10 Tips for Screening Your Contingent Workforce: Temporary, Contract and Freelance Staff

Most companies carry out reference checks for their
full-time employees as a fundamental part of the recruitment process, However, this is not always the case for their contingent workforce, i.e. temporary, contract or freelance staff.

The main reasons given for this is:

1       We need someone in a hurry and don’t have time to check

2       The person was recommended by a friend, so there is no reason to

3       It’s a temporary working relationship so not important

However, the success of your project or event depends on having the right people at the right time with the right balance of skills and attributes that are the right fit for your company. 

CV’s, Credit-Lists, Showreels, Interviews and Recommendations provide lots of vital information, but you need to ask yourself if they are really as good as they claim? 

One of the best ways of finding out is to check with previous employer(s) using reference checks. They reduce the risk of wasted time, energy, money and even reputation that goes with making the wrong hire.  It could be the difference between hiring ‘GOOD’ or hiring ‘GREAT’.


It is common for candidates to provide references on their
CV but it is important to receive permission from the individual before commencing checks, to ensure that the contact information provided is up to date and if it would problematic to get in touch with their current employer. 

If it feels awkward or embarrassing asking for references
from an individual who has been personally recommended, use the rational of company requirements to de-personalise the situation and help provide an objective reason for the request. 

Ask for a minimum of two references but if you want a more
rounded 360 point of view, ask for a variety of reference sources e.g. Co-Workers / Staff / Manager etc 


Some details may already be provided within a CV or noted during the interview but before reference checking it is important to have confirmed details of

  • The Company Name
  • The Name of Referee
  • Their Role or Title within the organisation
  • Their telephone number and email address
  • Their relationship to the individual
  • The employment dates
  • The individual’s title or position
  • The job responsibilities undertaken
  • The reason for leaving (if applicable)


After the interview, review your notes and work out what skills you require from the individual to perform the specific role.  The reference checking process is used to qualify if they have those competencies and to what capacity. 

Also work out what more you want to know about the person, their personality, attitudes, values etc., to ascertain if they are a right ‘culture-fit’ for your organisation or team.

Regardless of their skills, knowledge, and abilities, reference checks can reveal important information about an applicant’s employment behaviour that could be critical.


  • If you have any suitability concerns that a
    reference could clarify?
  • What information from the CV or interview might
    need to be verified?
  • What else would you like to know that may not
    have been evident on paper or deducted from the interview


Your first contact may be just to schedule an appointment.  It is more beneficial to schedule a specific time that allows the reference to give consideration and thought to the answers than have an immediate but rushed conversation.   

Introduce yourself and state the purpose of your call.

Confirm its a convenient time to talk.

Briefly describe the position for which the applicant has applied.

Confirm the relationship between the person giving the reference and the applicant

Although reference checks are best carried out by phone, some references may request a paper or digital form to be sent.  Many businesses require reference information on previous employees be kept on file as part of their GDPR policy. This way they can fill in the information requested, send the form back to you, and keep a copy for themselves.


Verifying the facts of a CV, Credit-list or LinkedIn profile will build upon the information as to the suitability of the individual. However, there is no obligation on a previous employer to supply a reference and many companies will just provide the basic facts. 

-Employment History
-Job Descriptions
-Start and End date for each role
-Rates of Pay (sometimes)

While all this is useful, ideally, we want to know more, particularly around performance issues. This is at the heart of good reference checking.  If previous employers are willing to provide a reference, then there is an onus on them to provide true, fair, and accurate information and not give a misleading impression.   


The key to reference checking of course is asking the right questions. Open ended questions are best to encourage people to express their views fully. You can get a better sense of attitude as well as the hard facts.  Have the candidate’s CV and notes open to check consistency.  You might be amazed how many ‘extensions of the truth’ CVs can contain. 

Ask the Reference:

  • In what capacity and how long they know the candidate?
  • To confirm the responsibilities held by the candidate
  • To describe the individual’s overall performance
  • To define the individual’s capacity to carry out the required role
  • How the individual might be managed to maximise effectiveness?
  • What areas the individual excelled in and what areas needed improvement?
  • If there were any issues with them during the employment
  • How the candidate handed challenging and stressful problems
  • Would they reemploy or work with this person again?

Make sure to ask the questions and really get to the heart of issues that are important in understanding the candidate.  Focus on culture-fit, competencies, and outcomes throughout the process.

The candidate could be a great freelancer but only work well with specific direction and this is important to know before hire.

Insights into how someone handles conflict and stress can also be a big factor of success. 

7.    LISTEN

Read between the lines for tone, hesitations, choice of words etc.  Listening is vital to this, and there are many important insights to be gained from the art of active listening.  It is often the case that
what is left unsaid is more important that what is answered. 


Remember that the information is limited by the perception of the person giving it so if you receive negative information about an individual

-Balance it with data from other references before using it to make your decision.

-Put it into perspective by generating a discussion with the individual

-Work through the negative information with the person

Reference checks should be used to aid the decision-making process, not to discriminate and there may be a perfectly understandable reason or circumstance for negative observations.  


Before hire, consider the whole candidate and complement your reference checks with other sources of information to verify an individual’s suitability and have the best information possible on which to base your hiring decision.  

Other sources could include:

  • Social Media Accounts
  • Mutual acquaintances on LinkedIn
  • Testimonials, Recommendations and Endorsements
  • Personality Profiles
  • Garda Vetting


It is important to remember that the success of any project or event or is built on talented people who carry out their duties responsibly. Information disclosed during pre-hire screening, whether positive or negative is information about real people. 

Be respectful and responsible of the manner in which that information is handled, as it can have an impact on your business and its reputation, not to mention consequences for the individual as well.

Reference checking is a serious step in the talent management lifecycle that deserves proper care every step of the way.

The Production People’ provide Complete Talent Management Solutions 

Screened and Verified Production Staff and Technical Crew for Broadcast, Digital Media, Audio-Visual and Events,

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Tel: 00353-1-6343100

Email: info@productionpeople.ie

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