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Top 7 Questions to Ask for Candidate Reference Checks


Checking a candidate’s references is an important step in the hiring process and a critical component to determining a candidate’s overall fit in an organization. After all, while a candidate may look good on paper, without actually connecting with the right references to validate qualifications, skills and suitability for the role, you may find what’s on paper – isn’t the reality and the results can be disastrous.

To help you find your next rockstar hire, we’ve gathered our top 7 questions you should be asking to truly get to know your candidate. But before diving in, let’s explore why candidate reference checks are so essential.

The Significance of Candidate Reference Checks

Each and every hire can significantly impact a company’s success, so a comprehensive understanding of your potential employees is vital. Here’s why reference checks are invaluable.

  • Confirmation of Achievements: Candidates often make impressive claims on their resumes and during interviews about their achievements. It’s important to confirm the validity of those achievements to ensure you have an accurate picture of what a candidate is capable of.
  • Establishing Culture Fit: Reference checks can reveal whether a candidate will fit well within your organization’s culture, which is a critical factor to the long-term success and retention of an employee.
  • Predicting Future Performance: Past behavior can be a strong predictor of future performance. By analyzing a candidate’s past behavior, and connecting with previous employers, you can better predict how your candidate will perform in the role you’re considering them for.
  • Identifying Red Flags: Reference checks can uncover potential red flags that may not have been apparent during the interview process. These could include issues related to teamwork, communication, or job-related skills.
  • Validation of Skills: If a candidate claims to have a specific skill that is required for the role, it’s a good idea to confirm that by checking their references. The same applies to certifications, education and other qualifications. A trust but verify philosophy can help you avoid making a bad hiring decision.

Now that we’ve established the benefits and importance of conducting candidate reference checks, let’s discuss the top 7 questions you should include.

Can You Confirm the Candidate’s Employment?

Start with the basics. Verify the candidate’s employment history by asking the reference to confirm their job titles, start and end dates, and the companies they worked for. This question helps establish the foundation of the candidate’s professional background. According to Zippia, 55% of Americans have acknowledged dishonesty in their resumes. Double-checking a candidate’s employment history ensures you’re not starting on the wrong foot.

What Were the Candidate’s Main Responsibilities?

To obtain a more comprehensive grasp of the candidate’s qualifications, ask about their main job responsibilities. This question allows you to assess whether the candidate’s previous roles align with the requirements of the current position.

How Did the Candidate Perform in Their Previous Roles?

Ask the reference to provide insights into the candidate’s performance. Were they top performers? Did they meet or exceed expectations? These questions help you gauge the candidate’s work ethic and ability to excel in their role.

Can You Describe the Candidate’s Strengths and Weaknesses?

Understanding a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses is crucial to assessing their fit within your organization. Ask the reference to provide insights into what areas the candidate excelled at and where they may have struggled. Learning about a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses can help you understand where you may need to provide additional support and guidance.

How Well Did the Candidate Collaborate with Team Members?

The ability to perform well within a team is a critical requirement for most roles. Inquire about how the candidate interacted with colleagues and superiors. Did they contribute positively to the team dynamic? Did they have good communication and collaboration skills? According to one survey, 86% of workforce respondents cited poor communication as the primary reason behind company failures.

Were There Any Challenges or Areas for Improvement?

To gain a well-rounded view of the candidate, ask about any challenges or areas where they needed improvement. Understanding their willingness to learn and grow is essential for long-term success. This will let you know where they might need extra coaching or development.

Would You Rehire the Candidate?

This final question is often considered one of the most telling. If the reference had the opportunity, would they rehire the candidate? Their response indicates the candidate’s overall performance and impact on their previous organization. According to a multi-year Harvard Business Review study published in 2023, 28% of new hires are boomerang employees who left their jobs within the past three years.

Leveraging Technology for Candidate Reference Checks

Technology has played an essential role in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of candidate reference checks. Using AI in the hiring process is one such technological advancement that has simplified the process. AI-driven reference check solutions can automate the collection of candidate references, making it easier and faster for recruiters to gather valuable insights.

Here’s how AI can enhance the reference check process:

  • Automate Email Requests: AI can send email requests to candidates for references, streamlining the initial contact and request process.
  • Standardized Questionnaires: Recruiters can leverage AI-powered platforms to develop standardized questionnaires based on the specific job role, ensuring consistency in the reference check process.
  • Data Analysis: By identifying patterns and trends, and analyzing reference feedback, AI empowers recruiters with valuable, data-driven insights.
  • Time and Efficiency Gains: Utilizing AI throughout the evaluation process all the way through the reference checks streamlines efficiency saving recruiters valuable time by completing reference checks in a fraction of the time it would take using traditional methods.

Taking the Next Step in Hiring Excellence with Candidate 360 by Leoforce

At Leoforce, we’re committed to revolutionizing recruitment with cutting-edge solutions. Our latest innovation, Arya’s Candidate 360, provides recruiters with a holistic, 360 degree view of every candidate, empowering you to rapidly make the best, data-driven hiring decisions for the optimal hiring outcomes. Candidate 360 has the potential to reshape the way you hire, helping you save time, reduce costs, and engage with relevant candidates faster.

The future looks incredibly promising as we continue to push the boundaries of AI-assisted hiring. Our dedicated development team is tirelessly working on enhancing Candidate 360 and introducing even more features to simplify your recruitment journey.

Don’t miss out on the future of hiring. Book your free demo today!


  • https://www.zippia.com/advice/resume-lies-and-fake-references/
  • https://www.zippia.com/advice/communication-in-the-workplace-statistics/
  • https://www.linkedin.com/news/story/hello-its-your-old-boss-calling-5205836/

Danielle Cunningham


Danielle Allery is a skilled corporate recruiter with a proven track record of matching top talent with the right teams. Her experience at Leoforce, combined with a Bachelor's in Human Resources, fuels her expertise in understanding organizational needs and candidate potential. Danielle's passion for building relationships and maping candidate journeys makes her a trusted advisor in the recruitment content space. Outside of work, you'll find her unwinding with friends, family, and a dose of reality TV!

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