8 min read

Leveraging Technology for Online Reference Checks

Technology has revolutionized the process of reference checking, offering streamlined solutions that save time and improve accuracy. With automation, custom question sets, and advanced analytics, companies can efficiently vet candidates while reducing bias and ensuring compliance.

When companies want to hire new employees, they need to make sure the people they pick are a good fit. One way they do this is by checking references - talking to people who know the applicant to get their opinion. Getting references helps employers learn about a candidate's skills, work ethic, strengths and weaknesses from someone other than the applicant themselves.

The old way of doing reference checks was a big hassle. Traditionally, companies had to manually track down references by phone or email, ask them questions, write down or type out their responses, and compile all the feedback into a report. This process took a ton of time and effort. A hiring manager might have to spend hours or even days just checking references for one candidate! It was easy for things to get missed, disorganized or inconsistent.

But now there are new technology solutions that make checking references much faster, easier and more reliable. Special websites and software programs automate and streamline much of the reference check process from start to finish. Using this technology provides big advantages for companies hiring employees.

How Online Reference Checking Works

Here's a basic overview of how online reference checking systems work using technology:

The company enters the name, job title, email and other contact information for each of the applicant's references they want to check.

The reference checking software then automatically emails those references to request feedback on the candidate. The requests are sent from the company's customized recruitment email address.

The references receive the email requests and simply click a link to access a secure online form or portal to submit their feedback.

The reference submits their responses by typing into questionnaire fields about topics like the candidate's work performance, strengths, weaknesses, abilities and behavior.

All the reference responses get compiled into a report that the hiring company can easily view, search, filter, compare and analyze.

For companies, this means no more playing phone tag with references, scribbling hard-to-read handwritten notes, losing papers, or struggling to combine feedback from multiple references. Everything is electronic, organized and accessible online.

Key Advantages

Using technology for online reference checking provides numerous advantages over traditional manual methods:

Time and Cost Savings

By automating steps like sending requests, reminders and compiling responses, these platforms save considerable time and administrative effort. This increased efficiency translates to cost savings on hiring.

Consistency and Accuracy

The ability to use consistent, custom question sets results in higher quality, more standardized data compared to unstructured phone interviews. This makes it easier to compare candidates.

Convenience for References

Submitting feedback online is quick and easy for references compared to taking a phone call. This improves the experience and increases participation.

Insightful Analytics

Many platforms provide advanced reporting, data visualizations and other analytics that reveal insights about candidates that may be missed otherwise. This supports better hiring decisions.

Reduced Bias

Structured, consistent processes limiting subjective data entry by the company reduces opportunity for bias or inconsistency to influence decisions.


Top reference checking solutions integrate with hiring software/applicant tracking systems for seamless recruitment workflows.

Other Benefits

Companies also gain benefits like improved candidate experience, a more professional recruitment process, and the ability to prove compliance for audits.

Addressing Concerns

While online reference checking provides fantastic advantages, companies must also address some potential concerns:

Privacy and Security

Any system handling personal data faces privacy and security risks. However, reputable reference checking platforms use best practices like data encryption, access controls and other measures to protect information.


Reference checking processes must comply with employment laws like anti-discrimination regulations. Most vendors have features and professional services to configure compliant workflows.

Human Element

Some think online processes miss the "human element" of phone conversations. However, many organizations actually find removing the back-and-forth of scheduling calls improves the experience.

Return on Investment

Purchasing online software requires upfront and ongoing costs. However, the time/cost savings, better hiring outcomes and efficiency gains provide strong ROI.

Adoption and Change

Implementing new technology always has some change management hurdles. Providing training, getting leadership buy-in and incorporating it incrementally facilitates adoption.

Best Practices

To get the full benefits of online reference checking, companies should follow some best practices:

  • Develop well-designed, role-specific question sets that provide insights about competencies important for each role
  • Communicate the purpose and process clearly to candidates and references
  • Use the system for the majority of reference checks to maximize time/cost savings
  • Configure the workflow to automatically send reminders to references
  • Review and update questions regularly based on hiring needs
  • Analyze data to identify recruiting process improvements
  • Maintain processes for escalations, special cases or problems
  • Ensure stakeholder accountability and ownership of the process

The Future of Reference Checking

As technology continues rapidly advancing, even more innovative reference checking capabilities will likely emerge:

Intelligent Automation

Artificial intelligence and machine learning could be used to automatically analyze reference feedback, interpret tone/sentiment, flag inconsistencies or concerns, suggest ratings or scores, provide insights and more.

Deeper Integrations

Reference checking will intersect with other HR technologies like video interviews, skills assessments, background checks and online employee databases/profiles. Unified data will create a multidimensional talent intelligence.

Blockchain and Decentralization

Blockchain technology could allow secure, decentralized professional credential verification and permanent storage/access to reference feedback as candidates move between jobs/companies.

Regulations and Compliance

New data privacy, AI ethics and employment laws may shape which types of reference checking processes, questions and technologies are considered acceptable.

Gig Work and Project Hiring

With the rise of freelancers and gig work, systems may evolve to provide verification of skills, work samples and peer endorsements in addition to traditional employment references.

In summary, while checking references was once an arduous chore, modern technology has transformed it into a highly efficient, insightful component of the hiring process. By leveraging online platforms, companies save time, remove bias and gain valuable data to make smarter hiring decisions. As technology continues advancing, these solutions will only become more powerful and essential for building a superior workforce.

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