Asking the right reference check questions can mean the difference between a good hire and a bad one. Incorporating these different types of questions into your checks will ensure you have a better chance at making the right hire for your organization.
Informative Reference Check Questions
These questions are designed to gather the necessary information you need to make a quantitative decision about your new hire. Most HR departments, even those with “no reference” policies will be able to answer some variation of these questions.
Questions can include:
What were the individual's employment start and end dates?
What were the starting and ending job titles and respective responsibilities?
What was the individual’s starting and ending salary?
Were commendations giving or disciplinary actions taken?
Why did the individual leave?
Is the individual eligible for rehire?
Though these questions are often answered with short, objective responses, you can infer some subjective information from them.
For example, information about job titles that increase in responsibility could imply the employee was trusted to do more work than when initially hired. Commendations imply the employee’s work was valued and recognized. Of course, any information about disciplinary action or termination may indicate the employee was not a good fit for their previous employer, though it won’t necessarily tell you why.
Behavioral Reference Check Questions
Depending on the size of the organization and their reference policies, HR departments may or may not be able to answer these questions. But behavioral questions are the meat of any good reference check, and an earnest effort should be made to gain this insight into a candidate’s work experience.
Behavioral questions provide the reference opportunities to elaborate. These reference check questions are often open-ended, and in some cases, vague. You may ask “why” or “can you give me an example” at the end of a more closed question.
Questions can include:
What were the employee’s strengths? Weaknesses?
Did the individual grow or improve during their employment? How or why not?
How would you describe the employee’s attitude at work?
What was it like to supervise (or work with) the employee?
How would you describe the individual’s job performance? Why?
How well did the employee collaborate with others? Example?
How did the employee respond to stress or tight deadlines?
Be sure to ask questions that relate directly to the position or your organization’s culture. For example, if the nature or needs of the job for often change, ask how the employee has responded to change in the past.
Skill-based questions provide information about the type of work the candidate has performed in the past. These questions are more technical in nature and should related directly to the position the candidate applied for with your organization.
An HR representative may or may not be able to answer these questions by responding to the job title and description question from the informative series of questions, but to find out how qualified a candidate is at a given skill, it is often better to ask the direct supervisor.
An increasing focus on company culture, a move to collaborative work spaces and an increase of remote working jobs means a wise hiring manager should consider asking reference check questions that will better prepare them for successfully managing their new employee.
For example, if the position is a remote position, ask how self-motivated the individual is and whether or not they work well alone. If employee culture is a big part of your organization, ask about the referring organization’s culture and how the individual interacted with it. Finally, ask for input from the reference about what you can do to help the individual succeed with your organization.
How successful has your organization been at gathering quality information from reference checks? Triton provides reference check services that include each of these types of questions for well-rounded results. If you are looking for a well-rounded reference check results, learn more here.