Checking References

This is your chance to find out the truth behind your potential employee. Checking references will give you valuable insight from the people who know and worked with your potential employee. Be sure to have consent (permission) from your potential employee before calling their references. If they refuse to give you consent, this should be a warning sign.

Don’t be surprised that a majority of references will give good recommendations or else your candidate wouldn’t give you permission to contact them. References will often give good recommendations just out of fear of being taken to court. They may be the candidates’ friends who are told to exaggerate and praise the candidate. Here are some tips to uncover the truth when checking references.

What to Ask?

1)Ask specific questions– When checking references instead of asking “Was Anabell a bad employee?” ask “What qualities in Anabell needs improvement?” Many past employers would be quick to say No, Anabel was not a bad employee to the first question. However with the second question they are less defensive and more likely to point out her bad qualities.

2)Pay attention to the answers given by the reference– If it sounds as if they are not giving you the whole truth, keep digging. For example if you ask, “Did Anabel have a problem with tardiness?” If the reference avoids answering the question and instead replies, “ Anabel was a good employee, she tried her best.” The reference is obviously avoiding the negative truth. Be aware if the reference keeps praising certain qualities while avoiding others.

3)Some references will try to cover bad qualities with good ones. For example if a reference states that an employee is very independent and works well on his/ her own, they may be saying that the employee does not work well with others. Don’t assume this is the case. Further question the reference.

Reference Questions


Confirm job position and dates of employment

How well did the candidate work with others?

What were (Candidate’s Name) Positive qualities?

What were (Candidate’s Name) Negative qualities?

Why is the candidate no longer working with you?

Would you recommend this candidate?

Is there anything else you would like to tell me?

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