Reference Check Via Email

Reference checking is a critical step in the hiring process. If done correctly, this simple but all-important procedure will ensure that you are bringing on employees who are hardworking, trustworthy, and true value-adds for your organization.

Most companies historically have performed their reference checks over the phone — speaking directly to a candidate’s supervisor or coworker had been thought to provide some level of input into how good of a fit your candidate is for the role in question. However, playing phone-tag with a reference can be frustrating and time-consuming, and the information gleaned from the short conversations is often underwhelming.

Converting your reference-checking protocols to an email-based or other modern solution can provide not just more responses, but better, more actionable insights into your future employee, in a fraction of the time.

Everything You Need to Know About Reference Check Emails

In this section you will find a brief definition, a how-to, and a sample template of a reference check email.

What is a reference check via email?

In essence, a reference check email surveys the references given by a candidate for their feedback on said candidate’s performance at their previous place of employment. It is a formal communication which can be implemented for most potential employees with minimal modification. Unlike phone reference checks, which tend to be more conversational, email reference checks allow the hiring team to ask pointed, specific inquiries which can be answered at the reference’s leisure.

How does a reference check email work?

How you implement reference check emails will depend on the size and individual needs of your organization.

Your company might decide to treat a reference check email like any other email-based correspondence. This strategy might involve keeping a questionnaire template handy and sending that off to whichever email addresses the candidate has provided. This method can prove problematic, however, in that emails sent inbox-to-inbox can easily be lost, forgotten, or misfiled. While it takes less time to perform than a phone check, manual reference checking via email can be complicated to track and organize.

Automatic reference-checking solutions, such as Harver Reference, are by far the easiest and most convenient means of garnering feedback on your candidate.

With Harver’s reference checking tool, your recruiter or hiring manager provide the candidate with a link  to invite their references via email or SMS text message to fill out a feedback form. Using Harver Reference, you can either choose from templatized, compliant-ready sets of questions, or craft your own customized assessment.

Once received, the references will provide an evaluation of your candidate in a fully confidential survey which takes about 5 minutes for them to complete. Questions can range from standard relationship questions (how they know the candidate, etc.) to more specific inquiries about the candidate’s job performance.

After the reference submits their answers, a report is automatically generated and sent to HR and if you like, the hiring manager. This report will highlight the candidate’s strengths, as well as areas of potential growth opportunities. Using this information, they can make well-informed hiring decisions for the company. An additional bonus is that when a candidate applies for multiple positions or re-applies, the system quickly highlights that a reference check already exists, resulting in better and faster candidate assessments.

Sample reference check email.

Subject Title: Reference for [Applicant’s Name]

Dear [Reference]

[Applicant’s Name] has listed you as a reference on their application for [Position] at [Your Organization]. Please fill out the following survey, providing as honest feedback as you can regarding [Applicant’s Name]’s performance, work ethic, and cultural fit. Please contact me at [Your Email Address] if you have any questions or concerns regarding this survey.


[Your Name]

  1. What is your relationship to the candidate?
  2. What position did the candidate hold at your company?
  3. What were the dates of their employment?
  4. What are the duties associated with the candidate’s previously held position?
  5. Was the applicant let go, fired, or did they leave of their own accord? If they left on their own, what was the reason for their departure?
  6. How would you describe the candidate’s overall work performance?
  7. Briefly describe what you feel are the candidate’s greatest strengths.
  8. Briefly describe what you feel are the candidate’s greatest areas of opportunity for improvement.
  9. Are there any concerns that you have regarding the candidate?
  10. If given the opportunity, would you hire the candidate again?

Please rate the candidate from 1 to 5 (1 being the lowest, 5 the highest) on the following:

  1. Punctuality
  2. Reliability
  3. Professionalism
  4. Communication
  5. Self-motivation

If there are any other comments or points of clarification you would like to make, please detail them down below.

Why Use Automatic Email-Based Reference Checking

Harver Reference’s automated tool allows you to make smarter hiring decisions by integrating input and information from a multiplicity of reference sources. One problem often cited by businesses is that feedback gathered from references is often inauthentic, erring on the side of politeness and loyalty. Harver’s email-based (and text-based) digital solution, with questions created and validated by I/O psychologists, provides surveys and a response method that allow for references to give their most honest and authentic feedback. So your organization can make absolutely sure you’re making the best hiring decisions for your organization.

Far more than an email, Harver Reference demonstrates the power of centralized data by compiling information from multiple references into one thorough and actionable report. Easy-to-use, scalable, auditable, and fully GDPR compliant, Harver Reference gives recruiters and hiring managers a way to complete reference checks in less time, providing higher quality feedback so you can make better hires, faster.

To learn more about our email- and text-based reference checking solution, schedule a demo of Harver Reference today.

Harver Team

Harver Team

Posted on:
August 1, 2023

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