship between the reference and the candidate (e.g., peers or supervisor/preceptor/mentor; recent or longstanding; similar or dissimilar work); their ability to speak to the quality of the candidate’s work; and whether the candidate was reluctant to give references.

If the candidate is having difficulty providing a recent reference beyond someone who is a peer/character reference, that may indicate there is a reason to be concerned. It certainly flags the need to dig deeper before proceeding with an offer. Some candidates may be reluctant to provide a reference from a current workplace until they have received an offer because of the impact it may have on their relationships. To respond to this reasonable concern, practice may consider making offers conditional upon a successful reference check.

When checking references, midwives are trying to get a feel for the value of the reference by understanding the nature of the relationship with the candidate. They may ask the reference specific questions about the nature of the candidate’s work and to comment on areas of strength or needing improvement. It is quite common for a reference to only make favourable comments about a candidate. A good way to finish the reference check is to ask if the reference would hire (or work with) the candidate again. Hesitation in answering or a qualified answer (“yes, but…”) can often give the most valuable information of the reference check.

Although most references tend to be of a very positive nature there are occasions where references may provide more nuanced or even negative comments. Consider the credibility of the source in deciding how much weight to give this reference. A glowing reference from an unknown source for one candidate may not trump more balanced comments from a known (and rusted) reference for another candidate.  

Sample reference check questions (under Human Resources) submitted by midwifery practices are available on this topic. Be sure to tailor the template to reflect best practices and practice group / community specific info before use.

Background Checks

In addition to reference checks, practice groups can consider other types of background checks, such as credit checks, criminal record checks or requests for letters of professional conduct from the CMO. Before completing these background checks, the practice group should consider what information will be gained, how reliable it may be and how that information will be used.

Doing routine checks can be considered discriminatory as individuals on social assistance or recent immigrants may not have a credit history to rely on; individuals with mental health disabilities or from racialized communities may be disproportionately affected by criminal record checks. To do a background check the practice will need to engage a background check service to do the task.

It is only reasonable to conduct a credit check or criminal record check if it is warranted due to the nature of the position. For example, if someone is being considered for partnership you could consider it prudent to do a credit check because banks may ask before offering financing.

Letters of Professional Conduct (LOPC) from the CMO include information on any hearings related to the member’s registration, discipline and fitness to practice. It also includes cautions, SCERPs (Specified Continuing Education or Remediation Program) and Acknowledgment and Undertakings with the College. As an LOPC may be requested by your TPA (pursuant to the Funding Agreement) or through the privileging process at a hospital/ birth centre, practice groups may wish to be aware of the content of such a letter.