5 Reasons Why Reference Checking Is Important

CHRIS BOUCHARD, talent shareholder


It’s tempting to feel due diligence has been accomplished, when you’re ready to say, “You’re hired.” With the screening, background checks, social media vetting, and interviews that are part and parcel of the hiring manager’s domain, you probably feel that you have a firm grasp of the potential candidate’s suitability and promise.

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of the reference check. Taking the opportunity to talk to another professional about how someone performs at work is an invaluable step in the process of finding the right candidate for the position.


Know Your Candidate

There’s more to reference checks than verifying the qualifications and experience of the potential candidate. This is your chance to learn about their work style from another experienced manager who evaluated their strengths and weaknesses on the job on a day-to-day basis.

Reference checks are essential for risk management — the information you gain can save you from disastrous hires, or help you manage the successful candidate in their new position with your company.

Keep the reference check job-related. Bear in mind that employment laws, such as anti-discrimination provisions, applies to reference checks and interviews alike.


Making the Call

Make sure that you’re engaging with the person who supervised the candidate in the position. It’s unlikely that the supervisor will decline to give a reference — 90 percent of supervisors will agree. Some companies prefer that human resources departments deal with references, though a supervisor might have more pertinent information. If that’s the case, ask if a conversation outside the office is possible.

If both the supervisor and HR member are reluctant to help, ask if they could provide a confidential personal reference, and a phone number where they could be reached after hours.

You might also find alternative references that aren’t on the candidate’s list, through your network, professional associations, past employees, or even a search on Linked In.

Let the supervisor know how important it is to both the company and the candidate to ensure that they’re a good fit for the position and assure them that the personal reference will remain confidential. Call ahead and make an appointment for the conversation. This gives the supervisor a chance to gather their thoughts about the former employee.


That’s a Good Question

Strategic questions will help you determine if the candidate will fit into your organization. Set a positive tone about the candidate to assure the supervisor of your intention to engage in a constructive conversation.

Start with the specifics — employment dates, job title, and responsibilities. Then, compare the answers with the candidate’s resume. Describe the position that you’re considering the candidate for and ask for the former supervisor’s opinion about the fit of the person for the job.

Dig a little deeper with a few probing, open-ended questions that invite elaboration, about work habits and personality. What was the candidate’s record for missing work, or being late? How did they perform on a team? How did they handle conflict? Were they ever promoted? Did they ever supervise another employee? Would the supervisor hire them again, given the opportunity?


Cultural Fit

In addition, frame a few questions that will help describe the candidate’s soft skills. Ask about their level of motivation, if they demonstrated empathy, whether they prefer working alone or as part of a team, whether they possess flexibility, stability, or other traits the position calls for.

What kind of working environment are they used to? Competitive, collaborative, directed toward long-term goals, or short-term? These are questions with no right or wrong answers, but they help you understand whether the candidate will be a good cultural fit for the company — and that’s a major factor in finding the right person for the position.


Getting to the Finish Line

Whatever the outcome is for the candidate, reaching out to other professionals is an opportunity for you to expand your own network and open up more recruiting avenues. Don’t forget to express your gratitude as you finish up, and let them know they should get in touch if you can be of service to them in the future.





Chris Bouchard is the Talent Shareholder at Lutz with over 16 years of staffing and recruiting experience. He focuses on direct-hire and temporary staffing and strategic assessment and selection of potential candidates with an emphasis on human resources, accounting, finance, and office administrative positions.

  • Recruiting and Search Services
  • Confidential Replacements
  • Temporary Staffing
  • Salary Reviews
  • Position Description & Advertising Analysis
  • Screening & Selection Assistance
  • Outplacement Services
  • Association for Corporate Growth, Member
  • Financial Executives International, Member
  • BS, Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, MO
  • Habitat for Humanity, Volunteer
  • Together Inc., Volunteer
  • Nebraska Humane Society, Volunteer


We tap into the vast knowledge and experience within our organization to provide you with monthly content on topics and ideas that drive and challenge your company every day.

About UsOur Team | Events | Careers | Locations

Toll-Free: 866.577.0780Privacy Policy | All Content © Lutz & Company, PC 2021