Questions to ask in a reference check

Tom Watt, Talent Acquisition Partner at Ampion, believes that speaking to referees gives us an in-depth insight into the prospective employee.

Here, Tom shares his wisdom on some of the common mistakes hiring managers make when checking employment references, and what type of questions you should be asking.

Do reference checks matter?

Reference checking is an essential element of the hiring process, but – there are some common pitfalls to be aware of. These include:

  • Failing to prepare before the call: Do you know the referee’s name, their title, their relationship to your candidate, and all the other pertinent details?
  • Interrupting: Let the referee speak freely. As soon as you cut them off, they’ll be less willing to speak openly.
  • Cold calling: Make sure the referees know you will be contacting them. If you want to speak to anyone else, the candidate must make that connection first.

Key hack: Ask open-ended questions

It’s easy to fall into the trap of asking closed questions that deliver little to no value.

When you ask closed questions, you don’t really get any depth of information or insight into the personality or performance of the candidate.

Tom Watt

By asking open-ended questions, you can lead the referee in a certain direction and allow them to answer candidly. With the right approach, they may even diverge into other topics that provide relevant, insightful information you hadn’t planned for.

Top 10 questions to ask referees

  1. How well did the candidate work in their team? Tell me about the team, what the candidate
    worked on, how they contributed and how they fit in.
  2. What sets this candidate apart from people who you’ve worked with in similar roles?
  3. What quality or skills of the candidate had a positive impact on the organisation and/or their coworkers?
  4. If the opportunity arose, why would you re-hire (or decline to re-hire) the candidate?
  5. Can you tell me about the candidate’s communication skills? Not just how well they spoke to
    others, but their capacity to listen.
  6. Why did the candidate leave their role at your organisation?
  7. What was your professional relationship like with the candidate? And how did it evolve during the time you worked together?
  8. What was the candidate’s impact on your company? What unique skills, knowledge and
    competencies did they bring to improve the business?
  9. What were some of the candidate’s biggest achievements while working at your organisation?
  10. Why should I hire this candidate?

Tight on time? Use an online reference checking service

Finding the right employee for your organisation is essential, and conducting a thorough pre-employment reference and background check plays a huge role in this. With this in mind, many organistations engage a reference checking service.

At CVCheck, we perform reference checks for all sized businesses, across a range of industries. Save yourself the time and the hassle by simply booking one of our reference checks online here.

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