How To: Proper Reference Checking for a Butler


Published on November 14, 2016

Hiring a Butler is about so much more than just finding the person with the right personality and skills. Whether you are hiring directly or working with an agency, reference checking is a crucial part of the recruitment process.

A CV, interview and trial will give you a very good idea on whether your candidate will be suitable for your household. However it is a must to look at previous roles. Actually speaking to previous employers can give an invaluable insight into the Butler’s level of experience, skills and personality.

At Polo & Tweed we have reference-checked hundreds of Butlers so we know exactly what to look for. If you’re hiring a butler, make sure you to do your due diligence when it comes to reference checks.

So how do you conduct a proper reference check for a butler?

What kind of references to expect, and request

Written references

A Butler might provide written references from former employers which gives you a good start – the fact that former employers have made the effort to write and provide references is normally a good sign. It doesn’t, however, give you full security just yet – all written references should be verified.

When hiring a new Butler it is important to be diligent and thorough. Click To Tweet Do not just assume these references are all truthful. Unfortunately there are people out there pretending to be something they’re not, and you, your family, or your principal could be the victim of this if written references are not verified. Therefore ask for email addresses and phone numbers of the referees, so you can verify the reference is indeed truthful.

Just contact details

A candidate might just provide a phone number or an email address from a previous employer, instead of a full written and signed reference. This is not a problem, but when you speak to the referee try to have a list of questions ready (as below), just so that you can get all the information you’re after.

Do ask the candidate to provide both email addresses and telephone numbers. Although people can be busy, find a right time to speak to a referee as it will probably give you much more information, and a general feel of how the Butler was when they were working for the referee. If email is the only option, then make sure you list several questions so you can still get a fairly good idea of the person.

Character references

Character references are references written/provided by a personal connection of the candidate.  This could be a friend, family member or former colleague – a character reference is never from a former employer.

Many agencies will not accept character references, or will only use it to accompany at least 2 professional references next to it. Whereas  some households, perhaps when you are recruiting directly for a Butler to work for your family –  prefer having a character reference included in the selection, as it can sometimes give a bit more information about their personality and background.

Be mindful of character references as they do not necessarily give an unbiased opinion of the candidate.

Temp, long term and recent references

Finally, be critical of the quality of the reference. There is a big difference between a reference from a temp role, where the Butler maybe worked as cover for a week or season, or a long term, full time role within a household.

Although references for short term and temp roles could be useful, make sure the candidate does give you the contact details of the most recent, and long term employment. If there are no recent jobs, or every role been short term – ask why. There might be a very plausible explanation for this (perhaps the candidate was studying, or having other responsibilities at the time) but it is important to get clarity on this.

What to ask when checking references for Butlers

Now that you have established what kind of references to get, here is a list of questions you really should ask when contacting a referee. These questions can be fairly general, but they can go in as much detail as you feel is needed. 

  1. Confirm the exact dates of employment
    • Does this match up with the information the candidate provided?
  2. Why was the employment terminated?
    • Were there any specific reasons regarding skill or behaviour? And are you still in touch with the candidate?
  3. What was the exact job description?  
    • Butler roles can be extremely different in different settings and households.  Was the Butler working in a private household or in the commercial sector? Were they performing tasks in previous roles similar to what you are looking for? Think about driving, cooking, laundry, packing and unpacking suitcases, wardrobe management, silver service, etc.
  4. Outstanding knowledge and skills?
    • Did the Butler have any outstanding knowledge of Silver Service? Or dealing with vehicle maintenance, knowledge of cooking for different diets, animal care?
  5. What are their strengths, their weaknesses and in what areas could they improve?
    • Try to see if there are any big problem areas you haven’t already uncovered from previous questions.
  6. Are there any negative points about the candidate that you should be aware of?
  7. Are they fit, healthy and how are their energy levels like?
  8. Character and behaviour
    • Think about punctuality. Are they friendly to be around? Were they flexible with hours or changing tasks, organised, and willing to go the extra mile when needed?
  9. Would you re-employ them if the situation arose? Would you recommend them for a similar role?
    • Here be focused on any warning bells. If the referee states they would not re-hire the candidate or they would not recommend the housekeeper then it would be clear that you should possibly not employ them either. Ask for explanations in this case.

Legally obliged reference checks

It is important to know that corporate businesses legally are not obliged to give detailed references; they only have to confirm the fact that the person worked for them, their role and the dates. This might be the case if Butlers provide references from a previous job in, for example, a hotel or another corporate role.

However in the domestic sector, former employers are sometimes more inclined to give you a bit more information or willing to chat about their experiences with the Butler, positive and negative. After all, having a Butler in your household is a highly personal experience.

At Polo & Tweed we have reference-checked hundreds of Butlers – so we can definitely share our tips and advice on this. So please do not hesitate to contact us today for just a chat, some inside knowledge on reference checking, or to find your perfect butler through us!

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