Do Employers Actually Check References?


do employers actually check references

As you’re applying for jobs, you may see a portion of job applications where you need to provide professional references. Or you may even see resume templates that show a place for you to list your professional references.

And that brings up a question – do employers actually check references?

To that end, this article is going to help you assess whether or not you should actually expect employers to check your references.

Do Employers Actually Check References?

reference check

If an employer specifically asks for you to provide references during the application or interview process, you should expect that they will check your references.

Now, I unfortunately don’t have any hard and fast data that says you should expect employers to check your references x% of the time or in y circumstances. However, based upon my experience in interviewing with different companies and being a hiring manager myself, in general, if references are requested, you should expect that they will be checked.

Another rule that I will point out is that the later on in the interview process they’re requested, the more likely they are to be checked. What I mean by that is if the employer requires them on an application form, it may just be a default field that they have on all of their applications that they would be a bit less likely to check than other ways of obtaining references.

However, if they specifically ask you for them later on in the process, that means that they’re making a point of intentionally obtaining that information and thus are very likely to contact your references.

When Do Employers Check References?

specific timeline

Most commonly, employers will check references directly before making a job offer or directly after making a job offer.

In the case of checking references after making an offer, the employer will often make the offer contingent on a successful reference check. And if they’re not happy with the results of the reference check, they could choose to revoke the offer.

Check out our complete “when do employers check references” article for more information on the topic.

What Do Employers Do When They Check References?

job reference phone

Employers ask your references questions that will help them to gather additional data about your ability to do the job effectively.

In many cases, employers may be looking to verify information that you provided during the interview. They may also ask questions to try and get additional perspectives about your strengths, weaknesses, and qualifications for the job.

At the simplest level, think of the purpose of reference checks as an employer trying to gather information from a relevant third party source about your ability to do the job well.

Do Employers Check References for Multiple Candidates?

do employers check references for multiple candidates

While it is the most common for employers to check references for a single candidate, employers do in some cases check references for multiple candidates.

Generally, an employer will only check references for the candidate to whom they’re most likely to make an offer. However, in situations where they’re checking for multiple candidates, they’re typically using the additional information gathered from reference checks as opportunities to help them to decide between multiple quality candidates.

What Does It Mean When They’re Checking My References?

what happens after reference check

If a company is checking your references, it likely means that they’re strongly considering making you a job offer.

In fact, a reference check is one of the strongest signs that you will receive a job offer.

Now, it doesn’t mean that an offer is coming your way for sure. But it does mean that you’re at least one of the finalists that they’re strongly considering for a job offer.

For more information, check on our complete article on what it means if an employer is checking your references.


At a high level, if you’re wondering, “do employers actually check references,” the answer is that if they ask for them, you should expect them to. 

To that end, make sure you have a list of at least three relevant references that you’ve informed should be expecting a reference check and you’ll be in good shape.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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