Basic reference checks to ask every referee

Basic reference checks to ask every referee

If your company is on a recruitment drive, how can you really know who you’re going to get? Candidates could submit amazing CVs and application forms, excel at the interview stage and still end up not being the right person for the position advertised.

This is why it’s absolutely critical to reference check candidates you are looking to hire. You can learn more about a candidate in a five-minute conversation with their current or former boss than you could have done in the whole interview. And remember to do a personal reference check to make sure the potential candidate will be a good ‘fit’ into your company.

The Legal Stuff
Unless an organization operates in ‘regulated industry’ or there is a written binding agreement between the parties, employers are not required by law to give a reference check.

But, if they do, and normally they are expecting your call in full knowledge of being a referee check on a CV, it has to be true to the best of their ability and accurate – and that can be in a positive or negative sense! It may be they provide direct answers to questions you may have or is happy to provide a broader overview of the person in question.

The Basic Questions
The key to success for an employer, is knowing what to ask to help you form a picture of the potential candidate you have in mind. And remember, the referee is taking up their time to do this for you, so try not to make it like it’s a formal interview!

This can all be achieved with some basic reference questions, starting by setting the scene:
1. How long did the candidate work for your organisation?
2. What was the nature of the candidate’s role at your organisation.
3. How much was the candidate paid?
4. Did they receive bonuses or overtime payments in addition to this?
5. Where was the candidate employed before joining your organisation?

If the conversation is going well and you would like to ask some more ‘probing questions,’ you may be able to glean more of an idea of whether the potential candidate can do the job you are advertising:

6. How often was the employee absent from work?
7. Did the candidate have any weaknesses?
8. How does the candidate compare to their colleagues/ their replacement?
9. What steps did the candidate take to ensure urgent tasks were delivered on time.

The final question to consider is much like ‘would you recommend’ and can be the most powerful of them all as it really demands a yes, no response. It is worth asking:

10. Would you rehire the candidate in future?

Naturally there are many other questions that can be asked to get a clearer understanding of a potential employee – right from who they are to what motivates them. It largely depends on how willing the referee is to respond, and this may simply come down to time constraints as well as their opinion of the candidate. But you’d like to hope that a good referee will take the time to praise a worthy candidate.