Are Reference Checks Really Necessary?

(Last Updated On: November 9, 2021)

blog post written by Amanda Arnold 

Ready for Reference Checks? 

Considering adding reference checks to your pre-employment screening package?  Here are a few answers to the questions you may be asking.


So, what’s the big deal with reference checks?

Sometimes the information gathered from an employment verification isn’t enough to prove whether a candidate will be a good fit for your company or not. In situations like this, references can be beneficial and help you narrow down your choices. References will provide you with information on how that candidate could have the specific traits you are looking for in an employee.

Why isn’t verifying employment enough to prove this, though?

Verifying employments will allow you to see how honest your candidate was about the position they held and provide you with information on regarding their job experiences. However, these verifications typically only provide facts proven with employment records. Often times, work places are not even able to provide any details outside of the dates of employment and the job title held due to company policies.

Sure, this will prove that the candidate was telling the truth about the experience they have. But this does not speak for how the experience of having that candidate as an employee actually went. The only way to find this information out is to speak to a reference who either worked directly with the candidate or perhaps just knows the reference outside of work.

References can answer questions such as: what the candidate specifically did for the company? What strengths do they have? What weaknesses do they have? Did they complete the work given to them? Did they get along with their colleagues?

These answers can make or break a candidate depending on the position you are seeking to fill. For hiring managers that have done reference checks, they claim that they have been able to eliminate about 21% of candidates from their list after speaking to references. Roughly 36% of managers stated that they look for answers regarding job duties and experiences while another 31% stated they prefer to have a deeper look at a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. For some hiring managers, the answers to these questions are what allow them to decide who they are actually going to hire and why.

Perhaps the candidate was honest about their employment time spent with the company, but they did not mention that they have a hard time getting along with their colleagues. If the job you are seeking a candidate for requires teamwork, this could be a problem. Or perhaps you like the candidate, but discover that maybe they would be better suited for a different position based on their strengths job duties.

But these questions can be asked in the interview, right?

Some people will tell you from the get-go that they may not do well with computers or that they prefer to work alone. But many candidates will tell you what you want to hear and leave out the genuine truth about their character in order to get the job. It’s not hard to think you found the right candidate based on their employment and education history alone. But some managers can speak from experience that this isn’t always the case.

After speaking to a reference, you may discover that this candidate actually wouldn’t be a good fit for your company based on their skills. Or perhaps the company could not release the rehire eligibility, but the reference is able to tell you that they would not work with this person again. They will be able to comment on the applicant’s dependability, punctuality, and areas that could use improvement.

A study done by a Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder in 2012 reported that 16% of the 2,494 hiring managers and human resources professionals surveyed, contacted references before they even set up an interview. Doing this may allow managers to save that time slot for someone who may be a better fit instead of filling that time slot with someone who is not. They also discovered that 69% of them admitted to changing their minds about hiring an applicant based on the information provided by a reference.

While this critical information can change your opinion on the candidate, it does not always show up on employment verifications alone. However, it’s important to know what information you may be wanting to look into more. Is it their work ethic? Or is it more of their personal traits?


Well, who should I get a reference from, then?

Asking a third party about your applicant will give an important outside perspective. A professional reference will be able to provide feedback on a candidate’s skills, strengths, weaknesses, and general work ethic. Since this information is coming from a former colleague or supervisor, they are able to speak honestly based on a workplace experience with the candidate.

Sometimes you are able to speak to a former supervisor and obtain a performance review along with an employment verification. However, there are companies that do not permit these. In cases like these, former supervisors may be able to provide a reference which is considered different than a performance review.

Meanwhile, a personal reference will be able to provide you with a whole other perspective. They may not be able to speak on the qualifications their friend has, but they can provide you with personal traits which may help you determine if their personality will mix well with the rest of your employees and work place environment.

Is it really necessary?

Ultimately, it depends on your personal preference, company values, as well as any time/budget constraints.  For some employers, it may not be necessary to get a reference in order to decide if you would like to give an applicant a try. You may find yourself content with the information provided by an employment verification alone, and that is quite alright. However, if you are hoping to help find a way to narrow down your choices or to determine if someone is actually going to fit the job before hiring them, then perhaps a reference check would benefit you and your company.

How Justifacts can help: Justifacts will work with you to develop the right reference checks to suit your needs.  Whether you are looking for standard professional references, supervisor references, or personal references, we are here to help.  Clients have the option to use our standard list of questions, or they can customize questions to their preference at no additional cost.  Furthermore, unlike many of our competitors, Justifacts does not place limits on phone calls, which helps to ensure that you will actually get the information you need to make an informed hiring decision.


To learn more about how Justifacts’ can help with your background screening process feel free to request information or give us a call at 800-356-6885 to speak to our sales team.


It is important to note that Justifacts is providing this information as a service to our clients. None of the information contained herein should be construed as legal advice, nor is Justifacts engaged to provide legal advice. We go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful. We recommend you consult your attorney or legal department if you want assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.