The classic “References Available Upon Request” may be the last note on a resume, but as an employer, it shouldn’t be an afterthought. When you are in the interviewing process and are narrowing in on your best candidates, it’s time to focus on reference checking so you can be sure you make the right decision and hire the best candidate for the job.

Why Reference Checking is Crucial

A bad hire can cost the company a lot of money. Sometimes you won’t know the hire isn’t the right fit until months into their employment, and by then, the financial consequence is quite hefty. Reference checking can avoid that burden.

During your calls to references, you want to validate everything the candidate has already told you, and ultimately, gain a recommendation.

5 Best Questions to Ask a Reference

  • What is/was your relationship to the candidate?

Asking this question first will give some context for the following questions. A reference should be a previous supervisor or co-worker. If the reference is neither, you should ask your candidate for another reference.

  • Was the candidate reliable?

The reference should be able to tell you whether the candidate completed their work on time or not. If the candidate missed a deadline or made mistakes (we all do), you should be able to find out how the candidate reacted to those difficult situations.

  • What was it like to work with the candidate?

No one wants to work with a grumbly person. You’re hoping to find a team player, one who likes to work with others, who fits within your company culture and who can take direction eagerly instead of sourly.

  • What are the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?

This is a popular question for references. It’s also a good question to ask your candidate as well, then see if the answers are similar. Everyone has certain struggles and that should be expected, but you’re hoping to find a candidate who is actively working on strengthening their weaknesses.

  • Company policies aside, would you rehire this candidate?

If the reference isn’t in a hiring position, that’s ok; you can rephrase to “Would you work with this candidate again?” Be sure to ask for an explanation and not just a “yes” or “no.”

Find the Right Candidate

If you’re looking for top talent to fill positions at your company, contact Principle Personnel.