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Reference Questions for Nurses

Vetting job candidates is an important part of the hiring process in any industry. But in the medical industry, where employee dedication can truly be a matter of life and death, it becomes essential.

Succeeding as a nurse takes a certain kind of person. These essential professionals need to be skilled, educated, knowledgeable, and committed to the welfare of those under their care. They also have to function well as part of a team. And finding individuals who fit the bill requires medical hiring managers to dig a little deeper beyond your candidate’s stellar interview.

What are the questions you should be asking to get the full picture on your new Nurse’s potential for success? Let’s talk about it.

Why check references?

There’s only so much you can learn about a candidate during the interview process. Good, bad, or neutral, there’s a lot that might be swept under the rug when you’re talking to your potential Nurse one-on-one. 

Having a conversation with your Nursing candidate’s references can give you critical insight into their skills, behaviors, and motivations. Importantly, you might discover that an applicant isn’t being truthful about their experience or on-the-job skills, thus eliminating them from consideration. But just as critically, an in-depth reference talk may reveal the secret to bringing out the best in your new Nurse. Or, you might gain some critical context to a few experiences the Nursing candidate cited in their application.

Whatever you discover, a reference check is an important step to take towards making smarter hiring decisions.

What reference questions am I allowed to ask nursing staff?

Despite a few rumors, you are in fact allowed to ask a few more questions than “did they work for you” and “would you hire them again.” References are not obligated to give you detailed responses, but nor are you required to ask intentionally vague answers.

The only questions you should avoid are those that could be construed as discriminatory. These include pointed questions about the Nursing candidate’s identity, such as race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. 

Beyond that, asking detailed, job-relevant questions will help you to hire the right Nursing candidate on the first try.

11 essential reference questions to ask when hiring nurses

So what should you be asking? Here’s a list of the top 11 questions to ask your Nursing references.

Get to know the reference

  • What was your position within the company when you and the Nursing candidate worked together?

    Getting to know the reference a little better helps to firmly establish their perspective on the candidate, such as when and how often they would have interacted.

  • What was your relationship to the Nursing candidate?

    Nursing candidates may cite peers or horizontal colleagues as references, in addition to supervisors, who can provide valuable insight into the candidate’s character and work ethic. Again, this question helps to establish perspective and understand the role the reference would have had in the candidate’s job experience.

Get to know the Nurse

  • What was it like working with the Nursing candidate?

    This broad question allows you to gain deeper insights into the candidate’s work ethic, character, and ability to function as part of a team. Ideally, the reference will answer many of the following questions with their response to this one.

  • [These] are the skills we need represented for this position. How would you rate the Nursing candidate on each?

    This question helps to confirm the candidate’s skills and skill levels, and whether they are a match for the position you’re filling. You should already have an idea of what these are through the interview, but the reference will help you to fill in the gaps and locate any discrepancies.

  • What were the strengths of the Nursing candidate?

    This question helps you both to confirm what the candidate themself has already told you. This also allows you to uncover any strengths the candidate may have left out, and understand how the candidate may think about themself.

  • What were the weaknesses of the Nursing candidate? What support do you feel they need to overcome these weaknesses?

    With this question, you are seeking to understand if the candidate is willing to take accountability and learn, and what it will take to help them to do their best work.

  • Did the Nursing candidate have any major accomplishments while working with you?

    The real question is, did the candidate grow while you were working together? This doesn’t have to mean promotions, awards for outstanding work, or formal recognition. In the medical field, the answer could be that the candidate successfully comforted a scared child while setting an IV for the first time, etc.

  • How did the Nursing candidate deal with stress?

    Stress is an inherent aspect of the field of nursing, and your candidate needs to be able to coach themself through it. A reference will help you to understand how the candidate approaches a high-intensity situation, and how successfully they get through it.

  • How did the Nursing candidate deal with critical feedback?

    The ability to receive and implement feedback is a desirable trait in any employee, in any industry. This question gives you deeper insight into the candidate’s cooperativeness, willingness to grow, and ability to recognize their own potential.

  • What was it like communicating with the Nursing candidate?

    This question gives deeper insight into the candidate’s relational abilities and other important soft skills. Ask the reference for examples of instances wherein the candidate listened to, communicated with, and showed up for their colleagues and patients. Good communication is essential on nursing teams, and it is important to make sure this is a skill your candidate has.

  • Would you work with the Nursing candidate again?

    If you ask your references no other questions, ask this one. But be sure to ask follow-ups if the answer is “no.”

    If not, why? What would change their answer?

    If yes, your Nursing candidate may be a winner.

Following up

It can be helpful to seek insights outside of this conversation. Consider asking the reference if there’s anyone else on the team they would recommend you talk to about your Nursing candidate. Teams are not always static in the medical field and it can be helpful to have multiple perspectives from a similar source.

CrossChq as a platform also offers intelligent insights into candidate references. With CrossChq, Healthcare hiring managers can automate the reference checking process, generate a functional Quality of Hire metric, and both hire and retain top healthcare talent with ease.

Learn what else CrossChq has to offer your business: Request a demo today.

Mark Ko

by Mark Ko

Content Writer

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