When it comes to conducting employment reference checks, it is essential for employers to be aware of what they can and cannot ask. While gathering information about a candidate's qualifications and work history is crucial, it's equally important to respect their rights and avoid questions that may be discriminatory or biased. In this article, we will shed light on some key areas that employers should refrain from asking during an employment reference check. By understanding these limitations, you can ensure a fair and inclusive hiring process.

Understanding Employment Reference Checks: What You Shouldn't Ask

What You Shouldn't Ask

Sexual Orientation

One of the fundamental principles of fair employment practices is the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation. During an employment reference check, it is strictly inappropriate and illegal to inquire about a candidate's sexual orientation. This personal aspect of an individual's life is protected under various laws, and any questions related to it are considered discriminatory. Focus on assessing the candidate's qualifications, skills, and experiences that are relevant to the job at hand.


Age should never be a determining factor in the hiring process. Ageism, which refers to discrimination against individuals based on their age, is strictly prohibited. Thus, employers should refrain from asking about a candidate's age during an employment reference check. Instead, concentrate on evaluating their ability to fulfil the job requirements and their track record of accomplishments.

Marital Status

A candidate's marital status is personal information that has no bearing on their professional capabilities. Consequently, it is not appropriate to inquire about whether someone is married, single, divorced, or widowed during an employment reference check. This line of questioning can lead to potential bias and discrimination, and it is crucial to base hiring decisions solely on relevant qualifications and performance indicators.

Additional Restrictions

In addition to the three primary areas mentioned above, there are a couple of other aspects that employers should avoid asking during an employment reference check. Firstly, the candidate's date of birth should not be questioned. This information can indirectly reveal the person's age and potentially lead to discriminatory practices. Secondly, asking whether a candidate has children is also off-limits. It is essential to maintain a fair and unbiased evaluation process that focuses solely on the candidate's professional capabilities and suitability for the job.


Employment reference checks are a valuable tool for employers to gather insights about potential candidates. However, it is crucial to conduct these checks within the boundaries of legality and fairness. By understanding what you should not ask during an employment reference check, you can create a more inclusive and unbiased hiring process. Remember to concentrate on the candidate's qualifications, skills, and experience relevant to the job at hand, while respecting their rights and ensuring a discrimination-free environment. By doing so, you'll not only attract top talent but also contribute to building a more diverse and equitable workforce. Now that you understand what types of questions you shouldn't ask your references, here's an article about the types of questions you should ask your references.

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