Conducting effective reference checks

Conducting reference checks is a crucial step in the selection process.

It should cover past performance to determine if the applicant being considered is suited for the role.

This not only allows you to get the most qualified person, but also that you are getting the best!


First of all it will confirm the information provided by the candidate is true and correct

You will gain greater insights into the candidate’s profile: skills, knowledge and abilities – are they capable of doing what they say they can do

Use your reference to promote your candidate to the client


Make sure you are speaking to the right person (if possible we request the most recent, should this not put the current employment at jeopardy)

Check on LinkedIn or any other company info if the contact person is the right person to speak to, and if they are (or were) in the position and company at the time they say they were

Make sure it is not a friend, or colleague that was junior to the applicant

Make sure you have the candidate’s consent before calling any references


Before making the call, make sure you have your list of relevant questions ready and all the questions are job-related.

Identify yourself and the reason of your call

Ask if it is a convenient time to talk, or if you can set up an appointment when suitable to them (they don’t HAVE to give you their time)

Give them time to respond and do not cut them off – often they will elaborate and you end up getting all and more info (some you didn’t even think to ask for)

Often recruiters will wait for the end of the recruitment process to do a reference check, however in order to select the best person for the job, and your clients – it can help you highlight your shortlist early on in the process and end up saving you time when you get to the end of the process only to find out that the candidate was indeed dismissed or there were issues at their last position.