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Reference checking is usually done at the end of a recruitment process to confirm or refute the impression the recruiter has formed during the application process, such as during a job interview. The references are usually former colleagues or supervisors of the candidate, and the feedback is typically gathered through questions asked via phone or email.

Questions for reference checking

Reference checking can be a time-consuming process, so it is usually done for a few candidates at the end of a recruitment process. The purpose of reference checking is to validate a candidate's answers and the image that has been created of them. Below are some excellent examples of questions to ask during a reference check:

  • What is your relationship with the candidate?
  • Any notable remarks about their attendance / work hours?
  • Conflict management?
  • Communication skills?
  • Would you consider working with this person again - if not, why?
  • Need for further development?
  • How do you perceive the candidate compared to others in their current organization?
  • Work ethic?

It is important to ask the exact same questions to all references. It can be easy to stray too far, but try to be direct and clear about which questions need to be answered.


Is a colleague good as a reference?

A colleague can definitely be a valuable reference, just as good as a manager. However, it is important to clarify the type of working relationship the reference person has/had with the candidate so that the questions can be tailored accordingly.

If it is a candidate who is fairly new in the workforce, it is also acceptable to choose a football coach, a teacher, etc. - someone who can provide examples and answers to work-related or motivational situations where the desired qualities may have been applied.

A reference check should be kept brief and concise, without dragging on for too long. Therefore, it is beneficial to create a clear template with the questions that should be asked.

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Read more here why you should recruit without a CV.

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When to take references?

As mentioned above, references are generally taken in the final stage of a recruitment process. It is beneficial to give those who will be references some time to prepare, so it is recommended to schedule a time for the conversation to take place, allowing them to sit privately and think through their answers before the reference questions are asked. If candidates have little or no work experience, it may be helpful to take references earlier in the recruitment process, such as during a mass recruitment for the retail industry. In such cases, personal qualities may carry more weight than specific experience. Therefore, it is always important to inform candidates when references will be taken in a recruitment process, whether it is early or late, so that they are aware of when they will need to provide their references.
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