When considering which screening options to use in selecting a new candidate, checking references should be a high priority. Hiring a candidate who’s the wrong fit can become costly.
Luckily, checking references can offer insight into a candidate’s’ character and work habits.
Straightforward or Open-Ended?
When speaking to references, remember that asking open-ended questions will yield more detailed information than closed-ended ones.
While some straightforward questions, like, “Can you confirm her dates of employment?” are necessary, the reference check should not be limited to fact checking. Closed-ended questions typically leave little room for an elaborate answer.
A question like, “Was Mitchell a good employee?” only leaves room for a yes or no response. But an open-ended question like, “What was it like working with Mitchell?” leaves a lot more space for the reference to offer a genuine, detailed answer.
Which Questions Do You Ask?
Let’s start with what you want to know [DOC] about the potential employee. What would make or break your hiring decision?
Essentially, you want to know about that person’s character, level of productivity, interpersonal skills, and their potential level of commitment to your company.
Questions on the Candidate’s Character
- What’s your impression of this candidate?
- What would you say are the applicant’s strengths?
Character is important – it’s at the core of an individual’s perspectives on their work-life journey. Character often speaks more loudly than credentials, so pay close attention to this answer.
Questions about Productivity
- How satisfied were you with the work performed?
- Are there some areas in which this applicant could use more career development?
The need for more career development is rarely a problem so long as candidates have a history of putting their best foot forward and valuing company time and standards.
Questions to Ask about Interpersonal Skills
- How did he or she interact with his or her peers?
- How did this applicant interact with superiors?
Candidates are typically on their best behavior during an interview. But the manner in which they engaged with peers and superiors is usually more telling of the individual’s interpersonal skills.
Questions to Ask about Commitment
- What would you say about this applicant’s level of initiative?
- How did this candidate respond to criticism?
Both of these questions speak to a candidate’s level of commitment. If an employee has aligned with the company’s mission and vision, they’re typically more invested in the full scope of their duties.
Therefore, they take the initiative when fitting in. Additionally, committed employees are eager to receive constructive criticism and incorporate requested changes.
The Big Finale
Your last question should always be something along the lines of:
“Is there anything else I should take into consideration about this candidate in this hiring decision?”
This is as open-ended a question as you can get, and it might trigger a memory the reference hadn’t recalled earlier in the conversation. The idea isn’t to use trickery, but to gain clarification about the candidate so that you can make the soundest hiring decision possible based on the information you’ve gathered.
Over to you – is there a question we missed? Let us know in the comments.