Reference check for employment (Free template)

Reference checks have been around for decades, and they will continue to exist for quite some time.

Reference checks have been a common practice in HR since the Mid 20th century. However, the way reference checks are conducted and the information gathered in the process has evolved over time. 

Today much of the candidate’s information is accessible through channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, alumni networks, community websites, etc; However, collecting direct management feedback is still used as the main source of truth when it comes to performing reference checks.  In this article, we will learn about reference checks and we will download a template that you can use and customize for your own organization. 

What is a reference check for hiring? 

 A reference check is the verification process of a candidate’s credentials, skills, and behavior at work performed by contacting the candidate’s previous employer and/or work colleagues. 

 The objective of the reference check is to confirm the hiring of the candidate for a particular role and to gain additional insights into the candidate’s work performance, work experience, and overall behavior at work. 

 Reference checks are traditionally done by phone calls by the recruiter in charge of the candidate’s recruitment. They can be done online through digital forms, software, or via video calls. Reference checks have not been subject to innovation for a long time. Some new A.I reference check tools like vermark exist and present relevant alternatives to consolidate the candidate’s credentials in one place. 

Why a reference check for hiring?


 1)    Avoid bad hires 

According to a survey by CareerBuilder, 74% of employers reported that they had hired the wrong person for a position.  A bad hire will cost the organization time and money. To avoid “Mis-hires” performing a reference check appears to be a mandatory stop in the recruitment process.  The cost of miss hiring is significant, and it not only includes the cost and time spent recruiting the employee, but also the cost of training, productivity loss, decreased morale of the team, etc. 

 Click here to know more about the cost of Mis-hire. 

 For this reason, Reference checks help mitigate the risk of a bad hire by providing additional information about a candidate's work history and performance.

2)    Better prepare the candidate’s onboarding and learning & development 

 In addition to preventing the cost of mis-hiring, reference checks can provide valuable information for onboarding and training. By contacting the organization’s previous manager of the employee, you may gather interesting insights about the employee’s strengths, weaknesses as well as his / her learning and development needs.  

What information is verified in a reference check for hiring 

  •  The Candidate’s employment history: duration, location, job title, and responsibilities. 
  • Job Performance Employers can gain insight into a candidate's job performance and the work’s consistency of the employee at the workplace. 
  • The candidate’s Culture fit:  You can gain a detailed understanding of the employee’s behavior at work, how to they operate in a team environment, what are their triggers and overall you can evaluate whether the employees abide by the rule and regulations provided by the company 
  •  Key skills and competency requirements: Get insights about the skills level of the candidates. Validate the perception of the skills you had during the interview. 
  • Recommendations: Ask open questions to collect suggestions to better integrate the employee, or small tips to help speed up productivity and engagement once they onboard
  • Criminal record (optional) : For some positions, a criminal check might be required. For example, if you are hired by Interpol, the reference check will be exhaustive and include a criminal record.  

When to use a reference check for hiring? 

 In most cases, Reference checks are usually performed after the final round of interviews and before issuing the final offer. 

However, reference checks can also be performed at any point in the hiring process if there is a major concern over the candidate’s work history. 

 Some companies who omit to perform a reference check prior to the employment contract step may realize too late that the employee’s performance and behavior are not aligned with their expectations. In such case, the company may choose to perform a reference check after the employee is onboarded, to comfort their decision to terminate the employment of the employee. 

 Common mistakes we have seen with reference checks with hiring? 

Below are the most common mistakes we came across when performing reference checks: 

  1. Seeking positive feedback due to pressure to hire: The HR team in charge of closing the recruitment process is usually keen to close the role as soon as possible due to the hiring manager's pressure to hire. As a result, the recruiter may seek only positive feedback to comfort the hiring decision.
  2. Not interviewing the right references: When given at the beginning of the recruitment process, candidates will provide peers and colleagues instead of line managers as their reference. We recommend gathering the references before closing process when it is concrete for the candidate to provide the details of a strategic contact point at this stage of the process. It is also useful to contact other people who were not part of the reference list provided by the candidate, as an additional external source of information. 
  3. Failing to verify the reference’s identity: HR should confirm the identity of the person that has been provided by the candidate to ensure the person is not a close friend or relative of the candidate.
  4. Failing to maintain the confidentiality of the reference check: The result of the reference check should be provided only to relevant stakeholders (Line managers and HR). It shall not circulate to other members who are not directly involved in the recruitment process.  

Huneety recommendations for a successful reference check

To prevent any bad surprises in the hiring process, we recommend: 

  • Using pre-employment assessments to pre-screen the candidate’s personality and behavior at early stage, in order to predict the candidate fit early on in the process. Free tools like Huneety can help you identify the right candidate before they are hired with culture fit, behavior, and soft skills assessments
  • Conduct reference checks from a landline office number, rather than a mobile phone. This procedure minimizes the occurrence of fraud.  Where the referee proves difficult to contact on a landline, the reference checker should endeavor to verify the authenticity of the provided mobile number and referee by contacting the head office or switchboard of the referee.
  • Ensure that the referee must have managed or supervised the candidate in a past or current role. If this is not the case, further investigation is required to ensure the relevance and relationship of the referee to the candidate.   


Download FREE Reference check template

Download FREE Reference check template
You can download here our free reference check template for free. We hope you find it useful!
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