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Reference Check

Reference checking is an essential part of any screening process. According to a 2019 Monster survey, 85% of recruiters said that candidates exaggerate their skills and competencies on resumes, which makes it hard for hiring teams to accurately assess the experience and capabilities of candidates.

Reference checks help solve this problem by providing recruiters with valuable information about potential hires. 

Below we’ll cover everything you need to know about reference checks and how to leverage an advanced solution, like Crosschq, to streamline the process. 

What is a reference check?

A reference check is a process that allows recruiters to verify and assess a candidate based on their past performance. Hiring teams collect information from past supervisors, subordinates, peers, and other coworkers who have worked with your prospective candidate to gain insight, verify resume details, and compare a candidate’s self-reference data to their previous workplace. 

Reference checks help you:

  • Verify their information in an interview or a candidate’s resume.
  • Predict the success of prospective applicants.
  • Collect valuable candidate information.
  • Ask questions about specific skills or experiences you want out of a candidate. 
  • Aggregate data on candidate skills, strengths, and opportunities.
  • Generate automated reports within days of starting the reference check. 
  • And more.

What is the purpose of a reference check?

The purpose of a reference check is to leverage a candidate’s past experiences to better predict and assess what that candidate will bring to your work environment and how successful they will be in their roles. It also helps you verify the information and ensure candidates are who they say they are. 

With 360 digital reference checking, hiring teams can do more with reference checks than ever. You don’t have to manually reach out to each former employer, and you can benefit from data that helps assess soft skills and performance, among other metrics. 

How long do reference checks take?

Traditional reference checks can take days or weeks to complete. With Crosschq’s digital 360 reference checking, you can expect automated reports within 48 hours. Crosschq allows you to streamline your reference-checking process from the comfort of your ATS, simplifying the process and saving you time. 

What can legally be asked in a reference check

Unlike background checks, there’s less red tape around the reference-checking process. In most cases, rules and limitations around reference checking come down to company policy. There are, however, some parameters around what a prospective recruiter can and can not ask. There’s also an expectation of remaining compliant within your state’s laws.

Generally speaking, things you can ask about include:

  • Skills and capabilities
  • Performance
  • Reason of termination 
  • Employee attitude and work habits
  • Team-working habits

In most cases, you cannot ask about:

  • Race or ethnic background
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religious or political beliefs
  • Personal questions about family 
  • Gender
  • Disabilities
  • Class/financial information

To learn more about what you can and cannot ask in a reference check, find your state laws in Nolo’s directory

How do you conduct a reference check?

Traditionally, you’d conduct a reference check by calling or emailing each reference on a resume. With dozens or hundreds of applicants, you could expect that process to take time, energy, and resources from your hiring team.

Today, digital references follow automated, 100% compliant procedures that send surveys, questionnaires, and other reference check forms to candidates' supervisors and peers. 

The importance of a reference check for recruiters and HR

Reference checks are a necessary tool that can improve your recruiting process from start to finish. And while it might seem like reference checks are helpful only in the screening phase, you can do much more with them in the hiring cycle. 

Of course, you want to reference check to verify information on a resume. Reference-checking technology will help you identify any gaps or misinformation in a resume, providing you with additional questions in the interview. But you can also conduct a reference check after an interview to see if a candidate’s information matches up with a past employer. 

For example, if the reason why a candidate separated from their past workplace differs from what a reference had told you, you can always conduct a follow-up reference check to ask about their leave again. When the cost of a bad hire is 30% of that individual’s yearly salary, it pays not to take these extra steps to ensure you have the right candidate for the job. 

Common reference check questions

You want to ask questions that allow you to spot any inconsistencies and ensure that candidates have honestly described their past work experiences. You also want to ask questions that give you an idea of what kind of candidate you’ll be working with. 


To get a better idea of how honest a candidate is, ask the former supervisor to expand on something the candidate has highlighted on their resume (a project, marketing campaign, sales strategy, etc). That way, you’ll get an idea of how closely the candidate’s story lines up with their supervisors when you get the chance to interview them. 


Other common reference check questions to consider include:


  • Was the candidate reliable?
  • Were they able to finish tasks promptly and by their deadlines?
  • How often were they absent or late?
  • Was the candidate a good teammate?
  • How did the candidate contribute to a positive workplace?
  • How did the candidate handle stressful situations?

Better reference checks with Crosschq

Sourcing, screening, reference checking, gathering data, maintaining your pipelines, and other aspects of the recruiting lifecycle can be time-consuming, stressful, and tedious. That’s where Crosschq comes in. 

With Crosschq, you get the ability to reference check quicker, more accurately, and in a 100% complaint manner. Our proprietary Talent Intelligence Cloud™ solution will help you generate automated reference check reports, remove unconscious bias from the hiring process, and reduce your overall turnaround time by more than 80%

Try the demo to learn about how Crosschq can streamline your reference checks and other steps of your recruitment process today. 

Katie Kennedy

by Katie Kennedy

Talent Consulting Lead

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