What Reference Check Questions Can Employers Ask?

Conducting a reference check can provide more detailed insight into a candidate’s work history, character, and qualifications than an employment verification does. What questions can you ask during a reference check?

This article shares common reference check questions so you can develop a compliant list that provides the answers you need to hire with confidence.

As part of the employment screening process, hiring managers or a third-party employment screening provider may perform a professional reference check. It’s during this process many hiring managers and candidates might ask:

  • What are some typical reference check questions?
  • What questions do employers ask references?
  • What questions should I ask when doing a reference check?

Unlike Employment Verifications, reference check questions are much more expansive and provide more detailed insight into a candidate’s work history and qualifications. While equally important, Employment Verifications can only confirm details provided by the candidate, such as dates of employment (start and end) and job titles, to help ensure candidates aren’t dishonest on their resumes.

On the other hand, reference checks allow more specific questions about candidates’ work histories and further details like their job responsibilities, work ethic, and character. All of which are necessary details when determining who will be a good fit for the position and your company.

So, what questions can potential employers ask references? GoodHire is breaking down the types of reference check questions that can be asked during the screening process.

Typical Reference Check Questions

As a hiring manager, you likely have a go-to list of typical questions you ask to better understand a candidate, the reference, and their working relationship. Knowing how closely the reference worked or works with the candidate can make a significant difference in the information they disclose and how you can apply that to hiring decisions. (Check out our reference check form to get an idea of what one could look like.)

For example, if a reference worked with the candidate every day, they’ll have better insight into who they are and how they perform in their job. But if a reference is more distanced from the candidate (i.e., not a direct report, of higher-level management, or on a different team), they may not have as much valuable insight.

With those scenarios in mind, hiring managers may ask questions including:

  • How do you know the candidate?
  • How did you work with the candidate?
  • How did the candidate’s employment end?
  • What were the candidate’s job titles or roles? How long did they spend in each?
  • Did the candidate receive any promotions at this company?
  • Does the candidate possess the job skills required for this position?
  • Did the candidate have any notable or major accomplishments while working with you?
  • Would you rehire the applicant if you had the chance?
  • Would you recommend the candidate for employment with another company? Why or why not?

Work Ethic & Experience Reference Check Questions

Once you understand the working relationship between the candidate and reference, you’ll want to know about specific work skills, experience, responsibilities, and work ethic. Some of those questions may include:

  • What are the candidate’s daily duties and responsibilities?
  • What is a typical workday like for the candidate?
  • How would you rate the candidate’s written and oral communication skills?
  • How would you rate the candidate’s listening skills?
  • We need a candidate who has [these specific skills]. How would you rate the candidate on these?
  • What skills do you believe the candidate needs to improve upon?
  • Tell me about the candidate’s ability to communicate across teams.
  • What are the candidate’s greatest strengths they bring to your team/company?
  • What are some hurdles the candidate experienced or experiences?
  • What are the candidate’s primary areas or opportunities for growth?
  • How does the candidate manage their time?
  • Tell me about the candidate’s ability to prioritize tasks.
  • How would you rate the candidate’s overall job performance?
  • Is there anything else that you would like to add about the candidate we did not cover?
  • Is there another co-worker or peer I should speak with?

Of course, you can expand or ask more questions to get a better sense of the candidate’s skills and how they apply to the job they’re seeking. For example, if a candidate applies for a management or leadership role, you will likely want to ask specific questions, including:

  • How many people did the candidate manage?
  • How would you describe the candidate’s leadership style?
  • Did the candidate ever experience any conflicts with their employees?

Character Reference Check Questions

While having the relevant work skills and experience is crucial to any role, you also want to feel confident you’re hiring a candidate who is enjoyable to work with and will make a positive contribution to your team and company. In other words: What is their personality like? What is their character like? Do their ethics and values align with the company? How do they perform when they’re faced with adversity?

Reference check questions that directly relate to a candidate’s character are certainly not off-limits for employers, and could give signs of what constitutes a bad or good reference check for candidates. If anything, they’re the most telling when it comes to deciding whether to move forward with a candidate or pass on them altogether. Some character-related reference check questions may include:

  • What was your experience working with this candidate?
  • How would you rate the candidate when it comes to reliability? Dependability? Honesty? Trustworthiness?
  • Tell me about the candidate’s working relationships with peers and co-workers.
  • How does the candidate handle stressful or challenging situations?
  • What do you think the candidate’s strongest attributes are?
  • How would you rate the candidate in terms of being a team player?
  • How would you rate the candidate’s ability to remain adaptable?
  • What type of work environment does the candidate perform best in?
  • Overall, would you recommend this candidate for the position?

Ask The Best Reference Check Questions With GoodHire

Knowing which questions to ask during reference checks can sometimes be overwhelming. You want to ensure you’re asking the right questions—and in the right way—to arm yourself with the information you need to make strategic hiring decisions.

Additionally, you want to remain compliant during in-depth reference checks, steering clear of questions that are off-limits, and follow all the pre-adverse action and adverse action steps as outlined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) if you decide not to hire.

To get the best of both worlds, turn to us to perform Reference Check Services. We take the time to ask in-depth, open-ended questions by phone with the candidate’s reference to give you the answers and information you need to make an informed hiring decision.


The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Photo of author

Author Pepe

Thank you for visiting businessfinancenews.com

Leave a Comment

Business Finance

About Us

Business Finance News is a brand oriented to business owners and dedicated to analyzing and comparing the cost and conditions of B2B procurement of goods and services through free quotes delivered by business partners.


Address 5050 Quorum Drive, (75254) Dallas TX

telephone 844-368-6072


A personal loan is a medium term loan with a fixed interest rate that is repaid in equal monthly payments and it's usually limited to 24 months. Loan offers and eligibility depend on your individual credit profile. Our lenders can help you obtain as much as $3,000 depending on the lender, your state and your financial situation.

The owner and operator of businessfinancenews.com is not a lender and is not involved into making credit decisions associated with lending or making loan offers. Instead, the website is designed only for a matching service, which enables the users contact with the lenders and third parties. The website does not charge any fees for its service, nor does it oblige any user to initiate contact with any of the lenders or third parties or accept any loan product or service offered by the lenders. All the data concerning personal loan products and the industry is presented on the website for information purposes only.

Businessfinancenews.com does not endorse any particular lender, nor does it represent or is responsible for the actions or inactions of the lenders. Businessfinancenews.com does not collect, store or has access to the information regarding the fees and charges associated with the contacting lenders and/or any loan products. Online personal loans are not available in all the states. Not all the lenders in the network can provide the loans up to $3,000. Businessfinancenews.com cannot guarantee that the user of the website will be approved by any lender or for any loan product, will be matched with a lender, or if matched, will receive a personal loan offer on the terms requested in the online form. The lenders may need to perform credit check via one or more credit bureaus, including but not limited to major credit bureaus in order to determine credit reliability and the scopes of credit products to offer. The lenders in the network may need to perform additional verifications, including but not limited to social security number, driver license number, national ID or other identification documents. The terms and scopes of loan products vary from lender to lender and can depend on numerous factors, including but not limited to the state of residence and credit standing of the applicant, as well as the terms determined by each lender individually. 


APR (Annual Percentage Rate) is the loan rate calculated for the annual term. Since businessfinancenews.com is not a lender and has no information regarding the terms and other details of personal loan products offered by lenders individually, businessfinancenews.com cannot provide the exact APR charged for any loan product offered by the lenders. The APRs greatly vary from lender to lender, state to state and depend on numerous factors, including but not limited to the credit standing of an applicant. Additional charges associated with the loan offer, including but not limited to origination fees, late payment, non-payment charges and penalties, as well as non-financial actions, such as late payment reporting and debt collection actions, may be applied by the lenders. These financial and non-financial actions have nothing to do with businessfinancenews.com, and businessfinancenews.com has no information regaining whatsoever actions may be taken by the lenders. All the financial and non-financial charges and actions are to be disclosed in any particular loan agreement in a clear and transparent manner. The APR is calculated as the annual charge and is not a financial charge for a personal loan product. 

Late Payment Implications

It is highly recommended to contact the lender if late payment is expected or considered possible. In this case, late payment fees and charges may be implied. Federal and state regulations are determined for the cases of late payment and may vary from case to case. All the details concerning the procedures and costs associated with late payment are disclosed in loan agreement and should be reviewed prior to signing any related document. 

Non-payment Implications

Financial and non-financial penalties may be implied in cases of non-payment or missed payment. Fees and other financial charges for late payment are to be disclosed in loan agreement. Additional actions related to non-payment, such as renewals, may be implied upon given consent. The terms of renewal are to be disclosed in each loan agreement individually. Additional charges and fees associated with renewal may be applied. 

Debt collection practices and other related procedures may be performed. All the actions related to these practices are adjusted to Fair Debt Collection Practices Act regulations and other applicable federal and state laws in order to protect consumers from unfair lending and negative borrowing experience. The majority of lenders do not refer to outside collection agencies and attempt to collect the debt via in-house means. 

Non-payment and late payment may have negative impact on the borrowers’ credit standing and downgrade their credit scores, as the lenders may report delinquency to credit bureaus, including but not limited to Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. In this case the results of non-payment and late payment may be recorded and remain in credit reports for the determined amount of time.