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The Importance Of Reference Checks In Ontario: What You Need to Know

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As a hiring manager or employer in Ontario, one of the most important steps in the hiring process is conducting thorough reference checks on job candidates. Reference checks provide valuable information that can help you make informed hiring decisions and avoid costly mistakes down the road. In this blog, we will discuss the significance of reference checks, their benefits, legal considerations, and the reference check process

Reference checks are essential, as they allow employers to verify a job candidate’s work history, qualifications, and suitability for the position. They involve contacting a candidate’s previous employers, colleagues, or supervisors to obtain information about the candidate’s job performance, work ethics, strengths, weaknesses, and any other relevant details.

Legal Considerations for Reference Checks in Ontario

Employers in Ontario must be aware of the legal considerations surrounding reference checks. It is important to comply with Ontario’s employment laws, including privacy and human rights legislation. Employers must also comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which regulates the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information. Employers must obtain consent from candidates before conducting reference checks and ensure that the information collected is relevant to the job.

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The Reference Check Process

When conducting reference checks, it is important to ask the right questions to obtain relevant information. Questions should focus on the candidate’s job responsibilities, work ethics, strengths, weaknesses, and overall job performance. It is also important to verify the authenticity of references by contacting the correct individuals and ensuring that the information provided is accurate. Employers can also use tools and techniques such as online reference check services or social media to maximize the effectiveness of reference checks.

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6 Steps of Reference Check Process

  • Contact the Reference: Once you have identified the references provided by the candidate, it’s important to note that you may also want to consider conducting a criminal record check in compliance with the Criminal Records Act. This is administered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Before reaching out to the reference, ensure that you have obtained the necessary consent from the candidate to perform a criminal record check. Once consent is obtained, schedule a time to discuss the candidate’s qualifications and work history with the reference..

  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: During the reference check, it’s important to ask open-ended questions that allow the reference to provide detailed responses about the candidate’s work experience, skills, and strengths while keeping in mind the legal requirements around criminal records. As per the Criminal Records Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act, employers are not allowed to conduct criminal record checks unless the position requires it. However, for certain positions, such as those involving vulnerable populations, a Vulnerable Sector Check may be necessary. Examples of open-ended questions that comply with these regulations include: “Can you describe the candidate’s job duties while working for your company?” and “What were some of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in the workplace?” Remember to always follow the guidelines set out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when conducting criminal record checks and respect the candidate’s right to privacy regarding their criminal records.

  • Verify the information: When conducting a reference check, it’s essential to verify the information provided by the candidate, including their employment history, job titles, and educational qualifications. However, it’s also important to verify the candidate’s criminal record, especially if they will be working with vulnerable populations or in sensitive positions.

  • Assess the candidate’s work ethic and soft skills: During the reference check process, it’s important to assess the candidate’s work ethic and soft skills. This can be achieved by asking reference questions related to how the candidate works with others, handles challenges, and approaches their work. Additionally, it’s important to conduct police record checks for the safety and security of the workplace. A police record check involves checking the criminal record and other police records of an individual. This can be done by contacting the local police service or using the Canadian Police Information Centre. Employers may also be required to conduct a vulnerable sector check, especially if the job involves working with vulnerable populations. In Canada, the Youth Criminal Justice Act allows for the disclosure of a young person’s criminal record in certain circumstances. Employers need to be aware of these legal considerations when conducting police records check.


In conclusion, reference checks are a crucial part of the hiring process for employers in Ontario. Reference checks provide valuable information that can help you make savvy hiring decisions and avoid unwanted mistakes down the road. Employers must comply with legal considerations surrounding reference checks, ask the right questions, verify references, and use efficient tools and techniques. By conducting thorough reference checks, employers can improve the quality of their hires and build a successful workforce.

If you’re an employer in Ontario, conducting reference checks is essential to make knowledgeable hiring decisions and avoid mistakes that will cost you time and money down the road. Be especially aware of all legal considerations, ask the right questions, verify references, and use practical tools like criminal record checks or police records checks to ensure the safety and security of your workplace. Contact us at Instant Record Check to learn more about how we can help you conduct thorough reference checks and build a successful workforce.


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