From a Recruiter’s Viewpoint Vol. 5

In this Issue:
Reference Checking Made Easy

In general: References feel compelled to be honest, truthful, candid and insightful. References should be former supervisors not peers, subordinates, customers or suppliers. They will provide both positive and negative information.

No one likes to provide a reference because it can be too open-ended and unstructured.

Recommendation: Use the questions below to check a reference, prepare your references or to provide a reference.

This will save everyone a lot of time and provide all the information needed.

Legal issues: The Fair Credit Reporting Act as amended in 1998, treats a reference the same as a consumer investigative report and requires that individuals consent to reference checking and/or background checks and they must be informed of any negative information and be given the opportunity to respond.

Recommendations: Avoid written references, obtain multiple references to avoid revealing the source and if negative references cause you to lose faith in the candidate, focus on a better candidate as opposed to providing explicit details that you probably can’t prove.


  • Hiring managers should reference check at least one former boss
  • Have HR verify employment dates and education
  • Have recruiters check references to avoid any liability issues
  • Avoid reluctant references by having the candidate provide a pre-screened list


  • Always notify your references to expect a call and what it’s about
  • Make sure your references know what’s important in the position
  • Always prepare your references – don’t assume they will say only nice things
  • Provide only references that know you and will support you


  1. The candidate has indicated an interest in “position title and brief description”. Do you feel he is prepared to perform in this role?
  2. Describe your relationship to the candidate, i.e., position, length of time.
  3. How would you rate the candidate’s performance as compared to all others that you have ever supervised in similar roles?
  4. What is the candidate’s single strongest skill or asset?
  5. What is the candidate’s greatest need for improvement?
  6. Given the opportunity, would you hire this candidate again?
  7. What else can you tell us that may help us get to know the candidate better?
  8. Using the specific 2 or 3 primary requirements of the position, ask the reference whether the candidate has those specific skills or experience.

Next Issue:
“Chemistry” Matching

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