Meaghan Marshall Career Services - Resume Writing Services. Interview Coaching

Reference Checking – Insights for the Job Seeker.

By Meaghan Marshall, Dec 15 2012 03:51AM

Reference checking is common practice during the recruitment process; normally undertaken after the interview stage the objective is to ensure the candidate has not misrepresented their skills and experience. As a job seeker having concerns about the reference checking process is understandable. Reference checking as a predictor of job performance is actually very weak and there are various problems with obtaining references. Here we discuss employer practices, common questions and tips for selecting a referee.

An increasing number of employers have banned managers from providing references for former employees in order to avoid potential legal issues. For those managers that do provide information they can still be unreliable. An inaccurate reference check may be provided by a referee due to bias or to serve their own agenda.

Despite the problems with reference checking most organisations continue to conduct reference checks and therefore you should be prepared to provide referees and have them approached to confirm details of your past employment.


A bad hiring decision can affect an organisation significantly and therefore employers need to be thorough when assessing a candidate’s suitability for their role. An employer will see it as essential to check the background of candidates and can potentially be quite dogged when it comes to eliciting information and doing their research. You should be aware that they may use other tactics and alternative sources of information.

The individuals responsible for conducting reference checks are usually highly experienced; they know the questions to ask and are very perceptive to indicators that a referee may be lying or feel uncomfortable. Don’t think you can have your referee bluff their way through the reference check. Just like you should not misrepresent yourself during the recruitment processes never ask a referee to lie either.

Some companies may talk to many more people than just your provided referees. If you are applying for a position for example within the same industry or the same town it is likely that the employer’s network will include people you have worked with or dealt with in a professional capacity in the past; co-workers, clients and suppliers. It might be a good time to make contact with potential sources of information, discuss your plans, talk yourself up and provide some reminders of your past achievements.

Companies may work around the reluctance of some employers to provide a reference by making contact outside of work hours and agreeing that the opinions expressed are the referees own. If you have a referee that is prepared to speak on your behalf but their employer forbids it this may be an option they will feel comfortable with.

Employers will be persistent but they are also busy and will not continue to chase a difficult to get hold of referee. Don’t provide a name that you know will be difficult to get a hold. You can’t avoid a reference check but also for most employers this is an essential part of their process and if they can’t complete the check they will not be making the hire.


Can you confirm (candidate) position title and period of employment?

Can you describe the job responsibilities?

Why did (candidate) leave the organisation?

What was (candidate) starting and ending salary?

Can I confirm his/her employment history with you? Do these job titles and duties match the positions help at your organisation?

Did candidate report to you? If not, what was your working relationship?

How long have your worked with /known (candidate)?

How would you describe his/her work performance? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Did candidate have any issues you are aware of that impacted job performance?

How would you describe his/her punctuality?

How would you describe his/her reliability?

Did candidate get along well with management and their co-workers?

How would you describe his/her management style?

How does candidate handle conflict?

How would you describe his/her ability to organize, prioritize and manage time?

How would you rate his / her communication skills?

Would you rehire candidate if the opportunity arose?


Choose a reliable referee. Someone you trust and who knows you, your skills and your past achievements well. If your selected referee is not a very recent supervisor jog their memory.

Always ask your referee before providing their details.

Make sure your referee is permitted by the organisation to provide a reference.

If you don’t have a good relationship with your current supervisor asks someone else. Ask a senior coworker, the manager above yours, manager from a department you have regular dealings with, respected client, a previous supervisor. The same applies if you do not wish to alert your current manager to your job search activity.

Don’t ask a referee to lie for you. An experienced reference checker will be able to detect if your referee sounds uncomfortable or anxious to finish the conversation.

Email us with any questions about your job search or the recruitment process.

Dec 19 2012 01:21AM by Liz

Is it possible to find out what information a referee has provided employer?

Dec 19 2012 02:52AM by mmcareer

In Australian The Privacy Act does allow for a job applicant to find out what their referee has said during a reference check. The job applicant would need to make a request to the employer to see the notes made during the recruitment process.

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