How To

The Art of Asking the Right Questions When Checking References

The Art of Asking the Right Questions When Checking References
HireHive Team

HireHive Team


Asking the right questions when checking references is crucial for gaining valuable insights into a candidate's qualifications, work ethic, and suitability for a job.

According to the most recent Gallup poll on the state of the global workforce, nearly six in ten employees are quietly quitting. Low engagement rates are costing the global economy $8.8 trillion. And 51% of global employees indicated they were either passively or actively looking for a new job. So when hiring talent, it's imperative that businesses take all the steps to ensure that someone will be a good fit for their environment, including conducting reference checks. 

The basics of reference checking include: 

  • Verification of Credentials
  • Work Performance Evaluation
  • Determining Cultural Fit
  • Understanding Reliability and Trustworthiness
  • Uncovering Conflict Resolution Skills
  • Reduction of Hiring Risks

Along with ensuring privacy and adhering to the GDPR rules, some questions can help you get the best information when contacting former employers. Here are some tips to master the art of asking effective reference check questions.

Prepare Thoroughly

When preparing to conduct a reference check, thoroughly studying the candidate's resume is vital. By delving into their work history, skills, and achievements, you can formulate insightful questions for the referees. Understanding the candidate's background helps you inquire about specific experiences and competencies, providing a clearer picture of their abilities and work ethic. 

Reviewing the job description is equally essential. By focusing on the skills and qualities outlined in the job requirements during reference checks, you can corroborate the information provided by the candidate and ensure that their past performance aligns with the expectations of the new role.

Establish Rapport

Begin by introducing yourself clearly and stating your name and connection to the candidate, which helps build trust and credibility. Following this, explain the purpose of the call articulately, outlining why you are conducting the reference check and the specific qualities or skills you are interested in. 

Communicating your objectives helps the reference provider understand relevant information, ensuring the conversation is focused and productive. Establishing rapport through a polite introduction and a clear explanation of your intentions creates a conducive environment for open and honest communication, facilitating a more effective reference check process.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are crucial for obtaining detailed and insightful feedback. Asking questions like, "Can you describe the candidate's responsibilities and duties in their role?" encourages the reference provider to provide a comprehensive overview of the candidate's job responsibilities, clearly understanding their role in the previous position. 

Similarly, inquiring about the candidate's accomplishments prompts the reference provider to highlight specific achievements, shedding light on the candidate's skills, work ethic, and contributions. 

Conduct Skill and Qualification Verification

When conducting a reference check, skill and qualification verification questions are pivotal in assessing a candidate's suitability for a position. Asking questions like, "How would you rate the candidate's technical skills in [specific skill]?" allows the reference provider to objectively evaluate the candidate's expertise, confirming whether their stated skills align with the job requirements. 

Inquire about the candidate's teamwork abilities by asking, "Did the candidate work well in a team environment?" This offers valuable insights into their collaborative skills, communication, and adaptability. By verifying both technical competencies and interpersonal capabilities, employers can ensure that the candidate possesses the necessary skills for the role and can work effectively within the team dynamics, making for a well-rounded and reliable hiring decision.

Additional Questions to Consider

Throughout your call, consider asking questions related to the following: 

Work Ethic and Reliability

  • "Was the candidate punctual and reliable in completing tasks?"
  • "How would you describe the candidate's work ethic?"

Interpersonal Skills

  • "Can you tell me how the candidate interacts with colleagues and clients?"
  • "Was the candidate able to resolve conflicts effectively?"

Future Performance

  • "Would you rehire the candidate if given the opportunity?"
  • "What kind of role do you think would be ideal for the candidate?"

During reference checks, adhering to legal and policy compliance guidelines is imperative to maintain fairness and integrity in the hiring process. First and foremost, it's crucial to ensure compliance with legal regulations by avoiding questions related to sensitive topics such as age, race, gender, religion, or any other protected characteristic. Focusing on job-related qualifications and experiences helps assess the candidate fairly and without bias. 

It's essential to respect the reference giver's confidentiality. Always ask if there are any restrictions on the information they can provide, ensuring that you honour privacy and legal constraints. By being mindful of these legal and policy compliance considerations, employers can conduct reference checks professionally, ethically, and legally soundly, fostering a fair and respectful hiring process.

Thank the Reference

When concluding a reference check, expressing gratitude is essential. Thank the reference for their time and valuable insights into the candidate's background and qualifications. Acknowledging their contribution demonstrates professionalism and respect for their assistance. Leave the door open for further communication by letting them know they can contact you if they remember anything else later. 

This openness encourages continued dialogue and ensures the reference provider feels comfortable reaching out if additional information becomes relevant. Showing appreciation and maintaining an open line of communication leaves a positive impression and fosters a collaborative and respectful professional relationship.

Track References and Hiring Details All in One Place 

Mastering the art of asking the right questions during reference checks helps make informed hiring decisions. It fosters a positive and respectful relationship with both the candidate and their former employee. Using technology to help record and track results can optimise your hiring experience and make informed decisions quickly. 

You don't have to go it alone. Investing in the right software gives you the structure and framework to manage talent and what you have to offer. Using a system to help you track and hire top talent is the first step in the process. 

With more competition for top talent, it pays for companies to consider all their advantages and the use of tools to assist in the quest to find talent. HireHive helps busy people hire great people. You can post jobs, streamline your online application process, improve the candidate experience, and tap into vast global networks by having your entire recruitment process in one place. 

Set up a free trial account today. Contact HireHive to learn more.

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