Reference check: 11 things you should ask every referee

Reference checking can be daunting. And, sometimes the people nominated by the job candidate are busy or short for time, so make sure you have a list of questions prepared when you contact them. Here are the must-asks when doing a reference check:

Don’t forget the obvious

Start with some basic questions about their employment. Any reference check call should be a low-pressure conversation, so it’s important to start off easy. Keep in mind that you can get more effective responses to a series of questions if you start with a few simple ones like these:

1. How long did the candidate work for your organisation?

2. What type of work did the candidate do?

3. What did the candidate earn?

4. Did that include bonus/overtime/incentives?

5. Where did the candidate work prior to joining your company?

Then get tough…

To find out the real truth, you have to ask probing questions. Now that you’ve asked the basic reference questions and eased into the call, it’s time to move on to more substantial topics. Here are some tough questions to ask in order to assess a potential employee’s capabilities:

6. How does the candidate compare to the person who is doing the job now?

7. Can you describe some of the candidate’s weaknesses?

8. On average how many times a month was the candidate absent from work?

9. What kind of people did the candidate have a more difficult time working with?

10. When there was a particularly urgent task, what steps did the candidate take to get it done on time?

11. Would you rehire the candidate in the future?

These questions are a strong starting point and will help give you a clear understanding of your prospective employee – but remember to ask additional questions unique to the role and the candidate. The more you ask, the more you’ll know.

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