The Dos and Don’ts of Candidate Reference Checks

Staffing agencies often face unforeseen risks that could put them in danger of serious accidents or lawsuits. One of these risks involves how an agency carries out its candidate reference checks.

The Dos and Don’ts of Reference Check Questions

As a staffing agency and employer in general, you have every right to contact candidate references and ask questions about potential employees. However, you cannot ask just any question.

Here is a list of acceptable and unacceptable questions that staffing agencies may ask potential employee references:

Questions you can ask:

  • Do ask about the candidate’s job title and primary and general duties.
  • Do ask how long the candidate worked for the reference’s company and how long they were under that specific reference’s supervision.
  • Do ask about the candidate’s ability to work with others, including clients/customers, supervisors, and coworkers.
  • Do ask what prompted the candidate to leave the reference’s company. Would they be eligible for re-hire, and why or why not?
  • Do ask about the candidate’s dependability. How often were they late or absent? How often did they leave early or turn an assignment in late?
  • Do ask about their initiative. Were they proactive, or did they need constant guidance? Were they a go-getter and looking to advance their career?
  • Don’t ask about the candidate’s race, ethnicity, or nation of origin.

Questions you cannot ask:

  • Don’t ask about the candidate’s age.
  • Don’t ask about the state of their health. You cannot inquire about their overall health, gender, disabilities, or illnesses or diseases.
  • Don’t ask about their personal life. Do not inquire whether they practice a certain religion or what their hobbies or interests are/were.
  • Don’t ask about their sexual orientation, marital status, or whether they have/had a boyfriend or girlfriend.

In Short, Stay in Line With EEOC Guidelines

It can be difficult to remember all the dos and don’ts above, so here’s a possibly easier way to break things down.

In general, you want to keep your questions to those that focus on skills, abilities, knowledge, and on-the-job behavior. Think job performance. Other than that, you must specifically avoid asking questions that are explicitly prohibited by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This includes all questions relating to:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Health
  • Race
  • National origin
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation

Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has put severe restrictions on why employers might potentially deny employment to those with disabilities, so you should avoid any questions related to this topic.

Furthermore, remember that it is strongly recommended that you contact multiple references for each candidate (three, at a minimum). It’s customary to always be consistent with the questions you ask as well. Ask the same questions for all the candidates you consider and to all the references you speak with.

Protect Your Staffing Agency With Staffing Insurance

World Wide Specialty Program’s staffing agency insurance can protect your business and staff from potential accidents and lawsuits that may result from asking the wrong questions to candidate references. For more information about obtaining staffing insurance, please call us today at 877.256.0468 or fill out the contact form found here, and we will be in touch with you shortly.

About World Wide Specialty Programs

For the last 50 years, World Wide Specialty Programs has dedicated itself to providing the optimal products and solutions for the staffing industry. As the only insurance firm to be an ASA commercial liability partner, we are committed to that partnership and committed to using our knowledge of the industry to provide staffing firms with the best possible coverage. For more information about Staffing Professional Liability Insurance or any other coverage, we have available to protect your staffing business, give us a call at (800) 245-9653 to speak with one of our representatives.