If you think simply calling a reference ─ any reference ─ supplied by a candidate is sufficient due diligence, you are sorely mistaken. Not all references will provide the level of knowledge needed to make an informed hiring decision.

Additionally, most references will not automatically tell you all the information you want to hear, so you need to ask the right questions to prompt helpful responses.

5 Tips to Get the Most from Reference Checks

Getting ready to conduct a reference check? Read the following five tips first, to ensure you get the most from your conversation:

  1. Solicit a Certain Type of Reference: Personal references are rarely ─ if ever─ helpful, so ensure that all names given are those of a professional nature. Take it a step further and ask only to speak to those people who have worked directly with the candidate, such as a former boss, colleague or subordinate.
  2. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Asking multiple choice and true or false questions limits the reference to very specific responses. Phrase all inquiries in an open-ended format to get the most from your interview. The details added in these types of responses can include pertinent information about the candidate.
  3. Request Specific Examples: Make sure the candidate has the necessary experience by asking the reference to provide specific examples of accomplishments relative to the job duties. Rather than accepting a vague, “yes, the candidate works well under pressure,” ask about a time the person successfully completed a project under a tight deadline.
  4. Touch on Matters of Professionalism: On paper, a candidate may be the most experienced person in the world for an open position at your company, but completely unreliable or have a serious personality issue that would make them a very bad hire. Ask the reference questions on the candidate’s punctuality, capacity to meet deadlines and ability to get along well with others, to gain a well-rounded look at their fit for your organization.
  5. Dig Deeper with LinkedIn: You don’t have to rely solely on references provided by the candidate ─ check LinkedIn to see if you have any joint connections. If so, it’s perfectly acceptable to reach out to this person and ask their thoughts on hiring the candidate.


If you need a little help finding the best person for the job, contact Talent Bridge. Our committed professional staff has connections with top industry talent. We foster valuable relationships through close and constant communication with public accounting firms, law firms, corporate finance departments, and professional networks.