Checking the references of a potential employee is an important step in the hiring process. Second-hand reports from supervisors and coworkers can often be more revealing than face-time with the actual candidate. Since you can only borrow a little bit of the reference’s time, it’s crucial to choose your questions wisely in order to get the most valuable answers. As a recruiter with extensive experience both scanning candidates and communicating with hiring clients, here are 10 questions I’d recommend to ask:
1. What was the nature of his/her work and job responsibilities?
2. What would you consider to be his/her strongest area(s)?
3. Everyone has areas in need of improvement – tell me about his/hers.
4. Tell me about his/her work ethic and the quality/quantity of work?
5. What about communication skills? How did he/she best communicate with you?
6. Describe his/her personality.
7. Describe his/her flexibility – Is he/she adaptable to change?
8. What was his/her reason for leaving?
9. Who else in the organization would be in a position to tell me about his/her work?
10. What is your overall recommendation for this person?
These questions will provoke answers that provide honest opinions and important background information that cannot always be found on a résumé. When speaking with candidate references, you not only determine whether they are suitable for the job, but you can truly get a feel for how the candidate will fit within your company’s cultures and values. Therefore, it is not a small task to be performed out of habit, but a useful task to be performed out of necessity.
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