5 Starter Questions To Ask A Reference

Questions to Ask a Reference- Part 1

Do you check references before hiring new employees? If your answer is no, beware. Reference checking is absolutely essential to verify a candidate's background. Combined with proper interviewing techniques, reference checking should give you added assurance that the intuitive sense you have about a potential employee's abilities to successfully perform in the position is founded.

Asking a potential employee’s references the following ten questions from Miriam W. Berger will help you determine if they are qualified for the position. Before you begin, make certain that all of your questions relate to the position for which you are hiring, and that you follow the same procedure for every candidate. In order to obtain an objective reference, try to keep your opinions to yourself.

To begin, let the reference know your objectives by identifying yourself and your company. Let them know you are seriously considering the candidate for employment and would like to ask a few questions to validate your perceptions about the candidate's qualifications. Ask if it’s a good time to talk or whether you should call back at a more convenient time. If the person is agreeable, proceed with your questions.

1. What were the responsibilities of the position the candidate had while working at your company?

This question will help you to compare and verify the position that the reference has described with the description that was given to you by the potential employee.

Before asking the next question, offer the reference a brief but specific description of the position the candidate is being considered for. Focus on the three top-priority responsibilities to enable the reference to provide specific feedback on each.

2. Do you think the candidate is qualified to assume these responsibilities? Why or why not?

The reference will probably offer specific characteristics about the candidate that leads him/her to show that the candidate could effectively assume the role. If the reference simply responds by affirming that, in his or her opinion, the candidate is qualified, probe by asking, "What specific qualities or personal characteristics cause you to feel this way?"

Prior to asking the next question, tell the reference that you will be responsible for managing and supporting this person in the position. You are, therefore, interested to know what management style the candidate responds best to. Then ask:

3. How would you describe your management style?

Again, probe to discover what specific management behaviors the candidate responds well to; and compare differences in your management style from the one being described that may make a difference in how you interact with this employee.

4. How did the candidate perform with regard to________?

Whatever dimensions of job performance you feel are important should be inserted here. Questions relating to the quality of work, the ability to handle pressure or willingness to take initiative or skill-related questions, such as organizational or communication skills, should be asked at this time.

5. Is this person a team player or does he or she excel by working alone?

Although teamwork is highly regarded by most companies, a person who is more independently directed may be what your position calls for. Determine, based on your assessment of the job, whether an interactive or independent work style is important for success; regardless of the answer, probe to determine whether the candidate demonstrated respect for other employees' contributions and a willingness to consider others' opinions.

When determining whether a potential employee is a fit for your company, asking their references these questions can help. In the next part of this two-part blog series, we will go over five more questions you should be sure to ask.




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