References are a great way for companies to gain an additional level of knowledge about their candidates, beyond what they include on their CV, references can help provide a greater insight to an individual work ethics and abilities.
A common mistake managers often make is asking candidates to choose their references. Instead, you should tell the candidates that you wish to speak to the people who actually supervised them. It is good practice to speak to two or three work-related references. If the candidates’ current employers do not know they are seeking work elsewhere, then go to the previous employers.
Before making the calls, it is good practice to make a list of questions so that you are asking the same set of questions, giving you a consistent frame on which to base your decisions. All questions should be job-related and legal. You cannot ask questions during a reference check that you are prohibited from asking during an interview.
Questions To Ask When Reference Checking
- When did (name) work for your company? Could you confirm starting and ending employment dates? When did s/he leave the company?
- What was her/his position? Can you describe the job responsibilities?
- Could I briefly review (name’s) CV? Do the job title and job description match the position that (name) held?
- Why did (name) leave the company?
- What was her/his starting and ending salary? Did they receive any salary increases?
- Did (name) miss a lot of work? Was s/he frequently late? Were there any issues you are aware of that impacted her/his job performance?
- Did s/he get along well with management and co-workers?
- Can you describe this person’s experience working as a member of a team?
- Did (name) prefer to work on a team or independently?
- How did s/he support co-workers?
- What were (name’s) strengths and weaknesses as an employee?
- Was (name) promoted while with your company?
- Did (name) supervise other employees? How effectively? If I spoke to those employees, how do you think they would describe (name’s) management style?
- How did (name) handle conflict? How about pressure? Stress?
- Did you evaluate (name’s) performance? Can you speak to her/his strong and weak points? What was noted as needing improvement during this performance review?
- What was (name’s) biggest accomplishment while working for your company?
- Would you rehire (name) if the opportunity arose?
- If I describe the position we are hiring for to you, could you describe how good a fit you think (name) would be for the position?
- Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share with me?