I am applying for a new job (same one in my other questions) and the HR rep informed me that none of my references had replied yet and to see if I could get them to hurry up (it had been 4 days). I started calling around and one of my references contacted me saying he didn't know what to put for one of the questions. I asked him to send it to me and it asked 'in your opinion what area does the candidate need to improve in?' I'm not sure what to advise on this. I know when asked the question about yourself to turn it into something good but is it even professional to ask someone who is a reference this?

Also the questionnaire was rather long, 15 questions in total and some asked 'rate their communication skill', 'rate their punctuality'. Some of the references aren't management (and some of my managers I didn't actually interact that much with and wouldn't be in the position to comment on my punctuality or communication level).

Is this typical or a bit more invasive? Is there anything I can do aside from tell the references I won't be offended by any answer they give? I feel like I'm creating a burden for my references.

This job isn't even full time and pays close to minimum wage so I'm a bit surprised by this. Also the HR rep specifically asked me my birth date which I have heard is illegal (she also cc'd the person who would be my boss on the email)?

Am I over reacting?

  • I wouldn't say it's typical, but "invasive" might be a bit strong. The degree of questioning seems unusually detailed to me, for references, but I don't think it's crossing any lines. (Except maybe the birth date thing. whether it's illegal or not, I think the correct response would be to politely decline to answer if you're not comfortable answering.)
    – Steve-O
    Apr 7, 2018 at 14:45

3 Answers 3


If your references don't feel comfortable or capable of answering some of the questions, then that is their answer.

Over the 3 months I worked with Voltron, I didn't observe any significant weaknesses in Voltron's work ethic or communication. Voltron always showed up for work on time, and worked diligently during the day.

This does seem a bit excessive of a questionnaire given the type of job/pay rate, but the company is just probably interested in hiring good people. I just hope for your sake there is a good career path within the company, because other near-minimum wage jobs are much easier to get!


I wouldn't pester my references with this, save them for full time employment that is sufficient to live on. Try elsewhere for the same rate of pay and see how difficult they are.

Beggars can't be choosers works both ways, but if you've got a decent resume and references you can do better than part time for minimum plus a buck.

Part of the qualifications for employment seems to be: will you do this ... But you are burdening your references too, they won't want another questionnaire a few months down the line; if a good job comes along that pays fairly good and is full time, then what ...


Not sure what type of job you're applying for, (you might want to put a link into your question if you previously referenced a job type), I can say in my over 40 years of working (yes I'm old), I have never had anyone send out a 15 question form to a reference. I work in IT and most of the time they visit my portfolio sites or my professional profiles, so maybe it's different for your field. If you are working with something where others can be hurt because you really don't know what you're doing, I can see it, but otherwise this really seems invasive. Unless they've changed the law, it used to be about the only thing you could ask was, "is the employee eligible for re-employment", as far as references, well like I said over the years, none of them have told me they received a questionnaire. As for the specific question, "What does the candidate need to improve on?"....my first thought was "Really?" and much like your reference I'd be going yeah I don't have time for this. Seems like your prospective employer is really looking for dirt on you. I'd be careful of them, just my opinion.

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