Checking references is a critical part of the recruitment process as it provides some proof to what your candidate has told you during the application and interview process.


After the first interview is the optimum time to check references.  By this time you will have reduced the number of people you want to see for a second round – or even made your decision. It can take time to chase down references, so make sure you factor this into your hiring plan. Following the first interview, a previous employer’s opinion help you to choose between candidates if it’s tight. Important note: you should wait until after an offer is made to the candidate before you contact their current employer.


You can request a reference by email or phone. Some organisations have a policy of not giving references, and will only confirm basic employment details or insist on handling everything via HR. However, it is always more helpful if you can talk to the candidate’s previous line manager, as they will give you the most useful information. Contact the referees in advance (or ask the candidate to do so) and book in a specific time for your conversation.

Types of reference

References from previous employers are the gold standard but personal references can be useful if a candidate has minimal work experience but they may be heavily biased. However, if the candidate has worked as a volunteer, a reference can be obtained from that organization, or from a school or college.


You should always have your candidate’s permission to contact referees. Many jobseekers will prefer you not to contact their referees until an offer is made and accepted, especially if they are a current employer.

Standard Questions

  • Dates of employment
  • Job title and main responsibilities
  • Attendance record and number of days sick leave taken
  • Any disciplinary actions taken against them
  • If there are any reasons why they should not be employed

Detailed Questions

  • What were the main responsibilities of the candidate in their last role?
  • What are the candidate’s greatest strengths?
  • What was the candidate’s reason for leaving?
  • Would you rehire this candidate?

Ex-Mil Recruitment screen all our candidates carefully and we are always happy to help with reference checking, please drop us a line if you would like our support.