What kinds of questions can I ask a candidate's reference?

August 31, 2015
What kinds of questions can I ask a candidate's reference?

If you have written authorization from the candidate, you can perform reference checks with their past or current employer(s). However, there are limitations to what you are legally allowed to ask, which are described by employment reference laws.

What You Can Ask

  • The candidate's dates of employment
  • The candidate's job title
  • The candidate's salary and duties performed

What You Can't Ask

You can't ask about personal information irrelevant to the job itself, or anything protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 such as:

  • Race or color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Pregnancy status
  • Age
  • Disabilities

Final Tips

Since state laws vary on this issue, be sure to check with your local laws to ensure compliance. As a general rule, keep your questions focused on dates and previous job titles.

Helpful Links:

Reference Checks - HR360 Unlawful Employment Practices - Law


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