11 Questions That You Must Definitely Ask a Candidate’s References

A reference can, in fact, provide you with deeper insights on the candidate, which can help you make a favourable decision. It is, therefore, good practice to come up with your list of reference check questions and answers.

You’ve finally found the most suitable candidate for your job position. The candidate ticks all the right boxes and possesses exceptional skills for the job. But if you are thinking of extending the job offer, hold on. You still need to do a reference check.

Many recruiters forgo reference checks for they think it is not effective and does not produce the desired result.

Maybe, you have not asked the right questions. Only the right questions can get you the desired results. A reference can, in fact, provide you with deeper insights on the candidate, which can help you make a favourable decision. It is, therefore, good practice to come up with your list of reference check questions and answers.

Here is the list of 11 great questions to ask references, which will help you get the required information about the candidate.

Did you and the candidate work together? How was it?
To begin with, allow the candidate’s previous manager to become comfortable talking to you, then you can start questioning the reference. Begin by verifying what the candidate has already informed you. Verify the employment start date and end date; the duration of employment; the job title; and roles and responsibilities.

Allow the manager ample opportunity to speak, they may dish out lesser-known facts about the candidate, which could enhance the chances of employment of the candidate. Make it a point to know how regularly and closely the candidate and the reference worked together.

Why did the candidate leave the company?
Similar to the first question, the answer will help you validate the information provided by the candidate.

How will you describe the dependability and reliability of the candidate?
This, like some other reference check questions, will help you determine how punctual, self-motivated and reliable the candidate is. The answer would also describe whether the candidate possesses these qualities at all or they are amiss. This would allow you to understand how much of a culture fit the candidate is.

The key is to find out whether the candidate can successfully complete the projects, abide by the deadlines, and be punctual at work. These aspects are prerequisites in any candidate and negative responses may want you to look at other candidates.

For this job role, we need a person who can ______ (fill it with the most essential skills). How will you rate the candidate in each aspect?
This is one of the more important questions to ask references. This question provides you with an opportunity to get a third person view on the potential skills and abilities of the candidate, and whether the skills are a match for your job position.

To further understand the aspects that could be the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, ask the references to rate the candidate on every single one of the skills and competencies in your list. Request them to rate him or her on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest. Allowing them the chance to score the candidate will help you get a realistic understanding of his or her abilities.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate?
This is among other important job reference questions that you should include in your list of questions to ask references. The answer you get would help you get a better understanding of the candidate and helps to better evaluate the candidate’s resumé, work samples and interview performance. You could also assess how and if the candidate’s responses match up with the responses from the references. This could help you understand the candidate’s level of self-awareness, which can help calibrate the other answers given by him or her.

Knowing and evaluating the weakness is as important as calibrating the strengths. After all, the prospective manager of the candidate would be eager to know the shortcomings of the candidate and how the new company can help him or her become successful in the new role. The answer will allow you to determine the characteristics and attitude of candidates, and whether they can be coached and trained on their shortcomings. The answer is usually a sign of whether you must hire the candidate or should move on to the next candidate.

Is the candidate a good listener and communicator?
This is one of the reference call questions that will provide you insights on the soft skills of the candidate. If the references answer in an affirmative, probe them further and ask for one example where they displayed this behaviour.

Asking for examples or real instances serves a dual purpose; it helps you better calibrate the candidate and it also helps you understand how well the reference really knows the candidate professionally. This way, you could even determine whether the reference is an active reference or a passive reference.

In what kind of work environment would the candidate thrive and why?
When you interview the candidate, you are focused on knowing whether the candidate is the right fit for the company. However, it is also important to know whether the company and its work environment are appropriate for the candidate or not. If the candidate is someone who would not thrive in your particular work environment, they will, most likely, quit soon or underperform for their duration in the job.

Asking this type of question will enable you to understand whether the candidate can thrive in your office environment. However, if the references describe a different setting than yours, that should not necessarily be the ground for automatic dismissal. However, it could expose the aspects that would need further consideration.

What skills do you want the candidate to develop to achieve full potential?
It is very rare for you to find a candidate that meets all your desired criteria. This type of sample reference check questions would help to identify the shortcomings in the skills of the candidate. No one is perfect and every person has shortcomings. So, this response should not be the reason for declining the candidate. Rather, you should focus on knowing whether the candidate is open to feedback, coaching and training to develop the needed skills, which would help them prosper in your organization.

On a scale of 1 to 10, in comparison to other candidates that you have recruited, how will you rate this candidate?
This is one of those close-ended reference check questions, which will give you insight into the candidate. The answer to this question must always be 8, 9 or even 10. Anything lower is surely a red flag. Simply because, the chances are that the references may be too generous with their ratings. If the rating is 8 or 9, ask them “what would the candidate require to receive a 10”?

Will you recommend the candidate?
This is one of the simpler and more direct questions, but it should not be ignored. You can expect to get direct or one-word answers from the references. The answer would either be in the affirmative or the negative, which will help you make a final decision.

Would you rehire the candidate?
This must always be among your final and most important questions to ask references. Listen to the answer carefully. The answer should be affirmative; something like “absolutely” and “definitely”, without hesitation. Any kind of hesitation while answering this close ended question is a warning sign.

This is the list of 11 significant questions that you must ask the references to validate and calibrate the information provided by the candidate. The response of these questions would allow you additional insight on the candidate, which will help you make an informed decision regarding employing the candidate.

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