Do reference checks matter?

Written by Andrea Frith

Traditionally, employers want to make sure that recruitment is safeguarded as much as possible and need to check that the hiring decision is the right one. References have been the main source of this information but sometimes do get missed or not followed up as it can be a time-consuming process. 

In an ideal world, it would be great to be able to speak directly with the potential employees most previous Line Manager and ask all the questions around time-keeping, attendance, team fit, ability to do job and reason for leaving. In reality, this is not possible, most line managers will be unable to respond to reference requests and it will be referred to HR.  It is also now very common for employees to have had a number of roles and how do you know how far back to go?

There is also a school of thought around should references be a way of safeguarding your hire or should they be used during the selection process to aid in making the decision.

Recently there has been a small trend that some organisations are not taking references and are allowing the main contingent labour to work with no checks.

How risky is this and does the time saved counterbalance this risk?

  1. Employees in the main only provide referee details of individuals they know will give a good report. How relevant will it be, and does it really count? This is where a good recruiter will know how to question the detail of the referee and become smarter at spotting any issues.
  2. More and more organisations will only confirm dates of employment and make no comment on the ability to do the job, attendance, team fit and reason for leaving. What value does this have and how long has it taken to request this? Employment legislation has made many companies unsure of what they can and can`t say, therefore most will air on the side of caution.
  3. It is also becoming a trend to get permission from the former employee to allow a reference to be released. Is this just diluting the information given?


Safeguarding is always going to be important and it would seem to be very risky to stop carrying out any checks on candidates and here is why:

  1. Some candidates do lie on their CVs. Even if this is a little white lie, is this the type of behaviour you want to be engaging with?
  2. It should be used as a way of validating what the candidate has put on their CV.
  3. You can’t always rely on your hunch. This may be right most of the time but if it is wrong it can be damaging and have long term repercussions that may have been avoided if reference checks had been taken.


It is likely that most companies will continue to seek references, but they are in some circumstances becoming dilated and therefore not as useful. There are some who now use social media and online search engines to research potential employees – should this be included in the search for your talent or does it cross over into knowing the person as opposed to the skills they can offer?

For further information on references and further compliance services that Pertemps can offer, please contact

Contact us to discuss your recruitment needs
Get in Touch

Latest Blog Posts

Post-Covid: potential mental health impact

Despite our modern advances in medicine, COVID has sadly caused more than 1 million deaths in less than 12 months, but aside from this, it’s clear that COVID has also triggered major emotional, physical and economic problems across the world.

Read More

Bringing people back into the office: a light at the end of the tunnel

By now, I’m sure the majority of people in the UK are aware of the road map when it comes to the easing of what we hope will be the last lockdown in the UK thanks to the volume of vaccines available, and the speed the NHS is able to deliver them to the population.

Read More

Microsoftteams Image (6)

The return of the face to face interview

Hopefully, it will not be long before more and more people are able to return to work in the office and this should then allow interviews to return to face to face.

Read More