How To Conduct Effective Reference Check

How To Conduct Effective Reference Check


The process of hiring new employees to fill vacant positions in organizations is in different stages and phases; it begins with posting or advertising the available position and ends with the eventual selection of the most qualified and standout candidate, who ticked all boxes and successfully convinced interviewers. Depending on the organization, reference checks form one of the most essential phases in the recruitment process. While some employers and companies carry out reference checks during the interview stage, others prefer to check and verify references after making up their minds on whom to hire or employ.

Many organizations carry out reference checks to ascertain if candidates are really suited for the role or not. By diving into applicants’ or potential candidates’ past, organizations and employers also have an opportunity to verify given information related to the candidate’s ability, capability, and competence amongst others. The process of checking references doesn’t necessarily mean you doubt the information provided by the candidate during an interview, or on the resume; instead, due diligence demands that you get input from supervisors and individuals connected or associated with the candidate. In relation, checking references will help broaden your knowledge of the person you’re about to hire. Therefore, this article will focus on the art of reference checking and provide tips on how to effectively conduct reference checks.


Who Is A Reference? And What Is A Reference Check?

A reference is an individual or group of individuals who can attest to your work experience, work habits, character, and skills. In other words, a reference is someone who can vouch for you as an applicant, as well as say positive things about you to your prospective employers.

A reference check, on the other hand, occurs when an organization or employer contacts or reaches out to a job candidate’s previous employers, schools, and other sources to learn more about his/her qualification for a job, work history, and academic background. Relatively, carrying out a professional reference check enables employers to learn more about a job applicant’s work style, values, professionalism, and/or character.


Types Of References

Generally, there are three main forms or categories of references, these include;

Work references: Many organizations prefer work references. These can be supervisors or even coworkers who have supervised a candidate professionally or have worked closely with the candidate.

Academic references: An academic reference can be the job applicant’s tutor or research supervisor from a previous or current academic institution.

Personal references: A personal reference is a friend, client, or anyone with close personal ties with the individual; who can speak positively about the candidate’s dependability, honesty, and good nature. However, such a reference shouldn’t have blood ties with the candidate.

Why Should You Conduct A Reference Check?

Organizations and employers should carry out reference checks in order to;

  • Get verification on a job applicant’s employment and work history.
  • Talk to the job applicant’s previous colleagues or supervisors to learn about his/her work habits.
  • Have a clue and insight into an applicant’s weaknesses and strengths.
  • Confirm and verify information provided by the candidate during the interview process or on the resume.


Tips On Conducting Effective Reference Check

Conducting reference checks enable employers and organizations to avoid associated costs arising from poor performance and failed probation periods, which might impact and negate your clients and partners and subsequently bring your image and reputation into dispute. Therefore, the following tips are essential for conducting effective reference checks;

Ask job applicants or candidates to submit their references: The first step in conducting a reference check is asking candidates to submit references. Depending on the role and organization, references can be sought during the application process or after the interview stage. References are expected to verify stated information; hence the need for them. You are invariably interested in talking to people who know, and have worked with/ managed the candidate you are considering for the role.

Prepare the questions you will ask the references: Another essential tip for conducting a reference check is putting together questions to ask references. These questions are asked to confirm and verify given information on work and employment. Also, employers need to get familiar with comments on job applicants’ work performance, hence the need to prepare such questions. Relatively, job applicants’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as technical and soft skills can be ascertained via these questions.

Contact the references to arrange a meeting: Similar to the approach in a job interview, you should reach out to the references and book an appointment. The process of contacting references should be done in a polite and professional manner; don’t be arrogant and proud when reaching out to references. Make sure you consider their schedule and availability when booking appointments. These can be done in a number of ways; you can reach out to references via email or through phone calls. Thus, ensure that you are focused throughout the process.

Confirm the reference relationship with the job applicant: Depending on your requirements, candidates might provide a list of different types of references. For example, your organization might require that the applicant give at least two professional references and one academic reference. When contacting each reference, verify and confirm how the reference knows the candidate. That way, you can cross-check the details provided by the candidate, as well as verify who you’re speaking to.

Verify reference qualification and identity: Arguably, some job candidates tend to exaggerate on reference’s identity and qualification. While trying to impress employers and recruitment managers, some candidates often give fake references. They also lie about the reference’s qualification, skillset, expertise, and experience. Therefore, ensure that you take time to verify given names, emails, phone numbers, qualifications, and offices.

Make sure references aren’t biologically related to the candidate: Some job candidates use family members as references; this is professionally unacceptable. Using individuals with the same bloodline creates bias and unreliability. When conducting reference checks, make sure that the references aren’t related to the candidate. Don’t just look at the name; dig deep into the reference’s history and ensure that there are no blood ties between candidate and reference.

Create a valid reference form: Reference letters can be broad and inconsistent with what you’re looking for. Hence, creating a valid reference form will help you narrow down the information. In addition, it ensures that you get data and answers to questions you need and make you avoid information overload.



Conducting a thorough reference check is essential in the recruitment process; it helps employers and organizations discern between real and invented information. A candidate might present outstanding credentials and look good on paper; verifying the provided information is crucial to organizational growth. The tips above will help companies and interviewers carry out effective reference checks.

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