As we discussed last week, reference checks are vitally important in validating that your top candidates are the right fit for the position and for your organization. It is equally important to know what questions to ask, and what questions to avoid, during these phone calls. There are always going to be some obstacles with getting quality answers from the contacts you have been provided, whether those road blocks are policy-driven or just an individual not willing to discuss details with you.

When prepping for your reference checks, consider the following to ensure you get the very best information:

  • Talk With a Direct Supervisor – Whenever possible, speak with someone who directly supervised your candidate. Other managers and administrators will be less likely to provide detailed and accurate information and are more likely to stick to the facts such as dates of employment and title.
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions – Once you have made a connection with a manager who is willing to talk with you, make the most of it by asking questions that call for in-depth answers.
  • Avoid Personal References  You should make it your routine practice to strive to only talk to employers. Talking to friends or family members isn’t worth your time as there is a very slim chance you will be able to get any objective and unbiased feedback from them.

Make certain that your questions are entirely job-related. Avoid asking any questions that are personal in nature or could be viewed as discriminatory. Questions like this include: Does the applicant have any disabilities or health issues? Is the applicant married? Does the applicant have children? What is the applicant’s religion?

Basic questions to ask during a reference check include: Verification of dates of employment, title, role, starting/ending salary. Is the candidate eligible for rehire? Why or why not? What was his/her reason for leaving?

If the have developed rapport with the individual you are conducting the reference check with, consider some of the following, additional open-ended questions:

  • Did the employee get along well with their peers/managers/clients?
  • Describe their duties and responsibilities. Did they perform satisfactorily?
  • Was the employee punctual? Were there any issues with tardiness/absenteeism?
  • Describe their advancement in the Company.
  • Is there anything else to take into consideration prior to hiring this candidate?

Reference checks, when done appropriately, can be incredibly beneficial and can provide you with the necessary validation and supplementary information you need to ensure that you find the right fit for the right job within your organization. By following these useful tips when conducting your reference checks, you should be able to get the information you are seeking without treading into any dangerous territory.