Are reference checks necessary?

Robin Louw


Nov 7, 2022

Man holding magnify glass
Man holding magnify glass

I recently came across a Reddit post about an agency using a job applicant’s references for their own recruiting needs. This convinced me after my recent job hunting experience that providing references is unnecessary and needs to end.

I’m sure like most people there is nothing more annoying than doing well in a job interview, making it close to getting an offer, having the certifications and experience but everything is put on hold as you have to provide up to 3 references? Then (this actually happened to me), one of these references needs to be for a company you worked for 5 years ago, only to find out that the reference is no longer alive forcing you to scramble to find a suitable reference at this old company.

If you have been through the experience then you might have felt that reference checks are unnecessary. This is not a radical idea, there seems to be a consensus among industry professionals that the reference check needs to end. See here, and here. And, as someone that has worked for a global company after passing a reference check to working as a freelance contractor for many global companies without the need for a reference check, I can confidently say that I’ve never come across a use-case for it.

Just to be clear, a background check is a requirement for many positions, especially those that are of a sensitive nature. Therefore, this applies specifically with the “personal” or “character reference check” which is part of the background check process. Also, as a personal reference is the easiest thing to spoof (as part of the background check process) it’s best to do away with it completely.

Times change and there probably was a time where doing a reference check made sense. Today, personal information is valuable and I personally would not want to share the private information of an individual if I can’t guarantee that their privacy will be protected. So, if you agree that reference checks are unnecessary. Gracefully decline to provide any and link to a resource like this to motivate your decision.

Originally published on Medium