Tracking down references can be a hassle—phone calls and follow-up emails, messages, trying to get a reference to give complete and objective information about a former employee—it can take hours per candidate. Organizations that utilize pre-hire performance data in their hiring process better anticipate performance and retainability.
Reference checking software takes away the hassle by automating the process and putting it in a format that is convenient for employer, reference, and candidate. Below we list the top reference checkers in the US.
Best Overall Reference Checkers
Reference Checking Software
(Best Overall) Small employers and startups needing to assess candidates quickly
Company recruiters or career centers
Companies that prioritize self-evaluation in addition to peer references
Businesses in high-risk industries that need to avoid fraudulent references at all costs
Employers that video interview and want to receive references in video or other multimedia format
Multinational companies with locations in different countries
How We Evaluated the Top Reference Checking Software
Automation: Half of HR divisions do not check references when hiring employees, because they are “too busy.” Automating the process with software and/or reps who do it for you means you spend less than a minute per candidate.
Quick turnaround: Because it’s a survey that the reference can click to fill out and is often mobile-responsive, references get it done quickly. Many of the checkers we reviewed said they get reports back to employers in under two days.
Unbiased process: Because the questions are written and the answers are anonymous, references are more likely to give frank answers.
Standardized questions: All the references for a single candidate get the same question, so you can get a consensus of opinion. Further, the reference check questions are the same for all candidates in that position, enabling you to make more valid comparisons than when looking over notes from a phone conversation with a reference.
Pricing: Most of the services cost anywhere from $10 to $20 a candidate. Compare that to the hours in salary you’d pay to have someone do the physical calls or emails.
Integrates with your Applicant Tracking System (ATS): Most of the software on our list integrates with the most popular ATS software, making it easy to request references and track results after you finish the interview.
How Automated Reference Checking Software Works
- You select a premade survey from the reference checker library or create one of your own.
- You notify the candidate that you need references.
- The candidate puts in reference information, and the program sends the reference request by email or text.
- The reference fills out the survey online or via mobile.
- The reference checker software verifies that it’s a legitimate reference and collates the responses into a report.
Xref: Best Overall Reference Checker for Small Businesses Hiring Quickly
Xref provides recruiting and reference check services for HR, recruitment process outsourcing, and recruiting staff for nonprofit, government, healthcare, retail, construction, and hospitality industries. This program integrates with 25 other programs for applicant tracking, background checks, and ID checks. It also filters through applicants based on qualifiers you set and references received—saving you time for candidates who show the most potential.
Pricing: Xref offers a regional plan that charges by candidate or an enterprise plan. Contact Sales; the first candidate is free.
Standout feature: Xref lets you set benchmarks for the core competencies you want in your new hire. Then when it correlates the references, it rates candidates against those benchmarks, so you can easily see which candidates are good fits.
Additional services: Background and ID checks, reference templates, analytics and insights, and talent sourcing.
User Reviews: 4.6 out of 5 stars on Capterra; customers said it was user-friendly. They enjoyed the customization ability as well as the fraud-checking capabilities. Someone did note that you miss out on the verbal experience of speaking to the reference, since everything is done online.
To learn how to include reference checking as part of a larger background check process, check out our guide on how to conduct a background check.
SkillSurvey: Best for Recruiters, Career Centers
SkillSurvey says it’s best for in-house recruiters, recruiting staff, background check companies, and career centers. It says 85% of the surveys sent get answered, which is an excellent response rate for references. It integrates with over 30 ATS programs, including ADP, Bullhorn, eRecruit, HealthcareSource, and Hirology.
Pricing: SkillSurvey’s plan is for unlimited candidates—call for a quote. There is a free 30-day trial that you can use for five candidates.
Standout Features: The surveys specifically test for the following:
- Interpersonal skills
- Personal value commitment
- Problem-solving and adaptability
- Leadership and management
- Would you work with this person again?
- Candidate’s strengths and weaknesses
Additional Services: SkillSurvey can also help you with sourcing talent, post-hire engagement (feedback), credentialing and peer referencing (for the healthcare industry), and career readiness evaluation (for schools).
User Reviews: 4.6 out of 5 stars on G2; people praised different aspects of the software, from the depth of details to the fraud-checking to customer service. Some asked for extra flexibility in the surveys as far as length and questions.
Crosschq: Best for Self-Referencing, as Well as Manager & Peer References
The Crosschq reference checker is part of Crosschq 360, a program that also includes self-referencing and peer insights. In addition to integrating with your ATS, it can integrate with Slack for notifications so that managers can find out when a reference report is ready.
Pricing: Call for a quote. The reference check software is often part of a larger suite. You can get one report free.
Standout feature: Offers candidates a chance to rate themselves; the self-evaluation is reported alongside the references’ comments.
Additional services: Crosschq also offers candidate referral networks and analytics.
User Reviews: 4.8 out of 5 stars on Capterra; the lowest rating was 4.4 stars for features—several people wanted more flexibility with the questions.
Checkmate: Best for Businesses in High-risk Industries
Checkmate’s reference surveys are mobile-optimized and customizable, making it easier for you to get responses with the information you need. You can create a survey or use one from its library of job-specific questionnaires. It also has a LinkedIn (LI) integration that lets references verify their identity with their LI profile, which is great if fraud is a big concern for the position you’re hiring (health, finance, legal, etc.). Further, it allows you to create flexible lines of questioning to follow the responses of the reference.
Pricing: Checkmate is the only reference checking software that listed flat pricing: $17 per check or $145 for a pack of 10. It offers a free trial and a money-back guarantee.
Standout feature: Checkmate’s Intelligent Questionnaire (IQ) lets you determine the line of questioning based on the characteristics of the answers, as they’re gathered in real time. This lets you drill down on specifics and follow a reference’s line of thinking.
Additional services: Background checks
User reviews: 4.9 out of 5 stars on Capterra; the ability to customize questionnaires and templates was a hit with users. They also appreciated that the surveys are mobile-optimized. There were some complaints about the lack of certain integrations, but overall, users seem confident that Checkmate would eventually update the software with what they need.
VidCruiter: Best for Multimedia References
VidCruiter offers several recruiting products that focus on video, such as video interviewing. The reference checker works like others on our list but offers references the option of replying by video or voice. It offers candidate scoring for easy comparisons as well. It integrates with 10 ATS, including ADP and Salesforce.
Pricing: Call for a quote.
Standout Feature: Unlike other reference checkers, VidCruiter lets the reference reply by writing, voice, or video.
Additional Services: Audio and video interviewing, interview scheduling, skills testing, and video proctoring.
User Reviews: 4.5 out of 5 stars on Capterra; the prevailing theme of the reviews was “excellent customer service!” There were comments that the aesthetic isn’t pleasing and that the software has so many features, aside from just reference checking software, that it can be confusing.
Checkster: Best for Multinational Companies
Checkster’s reference checking software is part of a suite of hiring and retention products that this service offers. The company says its users save over an hour per candidate with the software. Because it lets you set a minimum number of references a candidate must give, this software draws in an average of six references per candidate.
Pricing: Contact Sales for a quote.
Standout Features: Checkster is an international company, with headquarters in the US, Europe, and the Pacific. It supports 19 languages and is GDPR compliant.
Additional Services: Checkster says that over 80% of the references surveyed will also opt-in to hear about more positions in your company, providing you with a ready-made list of possible candidates for open positions.
User Reviews: 4.8 out of 5 stars on Capterra; users praise the ease-of-use and the speed of getting requests sent and a correlated report back. Some users had trouble understanding how to configure the settings and navigate the system.
Getting multiple references early in the hiring process can make all the difference in finding the right employee. Reference checking software makes it easy to get multiple references that also address the elements you need to know about a candidate. Further, it relieves you or your hiring manager of hours of phone calls and emails, trying to contact and get useful information from other busy managers.
If you want to learn about the methods that you can use to assess candidates, then read our article on ways to do applicant screening.