Request a reference for a new employee or candidate

You’ve gone through the interview process, and asked the candidate for their references — now it’s time to get in touch with those references so you can seal the deal. 💥

Speaking with a candidate’s reference is a common practice that helps you get an even deeper understanding of an individual’s background, skillset and past behavior in a role. It’s useful for businesses new to recruitment or for roles that specifically require reference checks. Sometimes, a strong reference is all you need to know to send that super sweet job offer letter.

Here’s a reference email template for you to use and customize when connecting with a candidate’s references. 👇

Reference request email template #1 (async)

Would you rather get the reference’s response asynchronously over email? Use this email template to send them all the questions you’d like to ask, all in one go.


Subject line: Reference check request for [Candidate’s Name]

Hi [Reference’s Name],

I hope this email finds you well!

My name is [Your Name] and I’m [Your Position] at [Your Company]. Your former colleague [Candidate’s Name] has applied for a position as [Their Job Role] with us as a [Job Title], and they’ve listed you as a reference. We’re finalizing our decision and would appreciate any insights you could provide regarding their qualifications and past performance.

Specifically, we’re interested in understanding more about:

1. [Candidate’s Name]’s main job responsibilities and performance in their role at [Previous Company].

2. Their strengths and areas for development.

3. How well they work as part of a team and their communication skills.

4. Any notable achievements during their time at [Previous Company].

5. Their overall reliability and work ethic.

Any additional insights you have would be helpful in our hiring process. If you’re able, please respond to this email or let me know a convenient time for a brief phone call. Anything we discuss via email or over the phone is confidential.

Thank you very much for your time and help.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Email Signature including Contact Information]


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📣 Author’s Note: Edit these questions as you see fit! The questions you’ll ask the reference will depend on what’s most important for you to uncover about your potential new hire. So, feel free to edit them and make them your own.

Reference request email template #2 (phone call)

If you'd like to have a more casual and fluid conversation with your candidate's reference, use this email template to schedule a phone call with them.


Subject line: Could you provide a reference for [Candidate’s Name]?

Hi [Reference’s Name],

I hope this email finds you well!

My name is [Your Name] and I’m [Your Position] at [Your Company]. Your former colleague [Candidate’s Name] has applied for a position with us as a [Job Title], and they’ve made the final cut.

Before we finalize our decision, it would be great to speak with you briefly about your experience working with [Candidate’s Name]. Anything we discuss would of course be confidential.

Could we schedule a short 15-30 minute phone call this week? Please let me know a time that works best for you, or feel free to give me a call directly at [Your Phone Number].

Thank you in advance for your help and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Email Signature including Contact Information]


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Final thoughts on connecting with candidate references

Speaking with a candidate’s references can provide you with crucial information to make a well-informed hiring decision. This not only helps you verify a evaluate a candidate’s qualifications and experiences but it also gives you a closer glimpse into their work ethic and interpersonal skills.

A structured email template (like this one!) helps you cover the basics and maintain a professional approach with the candidate’s reference throughout the hiring process.

The most important thing to remember is to respect the reference’s time (they’re doing you a favor here!). Your questions should be simple and clear so that you can incite a productive conversation before you make your final hiring decision. 💥

About the author
Alessia Musso
Alessia is Homerun's resident Canuck and Content Writer based in London. She's been writing B2B content for small and medium-sized businesses for eight years and is passionate about helping people feel more confident (and happy!) in their jobs. When she’s not researching the ways growing teams can improve their hiring, she’s probably thinking about pasta, books, craft beer, and the importance of the Oxford comma.
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