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How to Build a Powerful Reference Check Questionnaire with Xref Template Builder



When it comes to reference checking, the results delivered are entirely dependent on the questions asked. Ensuring that every reference check adds value, requires confidence that the questionnaire used includes the best questions to uncover the details needed about the candidate.

This is why we created Xref Template Builder; a simple yet powerful tool designed to make it easy to build the best reference check questionnaire every time.

Creating a Great Reference Check Template Has Never Been Easier

Having the right tools for any job is vital to making sure that you get the best results while being efficient and effective. This is absolutely true when considering the recruitment process, for the best end result - a great hire - you need the right tools that will ensure each stage is completed quickly and delivers the right insights to support the final hiring decision.

Xref Template Builder was created in response to a real market need. Everyone tasked with making a new hire requires a reference check to validate their thoughts and assumptions. But ot everyone has the resources or experience to ensure that they are asking the right questions in every reference questionnaire.

Template Builder puts that expert knowledge in the hands of anyone looking to create a new reference questionnaire template, for free.

Animation of template builder questions being moved.
Simple editing makes questionnaire building easy!

What is Xref Template Builder?

Template Builder is a free tool that allows anyone (including those that don't currently use Xref) to create a reference checking template from a library of high-performing questions.

Given Xref's legacy in the reference checking space, at the time that Template Builder was developed we had access to almost a decades worth of reference checks. From analysis of thousands of these checks, we were able to collect and consolidate the most effective questions.

Choosing the right questions at the referencing stage can help you uncover hidden potential and make great hires. Xref Template Builder, ensures that the questions you include in your questionnaire are: 

  •  Role-specific -ensuring the data you gather is insightful and will help to inform your hiring decision.
  •  Compliant - offering assurance that only the questions that should be asked, are included and removing the risk of discrimination.
  •  Unbiased - it can be easy for bias to slip into a traditional reference check conversation. Using Template Builder will ensure only unbiased questions are asked.
  •  Insightful - all too often, time is wasted during the reference checking process on questions that are irrelevant to the candidate and/or role. Tamplate Builder allows to to create a tailored template for every new hire, with ease and speed.

Why is it so important to create a great reference check template?

Great things happen when you ask the right questions:

  • You make confident and informed hiring decisions
  • You learn more about your candidates
  • You are in a better position to manage and retain great hires
  • You are compliant and help eliminate bias 

Traditional, manual reference checking processes present pitfalls in terms of governance, compliance and due diligence. In addition, the traditional manual reference checking process is extremely time-consuming.

A lack of standardisation in employment reference checking leaves organisations open to risk. Getting the process right is critical to ensuring you get the best people through the door before they go elsewhere.

High-performing questions

Having reviewed over 17 million answers to 100,000+ questions asked using Xref, we have seen what type of questions generate the best insights. One thing is for sure,  there are certainly questions that are more effective than others. Every question included in the Template Builder library has been vetted to ensure that it is optimised and compliant to deliver the best results, while protecting you from any potential breaches.

The Xref Template Builder tool allows you to easily drag and drop questions into place with best practice guidance to ensure the template includes the right mix of questions. This tool gives you the opportunity to put together templates that are completely tailored to the role or industry that you’re hiring for.

Asking the right mix of questions

We are often asked what type of questions should be included in a reference check and the answer is that you need a mix of questions to meet all the requirements of a good template.

The questions we’ve identified as being necessary to every reference template fall into three categories:

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1. Essential

To create a strong foundation, we recommend that a reference template includes at least five essential questions that account for a candidate's previous employment and performance. These are the kind of questions which will cover the basic needs of a reference and also help to ensure that actions such as employment verification are taken care of.

The essentials include questions such as:

“Please detail the nature of your working relationship (i.e. direct boss, etc).” and “What roles do you think they would be suitable for in the future?”

Ensuring the basics are taken care of means that you can build upon them with tailored questions that are more suited to each candidate and the type of role you’re hiring for.

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2. Personal Attributes

Personal attributes are the questions that build a picture of a candidate’s professional personality. The personal attribute questions are a good opportunity to find out what motivates individuals and how they might fit into the workplace culture of your company.

For example, a personal attribute question could include: 

“Can you please rate and describe their ability to use initiative when problem-solving?” and “Please rate and comment on their ability to learn”.

Including these kinds of questions ensures that you’re gaining insight that their new manager will be able to use to manage them or help them adjust to their new role. 

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3. Role-Specific

Role-specific questions are used to provide insights into a candidate’s professional capabilities in light of the type of role they’re applying for. Including a tailored balance of both role-specific and personal attributes questions will ensure that you have a well-rounded reference to help you make an informed hiring decision.

An example of a role-specific question could include: 

“Please rate and comment on their computer skills and ability to adopt new software.” and “Can you comment on the level of supervision they required? How well did they work autonomously?”

Including these kinds of questions gives you full control to really tailor your questionnaire and make it relevant for the role or industry that you’re hiring for. 

How Does Xref Template Builder Work? 

Step 1 - Provide Role Details

To begin, simply select the industry that you are looking to recruit for from the drop down menu and enter the name of the role you are hiring for.

Then, select 3 - 7 key competencies that you are seeking from a candidate, which are important for them to be successful for the role. Some examples of these include ‘teamwork’ or ‘attention to detail’. This will help to filter questions and provide a tailored template for you to start with.

Step 2  - Edit Questions

Next, you will be presented with a series of recommended, high-performing questions based on the information that you’ve provided so far. You can then click "Edit" to begin the simple drag and drop process of reordering your questionnaire, or search for additional questions from our library to include. 

We have found that the highest-performing reference check questionnaires have the following: 

- 5 essential questions

- 4-7 personal attribute

- 4-7 role-specific questions

- 9-18 questions in total

Step 3 - Save Template 

When you are satisfied with the questions and the order you have in front of you, you can then save your template. If you’re already an Xref client, simply log in to add the questionnaire to your account. If you’re new to Xref, then you have the easy option to email your finished template to your own email address.

It has never been easier to put together a high quality questionnaire to aid your hiring process.

Give it a go - for free!

Ready to build your own, tailored reference template? Give Template Builder a go today, for free!

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