How to Write a Reference Check Email (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 November 2022

Published 3 January 2022

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 references is an important part of the hiring process, as many hiring managers often rely on references to give valuable insight into candidates. It's important to get direct feedback from external parties to get a proper understanding of candidates. If you're a manager or HR professional, learning how to conduct reference checks can help you effectively gauge the qualifications of candidates and hire valuable employees. In this article, we discuss how to write a reference check email and provide a template and examples for you to reference.

How to write a reference check email

A reference check email involves a hiring manager contacting past employers or personal references of candidates to discuss the candidate's qualifications. Hiring managers enquire about areas that give insight into whether a candidate is a good fit for the position and company, such as their performance, skills and personality. Reference checks are often the final stage of a hiring process. Here are steps on how to check references by email:

1. Gather all necessary information

Note down all the different people you plan on asking, such as any employers listed on the candidate's CV and any personal references provided by the candidate. It's common to ask candidates for relevant contact information as it's not normally included in resumes. This can also allow the candidate to provide notice to their references, which may lead to more productive communication as they're aware of your intentions and can prepare some materials. Consider making a list of information that you're most interested in, such as whether they're proficient with certain software.

Related: How to Write a Reference Letter (With Example)

2. Write drafts and proofread

An important part of any writing process is drafting and proofreading. As you're communicating with professionals and also representing an organisation, it's important to display clear and concise writing. Creating drafts also allows you to get feedback from different parties, such as your supervisor. It can also help you organise your thoughts to figure out what information to prioritise. You're often communicating with strangers when performing reference checks.

3. Send the email

When emailing the reference check, ensure they're the only recipient to maintain the privacy of all parties involved. Make sure the email has a clear subject line, so the recipient understands the purpose of the email just by glancing at it. Allow the reference a few business days to respond. Consider following if they haven't responded after five business days. You can also follow up by phone if they also don't respond to a follow-up email. After a reference responds, it's professional to send them a reply thanking them for their time.

Related: Email Etiquette: The Professional Business Email Format

What to include in a reference check email

Here's a list of information to include in your reference check:

Introduce yourself

Start your email by introducing yourself. Include your name, role and the organisation you represent. You can provide a brief introduction of the organisation to provide the reference with some background information.

Provide details about the candidate

It's important to provide supplementary details about the candidate. Providing more than just the candidate's name can help the reference easily identify the candidate. Consider including specific dates the candidate worked with the reference and the position they held. You can also provide information about the role the candidate is applying for, so the reference can provide more relevant information. After introducing the candidate by their full name, you can consider referencing them by just their first name.

Ask specific questions

Consider making your requests more specific to keep your email clear and concise. Here are some questions you can ask references:

  • What is the candidate's greatest strength and weakness?

  • Is the candidate familiar with spreadsheet software?

  • What about the candidate impresses you the most?

  • Did the candidate get along with his coworkers?

  • What do you think the candidate can improve on?

  • Would you rehire the candidate?

  • Does the candidate have strong communication skills?

  • Did any customers ever complain about the candidate?

  • Was the candidate's job performance satisfactory?

Make sure the questions you ask are relevant to the position. For example, ask more about leadership skills if the candidate is applying for a managerial role.

Related: How to Be a Good Interviewer in Six Steps (With Helpful Tips)

Invite the reference to contact you further

Aside from ending your email with a thank you note. Consider also inviting the reference to contact you via other methods aside from email, such as via phone. Inviting the reference to respond by phone may result in them responding faster and verbal communication may allow for more in-depth discussions about the candidate.

Related: How to Say "Thank You for Your Time" (With Examples)

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'm [your name], a [your position] at [company name]. [company name] is a [basic introduction of the company]. I am writing this email to conduct a reference check for [candidate's name], who worked at [reference company name] as a [candidate's previous position] from [period of previous employment]. [candidate's name] is currently interviewing for [position] with [company name]. [candidate name] listed you as a relevant reference and mentioned that you may provide some valuable insight into their experience working in your organisation.

Specifically, I want to ask about the skills and experience that [candidate's name] displayed while working for your organisation. Do you believe they can perform [essential job duty]? Additionally, I want to enquire about [candidate's name] [skill or trait] while working for your organisation, as this position requires individuals to maintain a positive attitude. I would also like to know if [reference company] uses [software name] and whether the candidate is proficient with them.

Please let me know if you have any other potential insight into whether [candidate's name] is qualified to be a [position] and whether they could 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 emails

Here are some example reference check emails for different roles:

Manager

Here is an example reference check for a managerial position:

Dear Mr Lee,

I'm David Lai, a human resources manager for Venture Tech. Venture Tech provides automobile software to car manufacturers. I'm writing this email to conduct a reference check for Richard So, who worked at Red City as an assistant manager from August 2018 to December 2021. Richard is currently interviewing for the role of manager with Venture Tech. Richard listed you as a relevant reference and mentioned that you may provide some valuable insight into their experience working in your organisation.

Specifically, I want to ask about the skills and experience that Richard displayed while working for your organisation. Do you believe they have adequate leadership skills to succeed in a managerial position? Additionally, I want to enquire about Richard's relationship with his coworkers while at Red City, as Venture Tech has a very collaborative work environment. I would also like to know if Red City uses timesheets and whether the candidate is proficient at tracking projects.

Please let me know if you have any other potential insight into whether Richard is qualified to be a manager and whether they could be a good addition to our company. Thank you and I appreciate you taking the time to complete this reference check.

Regards,

David Lai

Sales

Here is an example reference check for a sales-related position:

Dear Ms Chan,

I'm Christina, the sales department head at Gift Art and I'm enquiring about Leslie Lai, who worked as a sales representative at Chain Sale in 2019. Leslie is currently applying to Gift Art as a senior sales associate. We received the personal reference letter you provided on behalf of Leslie. We appreciate your insight on Leslie and are interested in learning more.

What do you consider Leslie's greatest strength and weakness? Did Leslie ever receive any customer complaints and, if so, how did she handle them. I would also like to confirm if Leslie is proficient in spreadsheets. We noted from your letter that Leslie is a great communicator. Is it possible to provide any examples of how her communication skills benefited Chain Sale?

If you have any further information that you can provide on Leslie's suitability for the role of a senior sales associate, please feel free to contact me by phone or email. Thank you for your time and consideration for this reference check.

Sincerely Christina Leung

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