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CEO Reference Check Questions

CEOs are responsible for making the most overarching corporate decisions, managing operations, maintaining the company vision, and ensuring their team leaders are effectively directing their teams. 

As we’ll get into below, a lot of the issues we see today in employee engagement and churn rates are linked to poor leadership–which starts with your CEO. One way to ensure you’re hiring the right person for such an important task is through advanced reference-check practices. 

The Importance of Reference Check Questions for CEO Positions

A 2021 Leadership Transitions Report found that:

  • 79% of workers quit their jobs due to a lack of appreciation
  • 77% of organizations feel they don’t have adequate leadership
  • 63% of millennials felt their leadership skills were not being fully developed
  • 58% of leaders feel they did not receive enough training

CEOs are responsible for ensuring they have the right leaders and practices in place to engage, train, model, and motivate their employees–if you don’t have those qualities in a CEO, it will be difficult to maintain them throughout your leadership. That’s why you need the right tools and assessment methods, like reference checks, to vet your candidates and exercise due diligence in hiring a CEO.

Reference Check Questions for CEO Positions

When did _____ work for your organization and for how long? 

This is a good opener that will verify some immediate information about the candidate’s experience in the company. It will also verify basic facts about the candidate’s resume, which you want to ensure as soon as possible. 

Did _____ exhibit a strong sense of integrity and ethics in their role?

As the head of your company, you want someone who is ethical and genuinely cares about the interests of your company and employees. A question like this will help establish that. 

How did _____ motivate and inspire his team leaders and co-workers?

If you want leadership to motivate, inspire, and engage workers, you need a CEO to model those behaviors. 

Can you provide an example of when _____ improved a company practice, policy, or procedure to make your organization more efficient or effective? 

Examples and concrete anecdotes are far more effective at demonstrating a candidate's impact on their company than simply listing someone’s skills. 

How else did your organization change after _____ became CEO?

This will give the reference an opportunity to discuss how the company either improved or failed to improve while the candidate was heading it. 

Why did _____ leave your company?

There shouldn’t be any ambiguity about this point. One of the surest ways to identify a reliable (or unreliable) candidate is to verify why they left their job. This is always important to ask, but it’s especially important for CEO positions because this individual is about to be the face of your organization. 

Would you rehire _____? Why or why not?

This is one of the most important questions you could ask anyone for a reference check, regardless of what position you need to fill. It’s a polarizing question that asks the former employer/manager to identify any red (or green) flags. 

Should You Conduct Reference Checks at the Beginning or End of the Hiring Process for CEOs?

While there are some benefits to conducting reference checks at the end of the process (like verifying interview information and getting a less biased sense of the candidate), we highly recommend conducting your reference checks at the beginning of the process.

Here’s why:

  • One reliable reference check can debunk a dishonest resume or seemingly positive interview, which can save you the time, money, and energy of going through an entire process only to learn you’re not working with a viable candidate. 
  • Waiting for references to get back to you might slow down your process. Even with automated reference checks, a candidate's references might take some time to respond. The sooner you send out your questions, the sooner you’ll get your responses and be able to finalize your decision. 
  • You can use your reference check answers to inform the interview process and narrow down your questions. Additionally, you can address any questions you have about a reference’s answers later in the interview. 

Automating the Reference Check Process for CEO Positions

Automated reference check technologies, like Crosschq, are more accurate, faster, and more reliable than traditional reference check methods. Crosschq’s advanced reference checks are less subjective and more streamlined, providing you with more precise references with less effort.  

With Crosschq’s automated reference checks, you can:

  • Compare reference check scores with self-reference scores
  • Reduce your overall hiring turnaround time by 85 percent
  • Receive candidate reports within 48 hours
  • Streamline your efforts directly from your ATS
  • Aggregate data on candidate skills, strengths, and weaknesses

The Importance of Reference Checking CEO Positions and Quality of Hire

Quality of hire has long been the gold standard and most elusive metric for organizations. The challenge has been hiring teams and organizations’ abilities to confidently assess quality of hire in the pre-hire phase–until now. 

Crosschq’s “Q” Report looked at 24+ million pre-hire and post-hire decisions we’ve helped leaders make, along with the radical insights from those data points that can help you hire, retain, and develop talent. Sign up for a demo today to learn how Crosschq can help you land quality hires.

Mark Ko

by Mark Ko

Content Writer

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