Reference checks are conducted when a recruiter or a background screening agency calls a job candidate’s provided references and asks them questions to verify the candidate’s background, past experiences, and overall character. When conducting a reference check on a potential employee, it is important to ask the right questions. But how do you know what’s best to ask?

Here are the 10 BEST questions that you should definitely be asking during a reference check:

  1. Are you able to verify the candidate’s employment history, job title, pay, and former responsibilities? When did their employment end?
  2. How and when did you meet the job candidate?
  3. If you could hire/work with the candidate again, would you want to? Why/why not?
  4. Did the candidate ever advance or receive any promotions/demotions during their employment?
  5. Did the candidate miss excessive amounts of work or arrive late frequently? If so, did this influence his/her job performance?
  6. What were two of the candidate’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  7. Did the candidate get along well with other co-workers, management, and customers?
  8. Have you worked with other individuals in the same job position as the candidate in the past? How did the candidate compare to those individuals?
  9. I’m considering this candidate for [job title and responsibilities]. Do you think he/she would perform well in this role? Why/why not?
  10. Is there anything else I need to know about the candidate that would help me in making the hiring decision?


These questions will help you to gain a better understanding of the candidate’s personality, traits, and skills. They also serve as a great time to fact-check the candidate’s resume and previous work experiences. A valuable predictor of future work performance, including being able to work well with others, is to look at a candidate’s past performance.

A reference check is a perfect time to spot any red flags in a candidate’s past! Candidates typically use people who will speak highly of them, so anything said by a reference that reflects negatively on the candidate, no matter how small, should be paid attention to. Pressing for specifics in past performance, strengths, and promotions/recognition will help to verify that a reference’s review of the candidate is factual. If the reference cannot provide these examples of work experience, they could potentially be over-selling the candidate.