Coronavirus (COVID-19) Employer Response Resources

Do You Recommend Reference Checks?

Do you recommend doing reference checks, or is it not worth my time?

From Russell, one of our HR pros:

Thank you for your question. I am definitely an advocate for reference checks. Speaking to references is a great way to get more information about applicants and to verify the information they’ve provided to you. As a best practice, I recommend getting an applicant’s formal written consent to check their references, but if they’ve provided you with a reference list with names and contact methods for this specific purpose, additional authorization is likely not needed.

When speaking with references, open-ended questions are often the most helpful—if they are willing and able to answer them. I like to ask whether the applicant would be a good fit for the role and what skills the applicant has that would make them well-suited to it. I also usually ask about any times the applicant needed to be coached and how they responded to feedback.

If a reference doesn’t seem willing or able to answer open-ended questions, you can ask them to confirm employment information that the candidate has already provided (e.g., dates of employment, reason for leaving). In the process, the reference may open up about the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses related to their previous position or about other job-related details. If they don’t, then I recommend asking whether they’d recommend the applicant for your position. Even a simple yes or no answer will speak volumes.

I hope this information is helpful!


As a Professional Employer Organization, Solid Business Solutions enables employers to cost-effectively outsource administration of payroll, human resources, employee benefits, time and attendance and workers’ compensation giving our clients more time to focus on running and growing their business. To learn more about Solid Business Solutions or to speak with a representative, contact us today.

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