How to use reference checks to determine a candidate's attitude

23 May 2023 by Chris Morrison

We've all heard (and maybe used) the adage 'hire for attitude, train for skills', and it can be an excellent strategy for non-technical roles. But how do you determine that the candidate has the right attitude?

Of course, the interview provides an opportunity, but it won't tell you everything you need to know.

Enter the reference check. Online reference checking is a powerful tool to delve deeper into a candidate's attitude. In this blog, we will explore how online reference checking can be used to gain valuable insights, helping organisations make more informed hiring decisions.

How to use reference checks to determine a candidate's attitude

#1 Ask targeted questions

One of the great things about online reference checking (apart from being fast, cost-effective and secure) is that it gives you a chance to connect with the referee in a way that allows them time and space to think about their answers, so you can get quality answers to targeted questions.

The referee can nominate the time and place they complete the reference; no rushed phone calls between meetings. You'll get their full attention, so make the most of it!

Instead of simply asking for general feedback about a candidate's attitude, try to gather specific examples of situations where the candidate demonstrated a particular attitude.

For example, you might ask a former employer to provide an example of a time when the candidate went above and beyond to help a client, remained calm and professional under pressure, handled significant change or displayed leadership qualities.

#2 Consider getting references from more than just the line manager

With online reference checking making it fast and easy to collect references, it's much easier to widen the net and seek diverse references. Encouraging candidates to put forward colleagues or clients, when appropriate, will give you more angles on their skills, behaviours and attitudes.

#3 Provide opportunities for constructive feedback

Often, there is a tendency for reference questions to delve into the areas that reaffirm your positive beliefs about the candidate. But they are most effective when they also encourage constructive feedback. Consider asking the referees to indicate areas for development or where your candidate may face challenges. This can often uncover a wealth of attitude and behavioural insights.

#4 Compare references to identify patterns

Comparing responses from different referees adds depth and accuracy. Look for consistencies or disparities in the feedback you receive, as this can help identify patterns and provide a more accurate understanding of the candidate's attitude.

Online reference checking supports this comparison because you can compare written responses containing each referee's specific word choice and don't need to rely on your notes from a phone call.

In summary, online reference checking offers a valuable opportunity to uncover a candidate's attitude, shedding light on their cultural fit and helping you make more informed hiring decisions.

It's what we do every day at Referoo. We see first-hand the difference it can make for organisations, saving time and money, increasing security, eliminating fraud and improving recruitment outcomes.

Try it for yourself with a free, no-obligation, 14-day trial at