Reference checks are essential to any hiring process. Not only do they give you a more full and comprehensive understanding of the applicant in question, they can also improve your KPIs, like reducing your cost per hire.
Reference checks help recruiters acquire top talent more efficiently and effectively by:
Enabling recruiters to verify an applicant’s information, allowing them to save time and resources by letting go of the candidates when inaccuracies are found
Identifying any negative behavioral office patterns exhibited by a candidate, thereby allowing organizations to avoid costly future terminations and quick churn rates
Providing recruiters with information regarding an applicant’s skill set, knowledge, and history
So what kind of reference check questions should you be asking to gain the most valuable information?
Below we’ll get into the best typical reference check questions that will empower your hiring team to make intelligent recruiting decisions.
What Reference Check Questions Should I Ask
Before getting into your reference check questions, you should familiarize yourself with any state, federal, or local laws pertaining to reference checks prior to contacting employers. This step is important to ensure that you’re not infringing on any company policies, compliances, or regional laws.
It’s best to start with general questions and work your way towards more specific points of interests, enabling the former employee to recall more about the applicant and provide a broad array of details.
Reference check questions can include (but are not limited to):
When did this person work for the company?
This opening is simple, broad, and a good way to help the manager remember the applicant in question. It’s also a good moment to verify some basic information in your applicant's timeline.
What tasks/activities did this person perform at the company?
Again, this is a simple, broad question that provides managers with an opportunity to verify basic information and gain insight into the quality of their work and the duties they performed.
Did this individual have any major accomplishments working with you?
Building off the previous question, this can help you gain a greater sense of what kind of team member this individual will be based on the merits of their work.
Was this person reliable or did they have attendance problems? Were they honest?
Asking about the character or behavior of a candidate needs to be a part of any reference question checklist. Inquiring about negative qualities is a prudent point that can save you time and resources down the line.
How did this person get along with coworkers/clients/customers?
Interpersonal skills, team building, communication – these are all necessary skills in most workplaces and should be prioritized in your list of questions.
What are this individual's strengths and weaknesses both on the job and as a person?
A laundry list of weaknesses alongside a shorter list of strengths are a good indication of the quality, or lack thereof, of your applicant. Employer’s are typically eager to aid previous employees in their careers, so if they aren’t playing up their strengths, it’s usually a good sign of a hiring red flag.
Why did the person leave their current position?
This is an important question for not only verifying your candidate’s information but also for ascertaining what the candidate is looking for. Did they leave for a pay bump, in order to move locations, or because they are the type of worker to change positions every year or two? These will help you identify exactly what kind of fit this individual will be with your needs.
Would you rehire this person if you had the chance?
This is a clever way to get at the heart of the matter. How managers answer this is almost as important as what they say because most managers don’t want to disparage their former employees. If they’re quick to say that they would rehire this individual in a heartbeat, that’s a good indicator that you have a quality candidate.