One Thing A Recruitment Manager Will Not Tell You, Right In Your Face

Generally, formal employment reference check  conducted by Human Resources (HR) managers only yield sparse information on the prospective candidates.

Only limited and basic information are provided and most often, hiring managers lack enough data to make informed hiring decisions. Most of the time the employment verification conducted by HR managers will only return information about the candidate’s past employment such as the starting date, position and responsibilities held and last day of employment.

Obviously, the hiring manager will need more information for them to gauge a candidate’s suitability to the vacant post.

Since these inputs will not suffice, more and more companies are using reference verification method to find out more about the candidate’s skills and personality.

The extent of the reference check depends upon the needs of the hiring manager. Some may thoroughly conduct the process while others may just do a cursory check.


Conducting reference check is one of the most crucial steps in an employment selection process.

If done effectively, you will be able to discern the skill sets of your job candidate.  You will be able to determine not only the skills and qualifications of the candidate; you will also learn his personality and work ethics.

You can use reference verification to help you assess the abilities of the candidate and determine whether the applicant being considered is best suited for the role.

By tapping the candidate’s former employers, you will gain greater insight from people who previously worked with or handled the applicant.

Of course, always bear in mind that the applicant is the one providing the references so most probably, you will be referred to favorable references.

Don’t forget to ensure the legitimacy of the references provided to you by the applicant. It would be better not to let the candidate choose his or her references. Instead, ask to be referred to the people who actually supervised him or her. Also prepare a set of questions.

In that way, you will have a uniform and consistent frame from which you can base your decision.


You will eventually know the reference’s disposition on the applicant. While some may not tell you directly the candidate’s weaknesses and the problems encountered working with the applicant, the way the reference answer your questions would be a good indicator whether the applicant fared well in his or her previous employment.

Listen for any speech inflection, hesitation and struggles to find the right words or terms.  Sometimes, the source may just be diplomatic in appraising the applicant.

The key is asking the right questions and listening and observing the way your questions are being answered.

While it is important to tailor your reference verification questions to the position and the applicant being considered, here is a sample outline to base your questions:

  1. Capacity in which the reference is associated with the applicant and since when
  2. Capacity in which the applicant is employed, his or her job responsibilities and salary
  3. Applicant’s strengths and areas in which the person can improve
  4. How he/she handles stress and responds to difficult situations
  5. Applicant’s work relationship with others, whether he or she works best in a team or alone
  6. Applicant’s value to the team and contribution to the company
  7. Work ethics, tardiness and absenteeism records
  8. Any circumstance when the applicant was reprimanded or disciplined
  9. Suitability of the applicant on the job being applied for
  10. Advice on working with and motivating the applicant
  11. Reasons on why the applicant left his or her previous job
  12. Whether or not the reference would rehire the candidate
  13. Rating of applicant’s overall performance in the scale of one to ten, with ten as the highest
  14. Any additional comments that the reference would find helpful

Of course, there can be variations in your reference verification procedures.

But it would be better to be uniform in composing the questions to avoid issues on fairness and consistency.

Ask only job-related and legal questions. If done effectively, reference verification will help you get the best candidate for the job.