3 Questions to Ask of Your Candidate's References

Joe Weinlick
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As a hiring manager, you must perform your due diligence when hiring top talent. That means contacting a candidate's previous supervisors as part of a reference check. Rather than waste time with mundane queries, check out a hypothetical scenario and three questions that can help you get to the bottom of someone's skill set.

First, What Not to Do

When you contact a manager for a reference check, you have to remember the rules. If the candidate is a current employee, the manager may not be allowed to talk about the potential hire because of the contract your prospect signed. In that case, you may only receive confirmation that the worker started on a specific date.

The other thing you want to avoid is asking about someone's strengths and weaknesses. That's a generic question that doesn't get to the heart of whether a candidate is a great fit for the position. Even though 80 percent of hiring managers conduct a reference check on potential hires, that doesn't mean your strategy should be mundane. Employ a few out-of-the-box tactics to get the results you want.

How to Get Results

Have your prospect help with a reference check. For example, have the prospect call a former manager and start up a casual conversation. Later in the call, the prospect can inform his former manager about an interview has lined up with this company. The prospect can explain that the job provides a great opportunity for him and his family. If the former manager sees that the new job is important to the prospect, he likely won't mind giving him a good reference.


Now, delve into three questions that get to the heart of the candidate's soft skills.

1. How Did the Prospect Compare to His Co-Workers?

This question compares the prospect to those he worked with at the office. Did he rise above the rest on a regular basis, or did he just fit in with the crowd? This helps you determine if the candidate was a rock star in the office.

2. How Do You Think He May Perform?

This question on a reference check lets you ascertain if the candidate's skills are in line with your expectations. This question helps you determine if a candidate's skill set makes him qualified to perform specific tasks.

3. What Can He Improve?

Asking what someone can improve solves answers the strengths and weaknesses question. The former manager can tell you about the candidate's drive, desires and determination to become a better worker while outlining some of his setbacks. This information gives you an idea of how the candidate will fit into your team.

A reference check is only as good as the information you obtain about a candidate. Put a little extra effort into the process to achieve success so you hire the right candidate the first time.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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