Stop Viewing Reference Checks as a Formality

Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes

Are you required to complete reference checks on potential job candidates? What about reference checks for volunteers, or students? If so, you are not alone. Many industries are now requiring reference checking as part of the hiring process to improve hiring efforts and recruit high quality personnel, volunteers, and students. Reference checks are quickly becoming a requirement for admission to special college degree programs.

Checking references can take a lot of time away from supervisors, hiring managers, and education professionals. It can be difficult to know what questions to ask a reference contact that will elicit the response you need to learn about your candidate’s attitudes, culture, and personality. Many employers ask the same standard set of questions to all reference contacts, regardless of the candidate and job position that needs to be filled. While this may be a time saver, custom reference questionnaires for each position should be considered. After all, your organization’s mission, values, and needs are unique, and you should be asking questions that help you determine if your candidate falls in line with what is most important to you.


Aside from conducting interviews with the candidate, reference checking is one of the only opportunities to truly get personal and go above and beyond previous job titles and years of experience. You won’t find any opinions inserted into employment verifications, or education verifications, or even criminal records: You can only get a behind the scenes look at who your candidate is by asking the right questions to the right people.

reference checks_why new hires fail

Why is it important to get a better look at your candidate? Research compiled by Forbes suggests it costs an estimated 50% of an entry level employee’s salary to replace them after they fail. It’s even more costly for mid-level and senior-level employees: 125% and 200%, respectively.  A recent study by Leadership IQ reports that 46% of new hires will fail within their first 18 months of employment.

According to Leadership IQ, research has shown that most new hires are not failing due to a lack of technical skill, or an ability to perform the job itself. New hires are failing because they lack soft skills such as managing emotions and accepting feedback. Performing reference checks can be a valuable tool to assess a candidate’s ability to perform necessary tasks and take inventory of a candidate’s soft skills.

The traditional method used to perform reference checks is by telephone. Most candidates have phone numbers readily available for reference contacts; however, most reference contacts do not actually answer the phone. It’s time to meet candidates and references where they are in the modern world. Using e-mail for checking references allows the reference contact plenty of time to read and reflect on the questions, resulting in higher quality feedback. Going electronic for reference checking opens the possibility for automation, resulting in faster turnaround times. Validity’s Reference360 service does just that!

Who doesn’t want faster turnaround times and high-quality feedback? Reference360 leverages a modernized, fully customizable electronic process for checking references.  Let us be your reference checking partner to help achieve these goals and take control of your hiring process today!