Policy Statement

References are an important and integral part of the selection process. It is the city’s policy to ensure that procedures for the collection and disclosure of reference information are practiced consistently throughout the corporation and are in keeping with the principles set out in this policy.


Hiring managers, human resources staff, and any other city employees or individuals retained by the city involved in the hiring process.



Information concerning a person’s qualifications, past work performance, employment history that is provided to a prospective employer by a current or former employer.


An individual who provides a reference for a candidate.


Reference checks should be undertaken for all competitions. This applies to internal and external hiring at all levels within the organization, including bargaining unit positions. In instances where the successful candidate is reporting to the hiring manager, a reference check may not be required, however documentation communicating knowledge of satisfactory past performance must be placed in the hiring file.

Individuals who check or give references on behalf of the City of Toronto must be knowledgeable about the requirements of legislation and collective agreement provisions that are relevant to employment references. They should also inform external referees of the relevant requirements when they contact outside employers for references. These requirements include the following principles:

  • reference checks should be done only for the finalists in a competition after the assessment process is completed
  • the applicant’s written consent for each individual referee must be provided before any reference checking is done
  • before disclosing reference information about a former employee, the referee must see the individual’s written permission
  • any information disclosed, when giving references, is honest, objective, accurate, and free of malicious intent
  • due care must be exercised when disclosing information to ensure that it is factual and not the result of rumour or hearsay
  • the only information sought or disclosed is that which is relevant to the requirements of the job

Reference questions must be related to the key competencies and bona fide qualifications of the job.

All employment reference information must be documented and form part of the hiring file.

References are considered only when they are from recent employers or other appropriate sources, such as teachers or volunteer organizations for candidates without previous work experience. References from members of the City of Toronto Council are not acceptable unless a councillor has been the applicant’s employer, supervisor, or teacher.

At least two reference checks are required to be completed for every external hire and a minimum of one reference check for every internal hire.

Employment references for each hiring process should be conducted using similar questions; the questions for checking references are to be related to the job and therefore will not be the same questions for each job.

Any information that has been given as a reference will only be disclosed to the candidate with the written consent of the referee. Reference information may not be disclosed if requested under a Freedom of Information request as most employment related information falls outside the scope of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA).


Reference checking

Human resources staff will provide all internal and external applicants who are screened into the final assessment stage of the hiring process with a reference consent form. Applicants will be assured that their references will be checked at the end of the process and only if they are on a shortlist being considered for the position.

Reference checks are conducted by the hiring manager and/or human resources, or any party hired to run the selection process e.g. executive hiring consultants. The person responsible for performing reference checks must have sufficient expertise in reference checking and be knowledgeable about the employment reference policy, relevant legislation and collective agreement provisions.

Providing a Reference

When city employees are asked to provide a reference for a current or former employee they should be prepared to comply with the request and follow the steps outlined in the Procedural Guidelines.

Guidelines for bargaining unit competitions

When hiring individuals into bargaining unit positions, requests for referees must be limited to current and former supervisors/managers. The extent to which reference information may be used is based on the conditions stated in the applicable collective agreements.

Any selection decision in a bargaining unit competition is subject to grievances. In a grievance or human rights proceeding the relevance and accuracy of any information gathered in the selection process, including information from referees needs to be demonstrated.

When hiring external candidates into bargaining unit positions, references can be considered from recent employers or other appropriate sources, such as teachers or volunteer organizations for candidates without previous work experience.

Reference Consent Form

Complete a Reference Consent form and take it with you to your next job interview. You can save this form on your desktop to complete at a later date. To move from one information field to the next, use your TAB key. The fields will expand as you type. Remember to print and sign the form after completion.

Approved by

Human Resources

Date Approved

November 10, 1999


November 28, 2006

Related information

Human Resources Employment References Procedural Guidelines
Employment of Relatives
Recommendations on Members of Council Providing Letters of Reference