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Reference Check Forms [Free Template]

An ipad showing a reference check form is laying on a white desk.

If you’re checking references during the hiring process, employment reference check forms and templates can help improve efficiency and ensure consistency across candidates. Find out how to create a reference check form you can easily send to references and what it should include. Our sample reference check email form template helps you get started.

You’ve found a qualified candidate with the right skills, experience, and culture fit and they’ve accepted the job offer. Before onboarding, you may choose to do due diligence by conducting a background check and checking their references. Because your human resources team’s time is valuable, you may wish to partner with a qualified background check provider, like GoodHire, to conduct pre-employment screenings more quickly, including reference checks.

For companies that prefer to do their own reference checks, an employment reference check template can help streamline the process while helping to ensure you consistently gather the same kind of information for every candidate. In this article, we’ll cover how to create a repeatable process by creating a reference check form, the type of questions and instructions to include, and provide you with a sample reference check template to help you get started.

Looking For Professional Reference Checks?

Illustration of professional reference checks

What Is A Reference Check Form?

A reference check form is a document that contains a set of standard questions to gain insight about a candidate’s professional achievements and character. Employers may conduct reference checks as part of a pre-employment background check. Some employers may ask candidates to submit references on application forms, though most will only request references for candidates with a conditional job offer.

Using a standardized reference check form helps ensure consistency in the information being gathered about a candidate and streamlines the process for human resources teams and hiring managers. Employers that hire infrequently or those that prefer to handle professional reference checks directly, instead of partnering with a screening provider, can benefit from using a reference checks form. 

Create An Employment Reference Check Form

When creating an employment reference check form, it’s important to keep in mind that the candidate’s reference is doing your organization a professional courtesy and is under no obligation to help you. Making your reference check forms clear, concise, and easy to submit is key. 

Here are some tips to consider:

Questions About The Candidate’s Employment & Work

1. Choose a format

You may wish to create both a digital and physical format when creating your reference check form. Formats may include an online form, a fillable PDF, an email template, or a printable document that can be filled out and returned.

When choosing a format, it’s important to consider how you want to collect and review the information you’ll receive from references. Creating an online form may involve more upfront effort than making a quick document, but it could be easier to review answers that are submitted online than downloading and printing many different completed forms.

2. Draft an introduction

Begin your reference check request with an introduction, providing the respondent (the person providing the reference) with context about your request. An introduction on an employer reference check form may include the following: 

  • An introduction of yourself, including your company and title
  • A brief explanation informing the respondent that a prospective job candidate of your company has listed them as a professional reference
  • Clear direction on how to complete the reference check form and how long it typically takes
  • A deadline for submitting the form and instructions on how to submit it (e.g. email, completing online, etc.).
  • Information about what to do if they cannot complete the reference check form for any reason 

3. write questions in multiple formats

Begin by asking the respondent their name and job title, and the name of the company where the reference worked with the candidate. Then, ask a few follow-up questions to learn more about the working relationship between the candidate and the respondent.

Next, dive deeper with reference check questions to learn more about the candidate’s general responsibilities, duties, and overall job performance. When conducting phone interviews with references, you want to keep as many questions open-ended as possible. But for reference check forms and templates, you can condense many of the questions without sacrificing the quality of information you’ll get back. 

For example, you can ask the reference to rate a specific ability on a scale of 0 to 10, ask “yes” or “no” questions, use multiple choice, or other survey type questions. This is also a great place to include open-ended questions that allow the respondent to describe something about the candidate in more detail or provide an example of a situation. 

When creating questions, be sure to review your company’s background check guidelines and ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local laws. For example, in certain jurisdictions, employers may be restricted from asking about certain topics, such as a candidate’s wages. 

4. include submission instructions

Conclude with final instructions on how to submit the form. Even though you may have already mentioned this quickly in the introduction, this is a great place to remind them how (and when) you’d like to receive the completed reference check form. A general rule of thumb is to give the reference up to a week to return the reference check form. 

5. generate the employment reference check form

Now that you have a basic outline for the reference check form, you can generate the different formats based on individual preferences. For example, if sending via email, a fillable PDF or link to an online form is best. When sending by mail, leave enough space for the respondent to fill in their answers. If you’re conducting a reference check over the phone, you will fill in the answers yourself and can use either format.

Reference Check Template

Here is a sample pre-employment reference check form that employers can use for inspiration when creating a template. 

Dear [Reference Name],

A former employee of your company, [Candidate Name], has applied for a position as a [Job Title] at our company. As part of our interview process, we routinely request background information from former colleagues to help us make informed hiring decisions. [Candidate Name] listed you as a reference and has given us permission to contact you about the information listed below. 

Please provide the following information to the best of your knowledge. Thorough answers are appreciated, though this should only take about 20-30 minutes of your time. We would be grateful if you would reply directly to this email with your responses by [Date]. 

  • Reference’s name, company, current job title
  • Reference’s relationship to the candidate 
  • Candidate’s dates of employment
  • Job titles, time spent in each role
  • Describe the candidate’s primary job duties
  • How would you describe the candidate’s relationships with coworkers, supervisors, and subordinates (if applicable)?
  • How would you rate the applicant’s job performance? (Scaled question from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best)
  • How would you rate the applicant’s interpersonal skills? (Scaled question, from 1 to 5)
  • How would you rate the applicant’s attendance at work? (Scaled question, from 1 to 5)
  • What are the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses? 
  • What was the reason for the candidate leaving the company?
  • Would you rehire this candidate?

Please reach out to us if you cannot complete this reference check form for any reason or have any further questions. Thank you for your time!


[Your Name]

[Your Position]

[Contact Information]

Sample Employee Reference Check Form Template

Here’s a sample employee reference check form to use as a template.

Sample reference check form from GoodHire.

Create A Seamless Reference Check Process With GoodHire

If creating a reference check form isn’t the solution for your business, GoodHire is here to help. As one of our 100+ screening options, GoodHire offers professional reference checks by contacting references on your behalf, saving you valuable time and resources. During the phone interview, our team asks a series of open-ended questions to get the detailed information and perspective you need to make informed hiring decisions. With fast turnaround times and a full written transcript of the interview, reference checks not only help you better understand the candidate but also create a positive experience ahead of onboarding. Get started today.

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The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

About the Author

As GoodHire’s managing editor, Sara Korolevich produces educational resources for employers on a variety of employment screening topics, including compliance and screening best practices, and writes about GoodHire’s company and product news. Sara’s experience stems from 20+ years working as a B2C and B2B PR and communications professional.