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5 questions for a successful reference check

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You can gather a lot of information about a candidate’s suitability from the resume, answers during a phone screening and a personal interview. You can get almost all the information you need to make the decision whether or not to hire a candidate. However, there is one more vital step you need to take to determine if someone is a good fit for an open position: a reference check.

Reaching out to a candidate’s references will give you a better understanding of what to expect when managing and communicating with your potential new hire. You can also determine how well this person fits within the company culture and how well he can meet work obligations. However, you need to ask the right questions during a reference interview to get the information you need.

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Use the following background information and five key questions for a successful reference check.

Why you should check references

When you ask a candidate about their employment history and previous professional experience, the answers may be biased because they want to leave the best impression possible. This can be the case even when the candidate really tries hard to be honest and sincere. Using the perspective of an outside party who has worked with the candidate or who was the candidate’s manager, you can gain a better understanding of how the candidate is behaving at work and whether he has properly filled previous positions.

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There are three primary reasons for checking a candidate’s credentials:

Check resume information. A reference can confirm whether the candidate actually has the work experience and skills that he claims to have.
Gain insight into the candidate’s attitude to work. A reference can give you a little more information about a candidate’s character, willingness to work hard and to face challenges.
Identify strengths that may make the candidate more suitable for the position. A reference may mention unique skills and abilities that the candidate has omitted, or confirm the skills and abilities that have been mentioned.

When asking candidates for references, make sure they name at least one former manager. The perspective of colleagues is important, but executives are responsible for regularly assessing their employees and can provide more information about the candidate’s performance.

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5 important questions for a reference check

The questions you ask will determine how well you can get the information you need to make the right decision. Below are five reference interview questions that you can use to determine whether the intended candidate is best suited for the position.

  1. What was it like working with this candidate? When you ask this question, you are asking the reference to share their day-to-day experiences of working with or managing the candidate. The answer may provide insight into things such as the general attitude in the workplace, how the candidate has treated colleagues, how he has fulfilled work obligations and handled assigned projects, and whether he is trustworthy. This will give you a better idea of ​​how well this candidate fits into the team.
  2. What are this candidate’s strongest points? While the candidate has probably already discussed their strengths, knowledge, and skills, colleagues and managers may have a different view of a team member’s strengths. Often the qualities that other people notice are the qualities that we show most often. Using this question, you can find out which skills and abilities the candidate is likely to display most often.
  3. What were the main points for improvement of this candidate during your period of cooperation? Everyone has weaknesses and skills that can be improved. It is critical to verify that a candidate’s shortcomings do not conflict with essential elements of the position you are hiring for. This question highlights specific issues that the candidate needs to work on to reach their full potential. Keep in mind the time that has passed since the reference worked with the candidate. In the meantime, the candidate may have already addressed and improved these weaknesses.
  4. Name one of this candidate’s best achievements during your time together. Before you offer the candidate the job, it is important to know if a candidate is someone who regularly goes above and beyond what is asked. This question gives references an opportunity to recall times when the candidate used their strengths, demonstrated unique skills, or handled a difficult challenge well. This will give you insight into how the candidate may behave when faced with similar needs and challenges at your organization.
  5. If you could hire this candidate again, would you? Why or not? This simple question is perhaps the most important. A reference that someone would hire again indicates that the candidate has integrity and adds value to a team. However, if a reference is hesitant to hire a candidate again, that can be a warning sign. Just be sure to ask for the reference to the reason behind the answer before making your decision.

The reference interview is an integral part of the hiring process and is useful for learning about a candidate that you wouldn’t have known otherwise. If you ask the right questions, you can better understand the potential new hire and determine if they are the most suitable person for the position.

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