What is an employee reference checklist?
An employee reference checklist is a form used when checking references for a potential hire. It helps you prescreen potential employees by verifying the information they provide on applications and in interviews. Standardizing your reference form makes it easy to ask all the references the same questions as well as ensure the questions are relevant to your business and/or the position.
What to include in a reference checklist
Reference checklists verify if the information provided by the applicant is accurate. They contain requests for information, such as:
- Dates of employment
- Hours worked per pay period
- Overall job performance
- Job duties
- Rehire status
- Social skills
- Reason for departure
How to create a reference checklist
Use these steps to create a new reference checklist form.
1. Choose format
Use hard and digital copies, which can be distributed according to the respondent’s needs. Forms that are mailed or emailed often include a short letter explaining the checklist, while checklists intended for phone use may not.
2. List general contact information
Decide which information you need from the respondent. Usually, this will include their name, relationship to the applicant and contact phone number or email. Include this information at the top of the checklist. Many companies also ask how long the respondent has known the applicant.
3. Write job experience questions
Cover all aspects of the applicant’s work history for verification, including the length of time at the previous company and the applicant’s demeanor on the job.
4. Write instructions for respondent
If needed, write any instructions for the respondent. Give the respondent:
- A brief letter of introduction
- Contact information for questions
- A return-by date — give the respondent a week or so to return the form
5. Create the form
The structure of the form will differ by phone, mail and email.
- Responding by phone: Create a PDF with fields that can be filled in. The person conducting the phone call will benefit from a short script to introduce themselves to the respondent.
- Responding by email: Send a link to an online form through email. Many online services build forms that populate an easy-to-review spreadsheet. Include an introductory paragraph in the body of the email before the link to the online reference checklist form.
Reference form template
Here is a reference checklist template you can use to structure your reference checklist form:
[Applicant] has applied to work at [company] as a [job title] and listed you as a reference for [former job title/company].
Please complete this reference checklist form by [date]. Answer the questions truthfully and feel free to reach out with any additional questions, comments or concerns. We appreciate your time.
- Relationship to the applicant:
- Contact information:
- Did the applicant work at this company?
- Dates of employment:
- What were the applicant’s primary job duties?
- How would you rate the applicant’s job performance?
- How would you rate the applicant’s interpersonal skills?
- How would you rate the applicant’s attendance at work?
- Why did the applicant leave the company?
- Would you rehire this applicant?
- Is there anything else we should know?
When should I contact an applicant’s references?
Most often, employers check references as the last step in the hiring process after successful recruiting and interviewing. Sometimes, employers use reference checks as a deciding factor between two or three qualified candidates. Occasionally, an employer will contact every applicant’s references.
Should I check references on every new hire?
While you don’t have to check references using a reference form template for anyone, it’s a good idea to do it for all new hires before offering the job. It can help you avoid hiring someone who exaggerated their experience or isn’t a good culture add for your company.