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Reference Check Questions for HR Positions

A 2019 OnPay study found that nearly half of small business owners handle HR on their own, without an HR team. And whether or not a small business has a dedicated HR team, only 27 percent are using HR software, putting HR behind payroll software (60 percent), accounting (50 percent), expense tracking (35 percent), time tracking (31 percent), and benefits administration (28 percent). 

This is a big problem because these numbers indicate the likelihood that small businesses don’t have the resources or people to meet their HR goals. Some of these business owners are spending 40 hours a month on tasks that should be relegated to an HR professional and slows them down for managing their business.

Whether you’re a large or small business, you need an HR rep and/or team to manage payroll, ensure compliance, pay employees on time, review job applications, and more.  

The Importance of Reference Check Questions for HR Positions

HR representatives help keep you compliant with federal, state, and local laws and regulations, which is a necessity for any businesses to avoid fees or unwanted situations (like a lawsuit). 

On top of the legal needs for a qualified representative, you also want someone who can help you stay organized, drive attractive benefits programs, facilitate employee performance reviews, onboard employees, and more. These individuals need to be familiar with trends in the HR and hiring industry, including new technologies, innovations, and cultural shifts. 

One of the best ways to assess the qualifications and skill set of a candidate is through an advanced reference check. In 2023, reference checks are faster, more efficient, and more effective at providing you with key insights from former employers and/or employees.

Reference Check Questions for HR Positions

How long did _____ work for your organization? What kind of role did they play in your HR team?

This is a great opening question that will help verify some basic facts about the candidate’s resume and get the reference thinking about their time with the candidate. 

What were _____’ main duties and responsibilities as an HR rep?

This question will help you get an idea of the candidate’s range of responsibilities and experiences. 

How did _____ navigate difficult or challenging situations, such as navigating a conflict with employees or administering a negative performance review? 

This is a good soft skills question that will give you some insight on the candidate’s communication skills, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and other necessary HR skills. 

Did you have any compliance or regulatory issues while working with _____? If so, did they adequately address and resolve those issues?

Managing regulatory requirements aren’t the most fun aspect of an HR position, but they are important. This question will let you know how well-equipped the candidate is for handling the legal aspects that come with the job. 

How dedicated was _____ to addressing employee concerns and improving the employee-employer relationship. How did they determine what kind of benefit programs were offered or provided to employees?

A big part of HR is working with employees to improve benefits and understand what employees actually want. 

How was _____’s relationship with their leaders, peers, and team members?

This is another essential question that will tell you what kind of contribution this individual made to the workplace and company culture. You want individuals who work well with peers, respond well to their own managers, and contribute to your team in a positive way. 

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 HR Positions?

The best time to conduct a reference check is at the beginning of the hiring process. Here’s why:

  • Reference checks conducted at the beginning of the hiring process will help identify red flags as quickly as possible. You don’t want to spend time, resources, and expectations on a candidate, only to find out they lied about something important on their resume.
  • Reference check answers give you fodder for the interview. You can use your reference check answers to inform your interview questions, compare candidate answers to your answers, and directly question your candidate about reference check responses. 
  • Waiting on reference checks might slow down the process. Even with automated reference checks, it might take some time for the references to respond. The sooner you send out your questions, the sooner you’ll get your responses and be able to finalize your decision. 

Automating the Reference Check Process for HR Positions

Traditional reference check methods take too much time and aren’t as effective at verifying the 50 percent of resumes that contain lies or exaggerate their information.

Automated reference check tools, like Crosschq, allow you to:

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

The Importance of Reference Checking HR Positions and Quality of Hire

The right HR representatives will give you the resources and experiences you need to stay organized, meet your hiring needs, and drive productivity/engagement. The best way to ensure you have the “right” HR rep is to take a holistic hiring approach that includes smarter talent sourcing, job matching, and reference checking. The great thing about Crosschq is that you don’t have to sacrifice quality for time or efficiency. 

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. And if you want to learn more about how Crosschq can help leaders and hiring teams attract, retain, and measure the performance of top talent, sign up for a demo today. 

Mark Ko

by Mark Ko

Content Writer

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