Reference checks are an important part of any recruitment process. They’re a critical way to verify what a candidate has told you, confirm their suitability for a role, and get to know them from another perspective. When it comes to the healthcare sector, these kinds of insights are arguably even more vital.

Healthcare Recruitment: Why Reference & Employment History Checks Are So Important

With high standards to adhere to, a duty of care and serious confidentiality requirements, conducting rigorous checks to confirm a candidate’s credentials is absolutely essential. Plus, the Care Quality Commission – the independent regulator of health care in England – requires registered bodies to ask candidates for evidence of “conduct in previous employment” related to health or social care or children or vulnerable adults to fulfil their requirements for employment. 

This article explores reference and employment history checks in the context of healthcare recruitment. In particular, we reference the NHS’ approach to employment checks as a benchmark for healthcare hiring practices. 

What are healthcare references? 

The healthcare sector is broad and diverse, employing millions of people across a number of different areas. The NHS, which employs more than 1.5 million people, is the largest employer in the UK healthcare sector as well as one of the top five largest workforces in the world

As a heavily regulated sector, healthcare recruiters are usually required to follow a stringent set of standards and frameworks. For instance, the NHS has a specific set of ‘Employment Check Standards’ that stipulate all the necessary checks required for hiring staff into the NHS. These combine checks required by law as well as those outlined by Department of Health policy. 

Healthcare Recruitment: Why Checks Are Important 

Let’s take a look at why reference, employment and identity checks are so important in the healthcare context: 

Confirm Candidate Information 

The first and most simple reason for conducting thorough reference checks is to validate any information that the candidate has provided you. When it comes to identity checks, it really is as straightforward as confirming that the job applicant is who they say they are. 

Corroborate Employment History

In the same vein, references are the best way to corroborate employment history. This is one of the reasons the NHS requests references - to ‘check the accuracy of a prospective employee’s previous employment and training history.’ For this reason, it requires candidates to provide the contact details of referees that can cover 3 years of employment and/or training. 

Gauge Suitability for the Role 

Finally, referees are a rich resource for gauging a potential candidate’s suitability for the role they’ve applied for. References provide professional feedback or opinions on the candidate’s performance and skills. The NHS cites the assurance that references can give you about an individual’s qualifications, integrity and track record as a key reason for doing these kinds of checks. 

Identify Potential Problems 

Job candidates are unlikely to be forthcoming about potential red flags or issues with their applications. References may call your attention to a problem that you wouldn’t have spotted otherwise. Plus, carving out time to carry out thorough reference checks could potentially save you the cost of a bad hire (up to thousands of pounds). 

Fulfil CQC requirements 

The CQC is England’s independent regulator of health and adult social care. All NHS trusts have to be registered with the CQC. This means they’re legally bound to adhere to the CQC’s requirements, including when it comes to hiring new staff. The CQC stipulates that providers registered with them do the following when hiring new staff. Acquire a:

  • Proof of identity including a recent photograph 
  • DBS check 
  • “Satisfactory evidence of conduct in previous employment….relating to health or social care or children or vulnerable adults.” This doesn’t have to necessarily be in the form of a reference from a former employee. But it must outline all relevant periods of employment and their reason for ending each position. 
  • Evidence of qualifications relating to their position 
  • Full employment history 

Employment History & References

Clearly, confirming a candidate’s background, employment history, and relevant qualifications is an absolutely fundamental part of healthcare recruitment. Hence why the NHS has such vigorous guidance as to the kinds of checks they require. 

In fact, the NHS also won’t make an unconditional offer until they’ve undertaken a thorough check of employment history and gathered references. In their case, the NHS checks a minimum of 2 references covering 3 years of employment and/or training. 

Automating Reference, Employment History & Identity Checks

Reference, employment history and identity checks may be important, but they shouldn’t represent a bureaucratic stumbling block that delays your time to hire. Here’s how RefNow can help: 


Your reference collection process is completely secure with all candidate information protected. RefNow is also totally GDPR compliant, to protect both you, your candidates and their referees. 

Efficient & Streamlined 

RefNow takes the stress out of reference and employment history checks. Say goodbye to email exchanges and attachments by opting for our streamlined online platform. All you need to do is send a request directly to your job candidates via the RefNow Portal. From there, your applicants will receive a form where they can enter their referees’ contact details. RefNow will send out a secure and mobile-friendly questionnaire directly to their referees. We deliver a full reference report within 36 hours on average. 

Smooth Candidate Experience 

Automating your reference checks is a simple and easy way to optimise your candidate experience. Instead of dealing with frustrating manual processes, offering them a smooth and automated way to complete their reference checks ensures that they build a positive impression of your organisation from their absolute first interaction with you. 

Reduce Time to Hire 

RefNow automatically sends out email and text reminders to ensure that all references are collected on time. If necessary, our dedicated customer service team will make phone calls to deliver your references within our 36 hour target time. 

Ensure compliance 

By incorporating RefNow into your recruitment process, you take the stress out of ensuring your compliance with CQC requirements. RefNow makes it easier than ever to gather all the required information and documentation and keep it in one secure and accessible place. 

Identity Checks

Verifying your candidate’s identity is quick and easy with RefNow. Use our built-in LinkedIn and Passport ID verification to confirm the identity of both candidates and their referees. Since each request automatically passes through our fraud detection system, you’ll be notified of any suspicious activity instantly.


Healthcare background checks vs reference checks

Understandably, health checks and healthcare reference checks sound like the same thing. But they actually refer to two quite distinct types of checks: 

Health checks are where employers ask successful candidates to undergo a health check before they officially hire them. Note that employers are only legally able to request this type of check if it’s a legal requirement or the job in question requires it. 

As we covered above, healthcare reference checks are where recruiters for healthcare related positions request the contact details of a candidate’s referees in order to obtain their references.  

What checks do employers in the UK do? 

Employers in the UK are required by law to carry out a right to work check. This verifies that a job applicant possesses the legal right to work in the UK. In certain sectors, a reference and employment history and criminal record check is also mandatory. 

Additionally, if required for the job in question, they will carry out a health check prior to officially hiring the candidate. 

If you would like to learn more about how RefNow's automated Employment Referencing software can help your organisation, reach out to us today and get your first 5 checks free.