Recruitment Advice for What to Know About Reference Checks in Ontario

  • Recruitment
Kiran Virk

Kiran Virk, Head of Talent Acquisition

(Last updated )

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To ensure the best candidate is hired for a position, employers must create a thorough hiring process. Reference checks facilitate this process by helping employers gain clearer insights on how the candidate will fit into their organization. Here’s what employers should know about incorporating reference checks in their hiring process.  

What is a reference check and how do they assist the hiring process? 

A reference check involves collecting employment–related information, regarding an individual’s past work experience and performance. This information is collected from prior managers or people with direct knowledge of the person’s current or previous work positions. Reference checks should be used to verify information gathered through phone or in-person interviews.  

Depending on the position being applied for, reference checks can be performed for various areas, such as: 

  • Criminal records 
  • Driver abstracts 
  • Education 
  • Former employment 
  • Professional license verification and certifications 

Are reference checks mandatory? 

Generally, reference checks are not required by Ontario law; except when the hired individual will be working with children or vulnerable adults in certain sectors. In these scenarios, the Services and Supports to Promote Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act requires reference checks be conducted to ensure the individual is legally able to work with these members of the population.  

What are examples of relevant questions to ask in a reference check? 

When performing reference checks, asking the right questions is essential to forming an accurate perception of a person. The following are examples of good reference questions for gaining insights on a potential candidate: 

  • Would you rehire this individual? 
  • What are the individual’s greatest strengths? 
  • How did you and this individual work together? 
  • Did this individual have any major achievements while working with you? 
  • This position requires an individual that can ________________ [fill in essential skills]. How would you rate this individual in each of these areas and why? 

Have a clear policy surrounding reference/background checks in your company 

It is important for companies to establish a clear reference/background check policy; to minimize the chance of human rights or privacy complaints.  

Here are practical tips for implementing a reference/background check policy: 

  • Complete a background check after a conditional offer of employment has been offered; 
  • Confirm a minimum of three employment references are given and checked; 
  • Ensure educational qualifications are checked; and 
  • Check criminal records, credit checks and driver abstracts if they are job-related. 

Do you need assistance creating a reference/background check policy? 

Speak with our HR experts to learn employer best practices related to a reference check policy. We will assist you in determining the best reference questions for your specific hiring needs. To learn more about your employer obligations today: 1 (833) 247-3652.  

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