There is quite a bit of debate on when (or if) you should check references. While I agree that there is no substitute for getting to know someone face to face, I also believe that you shouldn’t waste time (yours, the other dater’s or the shadchan’s) by dating people who are not in the ballpark of what you are looking for. I think to get a basic understanding of the person’s personality, hashkafa, likes, marital background and mental health is a good idea before accepting a date.
It has been said in jest, “The only thing you should trust from a shadchan is that this one is a boy and this one is a girl, but it doesn’t hurt to check that for sure, too.” Let’s face it. A shadchan doesn’t know anymore about a person from a shidduch profile than a headhunter knows about someone from their employment resume. If you had a position open in your company and got hundreds of resumes, you’d probably check out some references to get some basic information before brining anyone in for an interview. It is time consuming, but less so than interviewing all the applicants in person. As a dater, you need to do the same thing.
In the back of this book, there are some suggested questions to ask when you are checking a reference. The most important thing you want to find out is how the person will measure up on your list of “givens” and your finalized top ten list. I also find it helpful to ask people that know the person very well questions like, “what is (s)he looking for? And then, “what do you think (s)he needs?” and see how much they overlap. It is a good way to find out how realistic the person’s friends think they are in dating.
Some people like to meet first and then check references once they know a little more about the person and have more questions. I have found that most of the time, if a person speaks with a reference before you meet the person, the reference is open to more questions if they arise after you meet. Whichever way you (or the other person) decide to proceed should have no bearing on the other person. Meaning, if you ask for references and the shadchan says something like “Well, he didn’t check references so you don’t need to” or “he said he’ll give you references after you meet” you shouldn’t be bullied. The other person has every right to handle their shidduch any way they want to. This is yours. You need to do what makes you comfortable.