Are Reference Checks still relevant ?

The United Nation News stated that 255 million jobs were lost due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The job market is a tough one, and people will go through great lengths to find a job. 

A study by CV-Library has shown that over a quarter (28%) of UK job hunters lie on their CV. In the survey of over 2,000 job hunters revealed that, of those that admitted to lying, 9.2 percent said their false information was highly significant. 

This displays that there will always be a percentage of people who will use inaccurate information in order to mislead their interviewer. This is where reference checks come in. 

How did Reference Checks start: 

The Law Dictionary defines a reference check as the act of contacting previous employers of a job applicant to determine and confirm job history. 

Traditionally reference checks are done by picking up the phone or emailing referees given by the candidate. Due to this manual and time consuming process, usually reference checks are done late in the hiring process. A lot of time would be wasted if the HR professional was to contact all referees. 

Although Reference checks occur late in the hiring process, like all hiring stages it’s still a make or break situation. Manisha Maligaspe, Oceania Transaction Advisory Services Recruitment Lead for EY  described it as an  “imperative part of the recruitment process… to verify the candidate’s skills and experiences” 

Senior corporates have a higher understanding of the importance of hiring quality candidates. This and the fact that they represent their company, verifies them as a more accurate source than simply the candidates peers. So although the reference check is an extra step, thoroughly examining a candidate ensures for higher accuracy of information. This is likely to save you time in the long run and be proactive to any issues.  

Why would you add a Reference checking stage to your processes?

There are various reasons why HR professionals would look into a new hire’s references. Reference checks can be used to verify if indeed the candidate has the skills and experience claimed on their CV. This can also be known as performing due diligence. 

Senior corporates represent their company and will be unlikely to provide misleading information as they too know the risks that it can bring. 

Speaking to someone who knows the candidate in a professional capacity can help inform the employee of their corporate personality. This would narrow down whether or not the candidate would be a good fit for the role. Additionally, a reference check can help the employer decide between their top candidates for the role. 

Types of Reference checks 

The two types of reference checks are personal and professional references. These references both serve different  purposes. 

Personal references: 

A Personal reference is someone who knows the candidate personally. Therefore they are able to share the new hire’s values, characteristics and personality. However there are limitations due to the fact that they have not worked with the candidate. This means that they describe only their social personality but not what they are like in a professional situation. Only when candidates are young and lack previous work experiences employers may ask for a personal reference.  

Professional references: 

A professional reference is anyone that was related to the new hire in the workplace. They could fall under one of the following former positions: employer, client, colleague, or supervisor. 

The quality of the referee is aligned with how direct the management or reporting  was between the two parties. 

Reference checks can also be used to get information about the new hire to set them up for success in their job, such as preferences in management style, work environment and feedback delivery. 

 A professional reference is “more of an accurate representation of the candidate’s employability and skills” Manisha Maligaspe, Oceania Transaction Advisory Services Recruitment Lead for EY.

This is why HR professionals are more likely to ask for a professional reference instead of personal. 

Traditional Methods 

Reference checking has been given a bad image as it’s known as a manual heavy and time consuming task. HR professionals had to design each email with the branding and copy. We all know how busy the email inbox can get. After some back and forth, when the questions were finally answered. The responses would then have to be manually recorded somewhere.

New Methods using an Automated Reference Check software

Reference checks can now be fully automated. Automation eliminates unnecessary time spent going back and forth with both candidates and referees. Auto-triggered questionnaires and SMS/Emails ensures the process continues without relying on continuous input from the HR team. 


Beautiful candidate experiences are created with consistent branding that connects with candidates.

Customised Question Templates: 

Question templates can be designed to be either role or department specific. You can ask anything and collect all types of data. Examples could be details of the relationship, and insights about a candidate’s previous on-the-job performance. 

Consistent Internal Processes:

Automated reference checks can be inserted into the HR workflow to keep the processes consistent across internal teams. Software features allow HR professionals to collate all candidate information in one location linked to the candidates. 

Removes Manual Tasks 

The referee details submitted by the candidate triggers a branded email to the nominated contact details. The email contains your custom-built questionnaire, and once submitted is available for viewing in the platform! 

Notifications of Reference Checks 

No need to be kept in the dark refreshing your inbox. Using software can enable progress check features. The appropriate stakeholders also receive SMS/Email notifications when any progress is made.

Data Collation: 

All data collected can be stored on the one platform to each candidate’s profile. This ensures security, easy sharing, accessibility and collaboration with the team. 


Reference checks provide vital insights on the candidate’s previous workplace performance. If this process doesn’t even take up 10 seconds, it is definitely worth it. I see it like a Disney fast pass onto your favourite ride. This stage filters out unqualified candidates as soon as possible before they travel to later stages. Imagine if ( god forbid) you hired who you thought was a quality candidate but turned out to not be as qualified as you first assumed. All the time, money and labour down the drain and you have to start from square one. With the click of a button, this could all be avoided ! With the ease applied by softwares, the value of reference checks are a significant step that should remain in recruiting and onboarding processes.