Terry Thompson, Surrey, BC, CYBF Mentor, tesh@shaw.ca

Managing Corporate Culture article series

Reference checking is every bit as important as the interviews and will take just as much (if not more) time as the interviews. The keys to effective reference checking are:

  1.  Know what your objectives are for reference checking.
  2. Carefully prepare for the reference check.
  3. Approach each reference check as an interview of the person providing the reference information.
  4. Whenever possible, perform your reference check face-to-face with the person giving the reference.
  5. Find at least one and preferably two people, who the candidate has not listed as a reference (you should have discovered these people during the interview process).
  6. Ask the one question you should always end an interview with.

In this article I will delve into points 1 and 2, with the next article providing more in-depth information on points 3 through 6 so stay tuned.

Objectives of reference checking

  1. To substantiate any important representations made by the candidate concerning their accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses.
  2. To diligently investigate any important weaknesses that you have detected in the interview or personality profiling processes.
  3. To further “know” the candidate.
  4. To judge the quality of the person giving the reference and their organization (i.e. is this someone whose opinion you would respect and is the organization the candidate worked for one with high standards).
  5. Establish a positive first impression relationship with the reference, such that they are more likely to be open and forthcoming about the candidate.


  1. Prepare, for the references, a concise description of your organization and its culture, the position being filled, and the type of person you are looking for, so that the person giving the reference has the proper background.
  2. Customize your questions according to the position being filled, and from your findings during the interview and personality profiling processes in order to fulfill the objectives of the reference checking.
  3. Complete some research on who the reference is and the company they work for.

Should you have any questions or feedback regarding the content of this article, please email Terry Thompson at tesh@shaw.ca ©

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