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Spark Hire Reference Check Best Practices

Emily Wengert
Emily Wengert
  • Updated
  • Let the candidates know that collecting references is a part of your process at the earliest point possible. We recommend that when you outline your hiring process for the candidates you inform them you will be collecting references.


  • Before you send out your request for references, remind your candidates that you are requesting references from them. This will ensure they look for your request and are prepared for it. They can also then notify their references ahead of time. 


  • The time it takes for candidates to provide you with references can vary depending on how many references you are requesting. If you are requesting 3 references we recommend giving candidates 3-5 days to provide references. This allows your candidates time to notify their references that you will be reaching out to them. If you are asking for more, consider allowing candidates more time. 


  • The length of time you give the references to respond can vary depending on the urgency of filling your position and the skill level. It can also depend on the level you are hiring for. More experienced employees know to alert their references ahead of time. Inexperienced and newer workers for entry-level positions might not know to contact their references ahead of time. Higher-level positions may get a response within 48 hours. That said we recommend that you give references 3 - 7 days to complete their survey depending on the level of the position. 


  • We recommend asking for 3 references. Most experienced candidates will have at least three references ready while applying for a new position. If you require more than 3, we recommend giving the candidates more time to provide references.


  • Let references know their answers are confidential. Ensure the candidate’s references know that their answers won’t be shared with the candidate. This will help the reference be more comfortable being transparent.   


  • Avoid questions about a candidate’s personal life. Do not ask for references for personal information on the candidate, such as their age, familial status, religion, or country of origin. Not only could these questions be perceived as discriminatory — it’s also illegal to ask them.


  • It is best to conduct a reference check after at least one round of screenings. We recommend that checking references is one of the last steps in your process before making an offer. Completing a reference check, even an automated one from Spark Hire takes time. Reserving this task for your top candidates helps you save time and make the most of your resources. 


  • When selecting questions, think of the information you wish to gather from your candidate's references. Use open-ended questions and avoid any leading questions. Below are some examples of questions to ask. 
    • What is your relationship with the candidate?
    • What position did the candidate hold at your company?
    • What were the dates of their employment?
    • What were the candidate’s responsibilities?
    • How would you describe the candidate’s overall work performance?
    • Briefly describe what you feel are the candidate’s greatest strengths.
    • Would you rehire the candidate?
    • How are the candidate's communication and listening skills?
    • How did the candidate take direction from leaders?
    • Did they complete the tasks and assignments given to them?


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