How to Conduct Efficient Employee Reference Checks [Free Template]

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It’s easy to think that the only cost of hiring talent is paying their salary. But, in reality, advertising for the open roles, recruitment, and onboarding of new hires all cost money. Should an employee resign or be laid off, turnover also incurs costs. Not to mention having a negative effect on your business. 

With so much at stake, it’s only right that you take measures to ensure that you’re not bringing in a bad hire. Running all the relevant background checks, like an employee reference check, will help minimize the risks. 

What is an Employee Reference Check?

An employee reference check is one way for employers to ascertain whether the candidate is who they say they are. Often, you can run reference checks late in the hiring process, just before the formal offer, or early on during onboarding. 

You can think of a reference check as a verification tool. Getting in touch with a candidate’s colleagues, managers, or supervisors can corroborate their qualifications, employment history, and technical skills that are relevant to the role they are applying for. Reference checks may also give you an insight into their attitude at work or any potential red flag that may stop you from officially onboarding them. 

Benefits of Conducting Reference Checks

Generally, employers can use the results of reference checks to determine if the person is the best candidate for the role. 

You may already see a candidate’s potential through interviews and their resume, but it’s not quite possible to check how they put their skills to use without talking to the people they’ve already worked with. 

For instance, an interview with the candidate may reveal that they have a strong background in social media management. However, it is only after talking to their former line manager that you’ll know their achievements while managing their company’s social media accounts. Were they able to increase the following? How’s the engagement in the posts? 

Furthermore, conducting background checks can give you an idea of how successful the candidate may be in the company. It’ll likewise help you rank candidates so that you can move forward to the final selection. Finally, since reference checks can uncover red flags, they can help protect your business from claims of negligent hiring. 

Do I Need an Employee Reference Check Form or Checklist?

Conducting employee reference checks may take a toll on your Human Resource department. Not only does screening candidates take time, but you also have to be compliant to industry or regulatory requirements. 

In the Philippines, for instance, it’s legally acceptable to conduct reference checks. However, the Data Privacy Act obliges employers to obtain a person’s consent when personal or sensitive information about them is being collected. In Australia, employers can only collect information relevant to determine the applicant's suitability for the position. 

For these reasons, many companies choose to partner with a reliable third party like Veremark to run the reference checks. Veremark simplifies the process for you. Provide the candidate’s name and other details and we’ll take care of the verification process. We’ll then send you the results and insights into your candidate's personality, which you can readily use to make your hiring decision. 

If you choose to run reference checks on your own, having a reference check template will help streamline the process. A reference check template is a form that contains a set of questions you want to ask to gain a better understanding of the candidate’s work attitude, personality, skills, and growth areas. Having these pre-set questions allows you to gather the same information from every candidate for the same position. 

Of course, you may adjust the questions based on several factors, like the role, seniority of the position, company policies, and legal requirements. It’s also advisable to regularly review and update your reference check template to ensure it still fits your needs. 

What to Include in a Reference Checklist

If you’re working on your reference check template, the following considerations and sample questions may be helpful. 

What Types of Questions should be Included in an Employee Reference Check Template?

The type of questions, as briefly mentioned earlier, depends on several factors. In many cases, they depend on the role and seniority level. 

Asking a former manager about the applicant’s “ways of dealing with irate customers” makes perfect sense for a customer representative position, but might be irrelevant if the candidate is applying for a role in accounting. 

Likewise, entry-level roles may call for generic reference check questions, but those gearing for a senior management position require questions about their leadership style, accomplishments, and strategic contributions. 

Asking relevant behavioral or situational-based questions will also give you better insights into the candidate’s working attitude. Hence, if there are common or possible scenarios in your company, it may be a good idea to ask how the candidate will handle them. 

Finally, for more detailed information, don’t forget to ask open-ended questions from the references. 

Generic Questions that Can be Used in Any Reference Check:

For your reference check template, consider the following questions which are usually applicable for any position. 

  • Can you please confirm the candidate’s dates of employment in your company? When did they start and when did their employment end?
  • How many hours per pay period did the candidate typically work during their tenure with your company?
  • Based on your evaluation, what’s the candidate’s overall job performance? What are their strengths and growth areas?
  • What were the candidate's primary job duties and responsibilities in their role at your company?
  • Without mentioning specific figures, can you confirm whether their pay grade was commensurate with industry standards and the responsibilities of their role?
  • Did the candidate receive any promotion during their time with your organization?
  • Were there issues with the candidate’s attendance?
  • How would you describe the candidate's social skills and their ability to collaborate with colleagues, clients, or customers?
  • What were the reasons behind their departure from the organization?

More In-depth Questions You may Consider for Your Reference Checks:

Here are some more in-depth questions you can include in your reference check template:

  • Could you describe the candidate's key strengths and areas where they may have room for improvement?
  • If the candidate is still working with you, are there areas where they can benefit from further training? What training or skills development would you recommend?
  • Can you provide some instances where the candidate managed and responded to a challenging situation? 
  • What wins was the candidate responsible for during their tenure in the company? Can you share some of their accomplishments?
  • How do they react and respond to constructive feedback or receiving guidance from the management? 
  • From your experience working with the candidate, what specific insights or information would be useful for a manager to effectively oversee and support them?
  • What’s their working style - are they more successful working alone or as a part of a unit?
  • Given the chance, would you hire them again? If possible, please provide your reasons. 

Remember that you can customize these questions to better allow you to get to know the candidate. 

A Sample Reference Checklist Template

Reference checks can be done personally, via phone, or online through a video call or email. Here’s a sample reference check template you can use to craft your own form:

Dear [Reference Name]

[Candidate Name], a former employee in your organization has applied for the [Position] in our company. As part of our due diligence, we’re conducting reference checks to help us make an informed hiring decision. 

[Candidate Name] has listed you as one of their references, and, with their consent, we would like to request more information about them. Please answer the following questions to the best of your knowledge. 

  • Reference’s Name
  • Relationship with the applicant
  • Contact details
  • What are the start and end dates of employment?
  • What are the candidate’s job titles, their duties, and how long they spent for each position?
  • How was the candidate’s job performance?
  • Please describe their interpersonal skills - how was their relationship with the managers and colleagues? Were they a good communicator and listener?
  • Did the candidate have issues with attendance?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Please describe the candidate’s accomplishments. Did they spearhead any project? 
  • To your knowledge, what was the greatest challenge they faced and how did they handle it?
  • What was the reason they left the company?
  • Given the chance, would you hire them again? 
  • Are there other things you want to share with us regarding how the candidate was while they were in the company? 

We would appreciate receiving your response via email by [Date]. However, please feel free to get in touch with us should you want to discuss your answers via phone or video call. Thank you so much. 


[Your Name]

[Your Position]

[Contact Details]

Best Practices for Conducting Reference Checks

On top of having a set of reference check templates, the following best practices may also help you run reference checks more effectively:

Keep in touch with the applicants

It’s a great practice to inform the applicant about your policies on reference checks so they can set their expectations. Remember that while reference checks are legally allowed in many countries, it’s still the applicant’s prerogative to agree or refuse. 

Allow managers to conduct reference checks

Since it is the manager who will oversee the applicant’s performance, it may be a good practice to allow them to conduct the reference checks. If that’s not possible, consider involving them in the creation of the reference check template. 

Consider phone interviews

Phone or video call interviews allow you to see the reference’s expression or at least hear their voice. Both can give you cues about their answers. Also, consider asking for their permission to record the call after discussing confidentiality clauses. 

Consider having an online internal reference checklist

If it’s easier for the references to answer questionnaires, consider making an online internal reference checklist. This generates links that you can send to the references. 

Partner with a reliable third party

You may also partner with a third party to conduct the reference checks for you. Choosing a reliable service provider like Veremark takes care of your background screening needs, including reference checks. With our award-winning software and expertise, we can deliver accurate results faster, so you can make informed hiring decisions right away. We also guarantee compliance with the relevant laws, which help reduce risks. Our services have no lock-in: you can partner with us for your small or large-scale background check needs. 


While you may choose to conduct your checks on your own with a reference check template, remember that it may be more efficient to partner with a reliable third party like Veremark. We can help you save time and energy in getting in touch and verifying with references so you can focus on other crucial tasks like onboarding. At Veremark, your Reference Check Process can be seamless, fast, and compliant. 

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What background check do I need?

This depends on the industry and type of role you are recruiting for. To determine whether you need reference checks, identity checks, bankruptcy checks, civil background checks, credit checks for employment or any of the other background checks we offer, chat to our team of dedicated account managers.

Why should employers check the background of potential employees?

Many industries have compliance-related employment check requirements. And even if your industry doesn’t, remember that your staff have access to assets and data that must be protected. When you employ a new staff member you need to be certain that they have the best interests of your business at heart. Carrying out comprehensive background checking helps mitigate risk and ensures a safer hiring decision.

How long do background checks take?

Again, this depends on the type of checks you need. Simple identity checks can be carried out in as little as a few hours but a worldwide criminal background check for instance might take several weeks. A simple pre-employment check package takes around a week. Our account managers are specialists and can provide detailed information into which checks you need and how long they will take.

Can you do a background check online?

All Veremark checks are carried out online and digitally. This eliminates the need to collect, store and manage paper documents and information making the process faster, more efficient and ensures complete safety of candidate data and documents.

What are the benefits of a background check?

In a competitive marketplace, making the right hiring decisions is key to the success of your company. Employment background checks enables you to understand more about your candidates before making crucial decisions which can have either beneficial or catastrophic effects on your business.

What does a background check show?

Background checks not only provide useful insights into a candidate’s work history, skills and education, but they can also offer richer detail into someone’s personality and character traits. This gives you a huge advantage when considering who to hire. Background checking also ensures that candidates are legally allowed to carry out certain roles, failed criminal and credit checks could prevent them from working with vulnerable people or in a financial function.

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