Conducting reference checks is an integral part of the recruitment process. Once you have found the candidate that aligns to your client’s needs; and your client is happy with this candidate – one of the last important tasks to complete is to ensure you do thorough reference checks.


Checking a candidate’s referees is a simple process that will not cost you much time, but could potentially end up saving you, and your client, time and money. When conducting a reference check you are looking for information that cannot be found in a CV or obtained during the interview process.

Some recruiters underestimate the amount of information that can be obtained from these reference checks. You’re not only looking for information that will confirm you have found the right candidate, but also for things that will help you make sure that what has been communicated in the interview, and what is on the candidate’s CV, is indeed true.

Reference checks are important as they can reveal information that confirms you made the right decision or that you need to retract a candidate’s application ASAP.

For example:

    • You may find that the candidate has exaggerated or even lied about their employment history and/or their education
    • The candidate may have a history of failing to collaborate effectively with coworkers
    • The candidate may have never reached their targets and have actually been fired
    • Most people would not state on their CV that they have had a disciplinary hearing but this will come out during the reference process
    • You need to be friendly with the referee so introduce yourself and explain the reason for your call. Even though we’re clearly looking for specific information, you may find that referees are more forthcoming when the process feels like a conversation. Before you make the call, you must know what questions you need to ask so preparation is vital.
    • During a reference call, we are digging for information to make sure the candidate is a good fit our client. We are not just looking for answers, or confirmation of what has already been said.
  • A few examples of basic questions to ask:
  • What is the referee’s name, company and current position?
  • What was the candidate’s position in the company?
  • What was the candidate’s reason for leaving?
  • Could you please elaborate on the candidate’s duties and main functions that they were required to perform?
  • What do you consider to be the candidate’s strengths?
  • How did the candidate relate to management?
  • How did the candidate relate to his colleagues?
  • In your opinion, was the candidate a team player? Why?
  • How would the candidate take constructive criticism?
  • What impact did the candidate make in his role – performance, personality, knowledge and contributions?
  • Would you say the candidate was honest and holds high levels of integrity?
  • Did you have any reason to doubt the candidate’s honesty?
  • Would you please comment on the candidate’s punctuality and attendance?
  • Was the candidate able to work without supervision?
  • Did the candidate use their initiative?
  • How did the candidate cope with pressure and stress?
  • Hypothetically speaking, would you re-employ the candidate?
  • Were there concerns regarding their behaviour or poor performance?
  • Is there anything else you would like to mention?
  • Was there ever a time when the candidate was involved in a disciplinary hearing?
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, (1= poor, 5 = excellent) how would you rate the candidates performance? Why?

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