arrowCrosschq Blog

Reference Check Questions for Startup Positions

If you’re a startup team leader or recruiter for a startup, now is a great time to look for new talent. The “Great Layoff” saw major tech companies let go of more than 150,000 employees last year, which means that there’s an opportunity to reach out to and attract quality hires. 

While you might think the mass layoffs would lead to a hiring boom in the startup world, hiring rates and time-to-fill metrics have been nothing short of lackluster in 2023. A new study from the consulting firm Janeco found 100 thousand unfilled tech jobs this past January, primarily due to hiring teams’ capabilities to find quality candidates.

According to Lupe Colangelo, head of talent at General Assembly, this trend has more to do with hiring teams’ approaches to recruitment than a lack of talent. Slow hiring procedures and dated recruitment processes lead to long wait times, making it harder for teams to land quality hires while they’re still available.

One way to ensure you can land a quality hire promptly is to streamline your reference check process. From questions to timing and automation benefits, here’s everything you need to know about reference check questions for startup positions. 

The Importance of Reference Check Questions for Startup Positions

Most startups fail because they run out of cash and fail to raise the necessary capital to keep their momentum going. With fewer team members, limited resources, and a smaller margin of error, startups have more pressure to land quality on the first try.

A bad hire can set you back by several months and tens of thousands of dollars, which most startups don’t have the bandwidth for. Reference checks can help you weed out bad matches, verify resume information, and prepare for the interview. 

Below are some key reference check questions for startup positions. 

Reference Check Questions for Startup Positions

Startups vary from industry to industry and company to company, but nearly all startups need a few common skill sets to help propel their companies forward.

What was it like working with _____?

This is a great opener that will act as a warmup and help your reference recall their interactions with the candidate. 

What were ______’s significant tasks and roles in the company? Did _____ go above and beyond in completing those tasks? 

This is a great question that gets to the heart of how effective the candidate was in their role. 

What was ______’s attitude like in the workplace? Were they enjoyable to work with? 

Startup teams are typically small, so company culture and team cohesion are critical. This question will give you a clear picture of what the candidate will bring to your workplace environment. 

Can you provide one example of a successful project that _____ led or organized?

Examples and demonstrations of talent are often far more compelling than general descriptions. These examples will allow your reference to reflect on the candidate’s achievements and provide a concrete example of how they excelled in their role. 

Was _____ a clear and transparent communicator? Why or why not?

Startups require a lot of communication and collaboration on a day-to-day basis. Your employees need to be effective communicators if they’re going to be collaborating. 

How did _____ deal with pressure? Can you provide an example of how they effectively dealt with stress or a high-pressure situation?

There is a sense of urgency in most startups to get things done, establish your credibility, and actualize the vision of the company. As such, most startup workplaces are high-pressure environments that require quick thinking and flexibility. 

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 Management Positions?

It’s best to conduct reference checks at the beginning of the hiring process. While conducting one at the end of the process might seem like a good idea as a final stamp or verification process, it actually has some significant setbacks. 

Here’s why:

  • Reference checks conducted at the beginning of the hiring process will help identify red flags as quickly as possible. Especially as a startup with limited/resources, 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.
  • You can use your reference check answers to inform the interview process and narrow down your questions. 
  • 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 Startup Positions

Time is everything for startups, which might lead you to quickly hire a candidate without properly vetting them. Automation, specifically digital 360 reference check automation, is a great way to give you both speed and quality of hire. 

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

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

The Importance of Reference Checking Startup Positions and Quality of Hire

Quickly finding the right hires isn’t just a matter of efficiency for startups; it’s often a matter of survival. Crosschq’s automated reference check technology can help you find better candidates in a shorter amount of time. With Crosschq, you don’t need to sacrifice quality for speed or vice versa.

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

File Under

Take the Guesswork
Out of Hiring

Schedule a demo now
ESTE_cropped este_sm cta_light