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Reference Check Sample Questions

Reference check questions are paramount to the process of hiring new talent. You want to know: Who is this candidate that is interviewing to work at your company or organization? And what were they like during their time with a previous employer? 

Beyond their technical skills, you want to learn about who this candidate was as a person, what were their work habits, and what were they like in interactions with their peers, co-workers, managers, and subordinates? 

These subcategories are just a few of the many types of references you could seek when trying to fill out the greater candidate profile. 

Common Types of References

Most companies have a few common entry points in the reference-seeking process.

They might start with peer coworkers, which are typically peers who worked at the same level as the candidate who is applying for your position, during their tenure at the previous company. 

For example, if your candidate worked for a year as an assistant at a major talent agency, a peer co-worker would be someone who worked with them at that same agency, at the same level, and could speak to their character, their abilities, and their team skills.

The next type of relationship one might seek to research is the relationship between the employee and the manager. You want to get a good understanding of how your candidate deals with authority, how they responded to constructive feedback, rules, deadlines, and what type of leadership style they might prefer. 

If you are working with a candidate who is interviewing for a managerial position, you will want to understand how they treated and worked with their direct reports. 

It is a tried and true expression that the testament of one’s character is a measure of how they treat their direct reports. Learning what kind of manager your candidate was to previous direct reports can be enormously enlightening when understanding their leadership style, their character and their ethical traits, and how they might work on a team. 

Depending on the role and level of the candidate, the last reference you might seek is a personal reference. This might be someone who doesn't have a great understanding of the candidate's professional qualifications but can attest to their values and character. 

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Peer Co-worker Example Reference Check Questions

When interviewing a peer co-worker, you want to keep in mind that this person only has access to a very specific set of reference points that pertain to your candidate, so it would not make sense then to ask about how they interacted within the manager-employee relationship because that would be outside of their scope of knowledge.

They could, however, contribute relevant skillset information from previous collaborative projects, speaking to how a candidate was when it came to being a team player and just how a candidate collaborated or interacted with others when it came to difficult and complex tasks. 

You might ask for example: 

  • As a co-worker, what were some of the key strengths you saw in the candidate? 
  • Were there any weaknesses? 
  • Can you share any concrete examples? 


Sample Managerial Reference Check Questions

When it comes to the manager-employee relationship, it’s important to focus on more logistical concerns. You want to get a good idea of your candidate's abilities to follow guidelines, stick to deadlines, and meet expectations as set out by their manager and the previous company. 

You might consider asking: What is an example of a complex project the candidate was tasked with and how did they handle the navigation of the many moving parts? 

It’s always a good idea to do your due diligence here and make sure you have a solid understanding of the manager’s leadership style, so you can contextualize the information given. 

Example Reference Check Questions to Ask Candidate’s Direct Reports

In the manager-direct report relationship, you want to focus on getting a nuanced understanding of your candidate’s management style, how they handled conflict, what motivational and organizational tactics they used to keep their teams on track, and how exactly they went about facilitating deadlines. 

You might consider asking: 

  • As a manager, how did the candidate guide you in the oversight of long-term projects? 
  • Were they hands-on or hands-off? 
  • Can you give us an example of how their leadership style brought out your strongest work?


You might also want to form a greater understanding of who your candidate is outside of the office. Company culture is built on a variety of metrics, one of which is attitude and personality. 

This is where a personal reference comes in. 

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Sample Personal Reference Questions

When consulting a personal reference, such as a friend, family member, or community member, it’s important to ask questions about the candidate's character. 

An example question might be: How would you describe the candidate’s character in three words? Can you give me an example story of when those three words were made most clear? 

Navigating these many questions can be daunting, which is why you need a partner who can deliver automated and digital reference check solutions. That’s where Crosschq comes in. 

Crosschq’s Automated and Digital Reference Check Solutions

Crosschq's Talent Intelligence Cloud™ platform offers data-driven reference checking and talent analytics solutions to help companies make better, more informed business decisions.

Crosschq 360 can help your business or organization source diverse new talent and take all the hassle out of onboarding prospective new hires.

By speeding up the hiring process up to 95% faster, your company can stay competitive when recruiting top talent, while saving time and costs compared to manual reference checks.

To learn how you can hire more efficiently and competitively, schedule a demo here.

Mark Ko

by Mark Ko

Content Writer

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