Checking references is a vital part of recruitment, and can help you decide if a candidate is suitable for your organisation or not.  It is usually done before hiring someone or offering them the role. A reference can be done over the phone or by a statement or form in email, but speaking to someone over the phone can give you more of an insight into the person who is applying for the role. It can also help to determine if a potential employee has been honest in their job application and interview process.

It is best practice to ask for the candidate’s permission before requesting references, especially if it is with their current employer before accepting a new job role. Any information you do glean from a reference is confidential and should not be discussed with other employees in your business.

Some organisations may only confirm factual information like start and end dates or salary, especially in large organisations but if that’s not the case, consider asking certain questions to get accurate information on the person, such as;

  • When did they work for you?
  • Why and when did they leave?
  • What was their position and responsibilities?
  • Would you rehire them?
  • Did they work well in a team?
  • Did you conduct any appraisals or HR meetings for them?


Remember to remain fair when receiving a reference, and act accordingly in a fair way. Your reference questions must not be seen as discriminatory in any way, for example about age, sex, gender or religion.