A sometimes neglected part of the interview process is checking a candidate's references. Candidates may seem like the perfect fit from their resume and even their interviews, but all the information you are getting is coming directly from that candidate. A candidate's reference gives you another opinion other than your own, and can add validity to some of the first or second impressions you may have had from a candidate.
References are provided by the candidate, and thus will mostly have great things to say. However, by asking the right questions, you will receive the information you need to know if this is the right candidate for you.
Before we get into our essential questions, there are a couple of introductory questions you should ask. These include:
- At which company did you work together?
- Relationship to the candidate when you worked together.
- What was the candidate's position when you worked together?
Asking these basic questions will confirm the information that you have from the candidate.
I asked our Tampa and Orlando recruiters for their go-to questions for references. From that list, I gathered the 4 most important questions to ask a candidate's reference.
1. What was your overall experience working with this candidate?
Asking this will give you insight on how it is to work with this candidate on a day-to-day basis.
2. How would you describe the candidate's quality of work/dependability/attitude?
Within this answer, look for buzz words that match what you are looking for in a candidate. Is the candidate described as dependable, hardworking, or disciplined? Maybe they are cheerful, determined or focused. Think of your office's culture, and if this candidate would make for a good addition to the team.
3. Based on your experience, do you see any areas that need improvement?
Nobody is perfect, including this candidate. Be wary of a reference that tells you that a candidate is perfect. This is akin to a candidate answering the "What is your greatest weakness?" interview question by saying they have none. It will be interesting to compare what the reference says the candidate needs to work on with what the candidate says he or she needs to work on.
4. Is there anything else you can tell me about this candidate?
This last question is another push to get information. By this time, you should have a fairly good idea of what it would be like to work with the candidate and if they would be a good fit for your company. Asking for additional information will only help to confirm your feelings one way or the other.
A reference check is an important part of the hiring process. By checking in with a couple of references, you can make sure that you are making the right decision on a candidate.