The Down and Dirty on References and Background Checks

how to check references - guide

Reference checks can be a key method to determine whether or not your potential new supplier has what it takes to be successful. But knowing how to check references effectively is not always clear. How can you make sure you find out the truth about the supplier knowing that the references they provide will typically be customers who have had positive experiences with them?

In this article you will get some tips and techniques to get the real truth when checking references.

In the cleaning industry getting a reference check is crucial. In most cases, you have your cleaner come in after hours and you want to ensure from a risk management point of view that you leave no stone unturned. This will limit the chances that you will have issues when it comes to your night cleaners.

Are Reference Checks Really Helpful?

Reference checks can be useful if you ask the right questions. These questions must:

  • Give you insight into what type of company you are considering hiring.
  • Show you how they approach the work that they do.

Real Life Examples

In one of the more unique reference checks that occurred regarding our company, the potential new client asked our existing client,

“What is the most unusual request you ever made of Total Green and did they come through for you?”

I thought this was a good question and so did our existing client since he called us to tell us about it afterward. He related to the potential client that the request was when his new building was about to be completed many years previously. His tile contractor walked out at the last minute leaving an incomplete job, and he called us to see if we could help him resolve the issue. Our crews came in to perform the post construction which allowed the building to open to the public the next day.

The exact request was if we knew any tile contractors that we could call at the 11th hour to help finish that tile job before opening the next day. The short version of the story is that with a number of calls we were able to find a contractor through our contacts that was able to help finish the tile work. So this clients most memorable moment wasn’t even cleaning related.

This question revealed to the potential client the extra mile we went to ensure the job would get done, even if the job was not cleaning related. Of course, asking if the potential company is reliable and do they show up for work and do they do a good job are reasonable questions to ask.

However asking a unique question designed to get a reference to open up, might reveal more about your potential new supplier.

Besides asking targeted and open-ended questions, what other strategies can you utilize to increase your chances of getting an accurate picture?

Our top recommendation is to ask them to provide contact information for the last 3 clients that started working with them. These customers will be able to share the current start-up process.

Next, make a list of basic questions and be sure to have some unique ones thrown in there designed to find out if the potential supplier will:

  • Fit into your company culture.
  • Integrate into the team.
  • Become a valuable asset for you in getting your cleaning job done which will improve your company’s bottom line.

Basic Script for a Reference Check Callreference check llist

  • State your name, your title, and company name.
  • Tell them you are calling regarding a reference for a supplier you are considering.
  • Always ask if it is a good time or if they would like you to call back or schedule a better time for them.
  • Tell them that the potential supplier listed them as a reference and consented to you asking questions about their abilities as a company.
  • Describe your business and how the supplier fits in, so the reference can have a context as it relates to their business.
  • Let them talk; God gave you two ears for a reason. Listen twice as much as you talk.

Example Reference Check Questions

Before making the calls, it is good practice to make a list of questions so that you are asking the same set of questions, giving you a consistent frame on which to base your decisions. – Go2HR

  1. Try and tailor your question to your companies needs, here are some examples.
  2. How long has the company worked for you?
  3. What hours do they work? (Daytime hours, after hours night shift, combination of both)
  4. How do you communicate with them? How responsive are they to communication?
  5. Is it easy or hard to reach them?
  6. How fast do they respond to issues?
  7. Have you ever had an emergency situation? Flood, power outage, etc. and how did they handle it?
  8. Do they provide any other value added services besides the basic service quoted, such as maintenance, repairs, light changing, etc.?reference check questions
  9. What are their strengths?
  10. What are their weaknesses?
  11. How do their front line people interact with your staff or customers?
  12. How reliable are they? Are there any issues with them being timely or absent?
  13. Any issues with theft?
  14. Knowing what you know about my business as I described it, do you think they would be a good fit for us given your experience with them?
  15. Would you recommend them?
  16. Is there anything else you would like to add?


This sample list of questions will help narrow down your list of top candidates. Using a reliable reference check process will allow you to select the best janitorial service and build your clients and your bottom line.

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