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10 Questions to Ask Job References

As a legal recruiter, I am often asked, “Why check references when interviewees only give you those that will say nice things about them?” Well, for several reasons. One, you may gain insight into the candidate’s career style, personality and work ethic that you can use once they are hired. Second, listen carefully for any hesitant or negative inflection in the reference’s voice to determine any red flags. Lastly, a good reference may help you know how to manage the candidate more effectively or how the candidate will manage others in a new role. There are other reasons for checking job references, but these are the main ones.

When approaching a reference, be sure to let them know that the candidate has provided you with their contact information as a professional reference, and this is why you are calling. A good candidate will have already given their references a heads up that you will be contacting them.

Questions to Ask References

Next, I am asked, “What do I ask references?” Below are some of my go-to areas to get a reference talking:

-How long did you work with the candidate and in what capacity? What was their title? (Verify employment.)

-What was it like working with them? Would you like working with them again?

-What did they do on a daily basis? What is their technical legal ability? Computer skills?

-Does any big accomplishment of theirs stand out that you’d like to share?

-Do you think they would do well in a law firm environment? How do they get along with coworkers?

-What advice can you give me to successfully manage the candidate?

-What do you think is the next step in their career growth?

-Is there anything else I need to know about the candidate that you’d like to share that we did not cover today?

-What was the reason for separation? Are they eligible for rehire?

Ending the Reference Call

Be sure to THANK the reference. They are a potential source of new clients or candidates for you. I usually end a reference call with:

“Thank you so much for the generous amount of time you spent with me today discussing _________. I really appreciate it and certainly they will appreciate it too.”


Founded in 2013, Monzingo Legal is a national legal recruiting and law firm management and marketing consulting agency. For more information, call (239) 770-8823 or see

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Mary Beth Monzingo Link
(239) 770-8823 Direct | (800) 213-0991 Fax