How to complete an employment reference check form

November 24, 2022
Mikaella McInerney
How to complete an employment reference check form

If you’re in recruitment, sooner or later you’ll need to check someone’s references. An employment or candidate reference check is all-important: it offers crucial insight into candidates from the people who know their working style best, ensuring that you always hire the right fit for the right role. 

A reference check is a request for feedback that, as a potential employer, you send to your candidate’s prior or current employers, managers, colleagues, peers, teachers and other relevant people. Through a reference check you might find out important information like strengths, weaknesses, personality, working style, how well the candidate collaborates with others and more. A good reference check is a great confirmation that you’ve found the right candidate; a bad reference check is a critical red flag that helps you avoid mishiring. Reference checks also help you onboard an employee smoothly and work out how to support them best in the role. 

But that means there’s a lot of pressure riding on a reference check, and you need to make sure you’re doing it right! In this article, we’ll give you a template for everything you need to consider within an employee reference check, so you have a sample form for your own reference. Let’s get started!

Consider your format

Before you even start thinking about the questions and topics you want to cover, make sure you’ve decided how you’ll be conducting your reference check. This will influence which questions you ask and in which way. There are a few options here:


One of the most common and traditional reference check formats, asking for a reference check over email gives you the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers in writing. This is useful for referring back to the answers later and to have something official to compare candidates against one another. It also makes it easy for you to send your employment reference check form

However, an email reference check is also time-consuming and laborious. It requires you to sit down and write individual intros and your candidate’s referees need to spend a long time writing answers to each of the questions. Then you have to collect all the data from your emails and create a central candidate database, ensuring that email is not actually as efficient or practical as it might seem.


Getting a reference check on the phone is another traditional option, although in general it doesn’t make much sense in the modern world. Jumping on the phone with every referee is time-consuming and you always have the problem that someone might forget or neglect to mention important details during a more conversational-style reference check. Equally, it is often difficult to arrange a time when both you and the referee are free to speak, meaning that phone reference checks often make the recruiting process take too long. In general, phone reference checks are not recommended anymore.

Third-party providers

A more modern option is hiring a third-party provider to go through the work of collecting reference checks for you. This frees up your time and because third-party providers focus solely on reference checks, it tends to be efficient and smooth. 

However, a third-party provider will not be able to provide the expert insight and analysis you have into what your organization needs. It relies on the provider to decide what’s best for your company and culture - something that you know much better. And, of course, it can be expensive.


Offering the best of both worlds, automated reference checks unite the old and the new. They are generally software platforms which speed up the reference check process by automating manual parts like contacting referees, scheduling and conducting a call, documenting and analyzing the result, and more. Then they analyze the feedback and provide benchmarked candidate reports, allowing the recruiting team to make data-driven hiring and onboarding decisions.

As a result, automated reference checks are a modern and efficient format with data-driven insights built in. 

The basics

Ready to start building your employment reference check form? The first thing to cover is, luckily, also the simplest. You want to use this section of your reference check to cover basic compliance questions and ensure that the information the candidate has given you is accurate. Important sample questions for you to ask include:

  • The candidate’s name and job title
  • Their dates of employment at the referee’s company
  • Whether they were part-time or full-time
  • Their salary (if appropriate)

You could also ask a slightly more complex basic question like “What were the applicant's position and responsibilities?” or “What were the applicant's job responsibilities?”

Dive into the details

Once you’re sure that you and the referee are on the same page, you can start to really gather 360° feedback on your candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, skills, personality, working style and more. You can ask both skills-based questions and values-based questions to get a sense not just of how well the candidate will do their job, but what they will be like to work with. 

Some questions you could build into your employee reference check include:

  • What are the candidate’s strengths?
  • What are the candidate’s areas for improvement?
  • Can you describe a time when the candidate demonstrated their ability to solve a problem?
  • How does this candidate work with other people?
  • How would you describe this candidate’s interpersonal skills?
  • How would you describe the candidate’s work ethic?
  • How does the candidate respond to change?

Want a complete list of sample questions? Check out our guide to the best employee reference check questions to ask!

Build modern recruitment into your hiring funnel 

Ensure that you ask the right questions in the right way every time with automated reference checks. HiPeople’s smart hiring technology offers automated reference checks tailored for every role in your company, so you can focus on hiring the right person with data-driven insights at hand. Book a demo today!