The Top 11 Reference Questions – Hire The Best Candidate

September 28, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

Checking employment references are a critical part of the employment process. In today’s job market, it’s likely that you’ll have more than one finalist for a position. There are a million questions you can ask, but here are the top eleven reference questions you should include in any reference interview.

Including these questions will give structure to the interview, give you insights in to how well a potential candidate will fit into your organization and help you assess his /her strengths and weaknesses so that you can have a reliable idea of how your candidate will perform.

First up, here are two important screening questions: What is the relationship of the candidate to the reference? (A supervisory relationship? A peer or character reference?). How often did the reference and candidate work together? (Occasionally? Daily? On a project basis?) This gives you a sense of what questions on your list will be appropriate and give you a heads up that you may want to question further if all the references are from co-workers rather than supervisors.

Tell me about the candidate’s position with your company? When reviewing the candidate’s resume, does the job title and description match the position the candidate told you he/she held? This tests the candidate’s skill in clearly communicating his/her role and responsibilities and weeds out candidates who “pump up” their resumes to look good.

Describe the open position to be filled. Ask What specific skills and abilities make the candidate a match for this position? The reference giver should be able to give you details if they really know the candidate.This gives you an objective sense of whether the candidate is a good match for the job.

What are the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses? This can also give invaluable insight on how the candidate would fit in the new position.

Are there any issues that you are aware of that affected his/her job performance? This speaks to the candidate’s reliability on everything from attendance to meeting deadlines.

For management positions: What would employees supervised by the candidate say about his/her management style? What is the candidate’s leadership/supervisory/or management style? How is the candidate’s short and long term planning abilities? How are the candidates’ written and oral communications skills? Asking these types of questions can help determine if the candidate’s management style fits with your company’s culture.

Finally, Would you rehire this candidate? A mediocre answer should be a red flag.

Dianne Shaddock is the Founder of Easy Small Business HR, Employee Hiring and Managing Tips. Through the Employee Hiring and Managing Tips podcast, blog, and weekly ‘quick tips’ e-newsletters, Dianne offers expert advice on how to make better hiring decisions, manage difficult employees, develop employee policies, motivate staff, and so much more. No stuffy, corporate HR policy lingo; but straight forward, easy to understand and implement advice for businesses just like yours. Stay ahead of the curve and go to Easy Small Business for more tips on how to hire and manage your staff effectively.

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