Back to Blog

What Type of Questions Should Your Reference Check Include?

Questions Should Your Reference Check Include.jpg

In such a competitive hiring landscape it’s becoming more important than ever to ask the right questions and paint the most detailed picture possible of our candidates. Not only is a reference check a chance to confirm the candidate’s ability to do the job but it is also a unique opportunity to learn what motivates them and how best to manage them, all in the name of retention once they enter the workplace.

With the rise of technology, the workforce is evolving and what we’re looking for from talent is changing. No longer is it just about the work a candidate has done in the past but increasingly we’re looking for strong interpersonal skills and the potential a person has to grow and adapt to changes in the future.

To fulfill these requirements, we need to better understand our talent by not only making sure our questions are structured correctly but also including the right mix of question types in our reference checks..

The Right Mix of Questions

Having taken a deep dive into 17 million answers to 100,000 questions asked using Xref, we can see what type of questions generate the best insights.

We’ve noticed that tailoring the mix of questions to the candidates we’re looking for will deliver a higher volume of more valuable feedback and make for a better reference check.

The questions we’ve identified as being necessary to every reference template fall under three simple categories:

1. Essential

To create a strong foundation, we recommend that a reference template includes five essential questions that account for a candidate's previous employment and performance.

Ensuring the basics are taken care of means that you can build upon them with tailored questions that are more suited to each candidate and the type of role you’re hiring for.

For example, an essential question could include: “Please detail the nature of your working relationship (i.e. direct boss, etc).” and “What roles do you think they would be suitable for in the future?”.

2. Personal attributes

These are the questions that build a picture of a candidate’s professional personality. The personal attribute questions are a good opportunity to find out what motivates them and how they might fit into the workplace culture of your company.

For example, a personal attribute question could include: “Can you please rate and describe their ability to use initiative when problem-solving?” and “Please rate and comment on their ability to learn”.

3. Role-specific

Role-specific questions are used to provide insights into a candidate’s professional capabilities in light of the type of role they’re applying for. Including a tailored balance of both role-specific and personal attributes questions will ensure that you have a well-rounded reference to help you make an informed hiring decision.

An example of a role-specific question could include: “Please rate and comment on their computer skills and ability to adopt new software.” and “Can you comment on the level of supervision they required? How well did they work autonomously?”

Get your perfect mix of questions with Template Builder

All too often, we hear of HR pros and recruiters relying on a standard reference template that they use across the board, for every hire, at every level, in every country, at every office…. you get the picture!

While consistency is important for references taken on candidates for the same role, a lack of template tailoring means the reference process delivers less of the insights that make for a truly informed hiring decision.

With Template Builder, you can create a best-practice, tailored template in minutes and it’s completely free to use - why not give it a go?

Create your own reference template.

Want high-quality reference checks delivered quickly?

Request an Xref demo


  • Get HR & Tech insights
  • Register for Xref events
  • Download free content


What is Xref?

Xref is a secure, mobile-friendly reference checking platform that significantly reduces time-to-hire and helps protect against candidate fraud.

Recruitment Risk Index: Australian Industry Perspective

Request Demo