18 Questions To Ask During a Reference Check

Reference checking David Kozak


Reference checking can provide a recruiter with valuable third-person perspective insights on a candidate. It is a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of their character and competency in a specific role. This is something that a background check, as important as it can be, cannot offer. Refapp performs over 500,000 reference checks per year, and we have found many familiar questions that seem to come up frequently from our clients globally.

We can dissect a reference check into three general categories:

  • Competency – Specific questions about the candidate’s skillset & job-relevant competencies.

  • Character – A behaviour and work ethic assessment of the candidate.

  • Verification – Questions to legitimise a candidate’s information of past/current employment and role.
Below is a list of general questions we suggest using while conducting a reference check.
Competency-based questions:

Competency-based checks establish how well a candidate can perform in a specific role or task. These are usually in reference to how they performed in their previous work, but can also relate to how the referee perceives the candidate could perform in their current opportunity. Here you can tailor the reference check questions to your specific position and role in the company

  1. What would you say are/were “The Candidates” top 3 key strengths?

  2. What would you say are/were “The Candidates” top 3 areas that need improvement

    to increase professional performance?

  3. How do you rate “The Candidates” accuracy?

  4. How do you rate “The Candidates” professionalism?

  5. How would you rate “The Candidates” performance in relation to others who did similar work?

  6. Does “The Candidate” possess the job skills required for this position?

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Character-based questions:

Character-based questions provide an overview of how the candidate handles a particular situation, their relationship with their peers and what motivates them in their work. 

  1. What do you think would motivate “The Candidate” in the next role?

  2. How do you rate “The Candidates” ability to handle very stressful situations?

  3. How reliable is “The Candidate”?

  4. What areas can “The Candidate” improve upon?

  5. What can you tell me about “The Candidates” work ethic?

  6. Tell me about “The Candidates” working relationships with peers and co-workers.

Verification-based questions:

Verification-based questions ensure that the information provided by each candidate in relation to their previous job is accurate. This can include the timeframe they worked at the company, their relationship with the referee, and achievements gained in their previous job. 

  1. What was/is your relationship with “The Candidate”?
  2. How long did “The Candidate” work for your company
  3. What was your relationship with “The Candidate”?
  4. What were “The Candidates” job titles or roles? How long did they spend in each?
  5. Did “The Candidate “ receive any promotions at this company?
  6. Did “The Candidate” have any notable accomplishments while working with you?

Improve your reference checking accuracy and response rate with Refapp

Refapp provides you with pre-made question forms and the ability to edit or create your own form from the start. It also provides suggested questions to use with three ways a referee can answer:

  • Multiple choice
  • Sliding scale
  • Text box

This allows you, as the recruiter, to position each question in an easy-to-answer and concise way for the referee, which in turn allows for a more accurate response. This concise and standardised way of gathering information from the different referees also generates data that makes it easy to compare the different candidates.

Our platform offers automation which removes having to manually contact each candidate and referee. Create comparable reports with one click and share them with your team through our platform or pdf.

 Check out a quick peek at our solution in the video below:

You can find more of or blogs below to learn more about reference checking: