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Reference Check Questions for Customer Service Positions

Believe it or not, the cost of a bad hire is 30 percent of that individual’s yearly salary, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. For an employee with a $60,000 annual salary, that would cost your organization $18,000 a year. 

When gathering data on bad hires, researchers looked at everything from onboarding time and recruiting expenses to negative impact on team morale and brand image. Bad hires don’t just diminish your quantifiable resources like expenses or time; they can also hurt your brand, workplace culture, and customer relations (which are probably more costly than immediate hiring costs in the long run). 

The answer to avoiding bad hires is a vigilant recruiting process. That includes improving your sourcing practices, emphasizing quality of hire, and, as we’ll look at below, leveraging digital reference checks. 

The Importance of Reference Check Questions for Customer Service Positions

There’s no ambiguity about the importance of strong customer service scores. Studies show that a majority of Americans have decided not to make a purchase because of poor customer service, and customers need 12 positive service experiences to make up for one bad one.

Poor customer service experiences can ruin your customer relations, regardless of how good your product is or how efficient your company runs. And that’s why it’s essential to come up with the right set of reference questions to ensure you’re hiring the right kind of customer service representative, which we’ll cover in detail below.

Reference Check Questions for Customer Service Positions

Like most reference checks, you want to make sure you’re verifying information an applicant has made public through their resumes and in your interactions with them. Beyond that, you really want to get a pulse on the applicant’s social skills, communication skills, empathy, and other soft skills. 

What was it like working with ______? 

This is a good warmup question that will allow your reference to start with a simple summary of their experiences with the candidate in question. It can also help you verify the candidate’s roles, responsibilities, and timeline in the company. 

Does ______ work better alone or in a team?

This is an important question because it will highlight how well the candidate works with other people. Customer service representatives need to work well with people, and their attitude as a team member will often reflect their attitude with customers. 

What are the candidate's greatest strengths?

The best questions are the ones that give the former manager or peer an opportunity to expand and build on your questions. Open-ended questions and questions that allow them to refer to their experiences with the candidate, like a question about the candidate’s strengths, will often yield the most thorough and helpful answers.

What are the candidate's weaknesses?

This “trick question” is often seen in interviews, but it’s also helpful for reference checks. Rather than getting a clever or well-thought response, you’ll often get an accurate assessment of the candidate’s weaknesses. You also create another opportunity for your reference to bring up any red flags or additional concerns, which is a big part of reference checks in general. 

Was ______ a clear communicator? Why or why not?

Because so much of customer service is about communicating with customers, clients, or other businesses, you want to get some insight into a candidate’s communication skills. 

Would you rehire ______? Why or why not?

This is one of the most important questions you could ask anyone for a reference check, regardless of what position you need to fill. It’s a polarizing question that asks the former employer/manager to identify any red (or green) flags. 

Should you conduct reference checks at the beginning or end of the hiring process for customer service positions?

While it might seem like a good idea to conduct a reference check at the end of the hiring process to verify a candidate’s information, this would actually be a mistake. 


By the time you reach the end of a recruiting cycle, you might feel obligated to make a hire that you’ve invested time and resources into. If you conduct a reference check as a final step, you might overlook potential red flags that you wouldn’t tolerate at the beginning of the process. 


Conducting a reference check early on can actually inform your interview process and allow you to measure a reference’s report of a candidate alongside the candidate’s self-reference score.

Automating the reference check process for customer service positions

Leaders and hiring teams have valued reference checks for decades, but they’ve been slow and tedious in the past. Today, you can leverage automated reference checks that give you all the candidate insights you desire without the long wait times or manual processes. 

Automated reference check technology, like Crosschq, allow you to:

  • Gather candidate reports within 48 hours
  • Streamline your efforts directly from your ATS
  • Aggregate data on candidate skills, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Compare reference check scores with self-reference scores
  • Reduce your overall hiring turnaround time by 85 percent

The importance of Reference Checking Customer Service Positions and Quality of Hire

Customer service representatives need a high emotional EQ, excellent soft skills, and an understanding of their responsibility as the first point of contact with customers. There’s little room for error in this role, and you want to make sure you pick the right candidate in a long and expensive hiring process. 

Crosschq’s 360 digital reference check technology can help you measure candidate impact, soft skills, hard skills, strengths and weaknesses, and other key inputs that determine quality of hire. 

Crosschq’s “Q” Report looked at 24+ million pre-hire and post-hire decisions we’ve helped leaders make, along with the radical insights from those data points that can help you hire, retain, and develop talent. And if you want to learn more about how Crosschq can help leaders and hiring teams attract, retain, and measure the performance of top talent, sign up for a demo today. 

Mark Ko

by Mark Ko

Content Writer

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