How To Check References by Email: A Complete Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 22, 2022

Published June 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Checking a candidate's references is an important part of the hiring process, as many hiring managers rely on these checks to offer valuable insight into potential employees. Learning how to conduct high-quality reference checks can help improve a hiring manager's ability to hire outstanding employees.

In this article, we discuss how hiring managers can conduct reference checks by email and provide a template and example of a reference check through email.

What is a reference check?

A reference check involves a hiring manager or human resources (HR) representative contacting past employers of a potential candidate for employment by email or phone to discuss the candidate's work history. Hiring managers often inquire about areas that give insight into whether a candidate would make a satisfactory employee, such as their past performance, experience and skills. This is often one of the last actions that hiring managers take in the interviewing process before they make an offer of employment.

Related: Reference Check Questions: What To Expect

How does checking references by email work?

Checking references by email commonly involves the hiring manager contacting the candidate's past employers by email with specific inquiries about the potential candidate. Here are some of the common areas discussed in an email reference check:

  • Candidate experience: Hiring managers may ask specific questions about candidates' experience. These questions can give insight into a candidate's ability to meet expectations for the position in which they're being considered.

  • Candidate performance: When emailing reference checks, managers often ask questions about how candidates performed in their previous positions. If a candidate performed at or above expectations in past positions, this might indicate how their performance will be in future positions.

  • Candidate attitude: The attitude of potential candidates is another important quality that hiring managers may ask about. For example, if a reference responds that the candidate was consistently in a good mood and a positive contributor to their teams, this can give valuable insight into the overall attitude of the candidate.

  • Candidate skills: Hiring managers may also ask about specific skills that a candidate possesses. This can provide the employer with knowledge about the candidate's ability to perform essential tasks for the position.

Related: 11 Tips for Checking References (With Sample Questions)

How to check references by email

You can follow these steps to check references by email:

1. Ask for contact information

Ask the candidate to send you a list of references, including their email, their relationship with the candidate, the company they work for, and their position within the company. If the reference no longer holds that position, they may still be able to provide a high-quality reference. Ask the candidate to include references from more than one employer.

2. Write a draft

Draft an email containing questions about the candidate. You might draft a personalized email for each reference or follow a general template. The benefit of drafting individual emails is the ability to ask specific questions about the reference's knowledge of a candidate. However, using a template may help you save time during the reference process.

3. Send the email

Email your reference check to the recipient, ensuring that you maintain the privacy of the candidate and the reference. Allow the reference a few business days to respond. Once they respond, send them a reply thanking them for providing a reference.

Tips for checking references by email

Here are some tips that can help managers conduct better reference checks by email:

Provide details about the candidate

At the beginning of a reference check email, it's important for hiring managers to provide details about the candidate they're conducting the check on. This may help the reference identify the candidate easily so they can provide information about the candidate's background and character. It may also be helpful to include the specific dates the candidate worked with the reference and the position they held.

Related: How To Give a Reference

Make specific requests

Consider making specific requests for information concerning the candidate to help you gain more insight about them. Asking questions about the candidate's unique skill sets, experience and performance can be valuable for determining if they're likely to be an adequate employee. Additionally, it's advisable to ask questions about areas that relate directly to the position for which the candidate is applying. For example, if a manager is hiring for a customer service position, it may be valuable to ask questions about how the candidate interacted with customers in their previous positions.

Pay attention to the length

Another important tip for conducting email reference checks is to keep the length of the email short. Shorter emails may allow references to read and respond to the email quickly. This can also help the hiring process move forward efficiently.

Maintain ethics

When conducting reference checks by email, it's important to ask ethical questions about the candidate. You might do this by asking questions that can give insight into the candidate's ability to perform essential duties for the position. Maintaining ethical standards during reference checks can help ensure unbiased hiring practices and can further improve relationships between hiring managers, candidates and references.

Related: 5 Ways To Make the Reference Checking Process Go Smoother

Template for checking references by email

Here's a template that hiring managers can use to check references by email:

Dear [past employer's name],

I am writing this email to conduct a reference check for [candidate's name], as they are currently interviewing for [position name] with our company. [Candidate name] listed you as a relevant reference and mentioned that you may provide some valuable insight into their experience working in your organization.

Specifically, I want to ask about the skills and experience that [candidate's name] displayed while working for your organization. Do you believe they can perform [essential job duty]? Additionally, I want to inquire about [candidate's name] attitude while working for your organization, as this position requires individuals to maintain a positive attitude, even in times of increased pressure.

Please let me know if you have any other potential insight into whether [candidate's name] will be a good addition to our company.

Thank you and I appreciate you taking the time to complete this reference check.

Best,

[Your name]

Example reference check email

Here's an example of a reference check email that a hiring manager could send:

Dear Mr. Panchal,

I am writing this email to conduct a reference check for Georgina Flint, as they are currently interviewing for a marketing coordinator position with our company. Georgina listed you as a relevant reference and mentioned that you may provide some valuable insight into their experience working in your organization.

Specifically, I want to ask about the skills and experience that Georgina displayed while working for your organization. Do you believe they can manage multiple busy schedules? Additionally, I want to inquire about their attitude while working for your organization, as this position requires individuals to maintain a positive attitude, even in times of increased pressure.

Please let me know if you have any other potential insight into whether Georgina will be a good addition to our company.

Thank you and I appreciate you taking the time to complete this reference check.

Best,
Maxine Hopewell

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