Your Employee Reference-Checking Checklist

Check references to establish a proven track record of success for each employee you hire. This is not an optional step; it’s a must. Too often hiring managers treat the reference check stage as a necessary evil. It is viewed as the last “required” stage before the excitement of finalizing an offer.

It’s important to realize, however, that reference checking is not the end of the hiring process but rather the bridge between the hiring and on-boarding processes. Not only will reference checking help you make the best hiring decision possible, but it will also support the hired candidate’s successful transition into her new role in your office by ensuring they have the skills they need to do the job you are hiring them for. 

Here are the questions you should ask the applicant‘s reference and a handful of questions you should never ask:


•    When did (name) work for your company? Could you confirm starting and ending employment dates?
•    Why did (name) leave the company?
•    What was her/his starting and ending salary?
•    What was her/his position? Can you describe the job responsibilities?
•    Could I briefly review (name’s) resume? Does the job title and job description match the position that (name) held?
•    Did (name) miss a lot of work? Was s/he frequently late? Were there any issues you are aware of that impacted her/his job performance?
•    Did s/he get along well with management and co-workers?
•    Was (name) promoted while with your company?
•    If I spoke to  employees who worked with her, what kind of words would they use to describe her?
•    How did (name) handle conflict? How about pressure? Stress?
•    Did you evaluate (name’s) performance? Can you speak to his/her strengths and areas for development?
•    What was (name’s) biggest accomplishment while working for your company?
•    Would you rehire (name) if the opportunity arose?
•    If I describe the position we are filling to you, could you describe how good a fit you think (name) would be for the position?
•    Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share with me?

Here are questions you should absolutely AVOID as they are both inappropriate and illegal according to US employment law.
1.    Does the applicant have any disabilities or health problems?
2.    Is the applicant married or have children?
3.    Has the applicant made child care arrangements?
4.    Any questions that bias the reference check regarding age, gender and religion.

When in doubt, leave it out…DON’T ASK! If you feel that you have a compelling reason to ask the questionable question, consult with an attorney first.


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