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What Questions Do Employers Ask During a Reference Check?

Helen Gilroy-Powell

Helen Gilroy-Powell

22nd January 2020

When collecting a reference, employers contact people who know a candidate in a professional capacity to ask questions to get more information about them. At the most basic level, the hiring manager will want to verify the candidate’s work history, so they will ask the referee to confirm the job title and work dates they have on their CV. 

Often, hiring managers will use the reference check as an opportunity to find out more information about the candidate such as their work style, values and attitudes. The questions that hiring managers ask during a reference check are often similar to those asked in an interview.

If you’ve offered to give someone a reference, or if you are a candidate hoping to ask someone to give a reference for you, it may help to know what questions are commonly asked during a reference check, so we’ve put together this list of questions commonly asked. 

Here’s a list of the top 10 questions employers ask when checking a candidate’s references:

  1. How do you know the candidate?

  2. Can you please confirm the candidate’s job title and the dates they worked?

  3. Can you please confirm some of the tasks the candidate did in the role?

  4. What are the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?

  5. Why would this candidate thrive in this new work environment?

  6. How does the candidate respond to feedback?

  7. Can you describe a time where the candidate went the extra mile to get the job done?

  8. How would you describe the candidate’s attitude towards their work?

  9. Can you describe the management style that the candidate  would respond best to?

  10. Would the candidate ask to work on new projects that they haven't experienced before?

These are some of the most common questions used in a reference check. A company may ask a combination of some of these questions, or they may have their own questions focused on the particular requirements of the role and the values of the organisation.

If you’re preparing to conduct a reference check for your company, we’ve put together some advice on the best reference check questions and what questions to avoid. 

Want to find out more about reference checks?

With sections specifically for employers, candidates and referees, our free guide covers everything you'll ever want to know about employment reference checks.