Questions You Should Ask On A Reference Check


Reference checks need to be about more than just checking a box. They are a valuable source of information about the effectiveness and professionalism of your future employees. It’s critical to make sure you are reaching the right person for a reference check. Beyond that, it’s about asking the right questions to get the information you need. Here are just some of the ways you can set yourself up for success when hiring new team members.

Make Sure You’re Talking with the Right People for a Reference

One thing you can consider, instead of having candidates give you a list of their reference choices, ask them to include the names and phone numbers of their former managers on their application. Understandably, they may not want you talking to their current boss if their new job search is a secret. If that’s the case, ask to speak to a manager from a previous role.

Previous managers are often the most valuable source of a reference for a candidate. Also, consider the way your candidates respond to the request. Whether they are helpful or evasive may be a critical clue to what kind of employee they might be.

Questions to Ask

Once you know you’re talking with the right person, make sure you ask them the right questions. Here are a few that will help you drill down to the info you really need to make a good decision. Here are a few to get you started.

1. How did you work together?

Not only does this question help a reference get comfortable with the conversation, it also provides all the context you will need to fully understand their responses to other questions. Start with asking how they worked together and for how long. Make sure you confirm former title and responsibilities (as this is an area that is frequently elaborated on in resumes but is easy enough to confirm).

2. Did they have any major accomplishments while working for you?

This is also a bit of a softball question to help get the conversation flowing. It is helpful to validate claims that the candidate has made in their resume or interview. It’s also a chance to better understand the skills and abilities of a candidate from an outsider’s perspective. In many cases, candidates might not even know the value they bring to projects or teams, but a manager knows and can describe those skills from a unique perspective.

3. For this position, we need someone who can __________. How would you see the candidate meeting that need?

To understand your candidate’s abilities, map them to the needs of the job. Then you can ask a prior manager upfront how the candidate may or may not have met those needs in a previous job. While this might not paint an exact picture of how they will perform in the new role (as not all jobs are the same), it can help you identify any areas of concern or strengths right from the start.

4. What would you say are their biggest strengths and weaknesses?

Managers have a valuable perspective of what a candidate does well and what they just aren’t great at. Part of a manager’s job is making sure that someone’s strengths align with their work. Asking questions like these can provide insights that can really help you set your new team member up for long term success (without having to learn these things the hard way).

5. In your experience, do they work better alone or with a team?

Again, knowing this information can really set a candidate up for success right from the get go. Some professionals are much better at one than the other. Your team may need someone who can go off on their own and perform magic, or you may need someone who will be the necessary glue for a large project. Make sure the candidate fits the role’s needs or that you have a plan in place if you need to rethink the role.

6. Can you give me an example of a setback or challenge that they faced and tell me how they dealt with it?

Work is never an endless parade of easy victories. Obstacles are confronted, mistakes made, setbacks encountered. Knowing about how your candidate managed those setbacks both in terms of the work and their attitude about it can indicate their future success with you.

7. Would you rehire _______?

Someone’s answer to this question is an obvious indication of whether you should hire your candidate. If someone is willing to provide a reference for a candidate, their answer should be a confident yes.

For staffing agencies in Madison, TN, All-Star Personnel is the one to beat. Connect with the team to get started on your career journey today.

Build a Better Workforce

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)