Top Ten Things To Ask Your Next Hire’s Reference

May 17, 2016

Top Ten Things to Ask Your Next Hire's Reference

Throughout the hiring process, there are key steps to ensure managers thoroughly understand the newest addition to their organization. ​References can be an eye-opening experience. Not giving enough thought to this crucial piece of interviewing and selection process can become habit much too often. Mike Poskey, president of ZERORISK HR, knows the tricks of the trade when making the call to a candidate's references.

What can references legally provide?

Employers tend to know the facts about their previous employee. Whether it has to do with drug tests or job-related details, references can legally provide the detailed facts when necessary. But personal details, including race, religion, age, or disability status, should not be discussed.

Everyone wants to know the work performance of a possible new hire in past positions. Former employers can legally discuss the truths (whether it be positive or negative) about past conduct. For example, stating that the ex-employee turned in projects late consistently or didn't meet set goals as documented actions is acceptable. But when statements lean toward personal bias such as why you believe this employee turned things in late (i.e., laziness, lack of productivity), you might be forced to answer for those statements in court.

It is acceptable for a former employer to legally refuse to give information about a past employee other than official title and dates employed. But, this is generally considered just as bad as receiving a negative reference.

What should I ask about during reference checks?

As this is an important opportunity to get an inside look at a possible new member of your team, plan accordingly. Before you decide to pick up the phone or send that e-mail, decide what you need to know and what you are going to ask! As a starting point, here are the top 10 things we recommend you focus on when talking with your candidate's references.

  1. Work Ethic: Focus questions on the candidate's accountability, reliability, and respect.
  2. Communication: Was the candidate consistently effective with both verbal and written communication?
  3. Decision-making: How did the candidate gather facts, develop situations, and determine courses of action?
  4. Job Knowledge: Ha​s he or she demonstrated role-based knowledge required for the job?
  5. Teamwork: Identify whether the candidate has demonstrated the ability to collaborate with others to achieve a common goal.
  6. Prioritization: Determine candidate's day-to-day prioritization skills.
  7. Productivity: Does the candidate achieve outcomes in an efficient manner?
  8. Quality of Work: Production of work in relation to accuracy, completeness, and reliability.
  9. Adaptability: How does the candidate respond to change and adjusted methods?
  10. Learning: Determine whether the candidate exhibits a learning attitude, as well as obtaining and applying new information.

Gaining a more accurate understanding of your candidate's competencies and skills as they relate to the new position will ultimately avoid turnover and provide the right hire to ease into your office's culture. Knowing the right questions to ask your candidate's references is one important step in the hiring process that is often viewed as just another "box to check off." Don't miss this opportunity to get a close-up look ​at your possible new hire!

ZERORISK helps organizations build great cultures by identifying, developing, and retaining top talent. The ZERORISK Hiring System blends a revolutionary behavioral science with state-of-the-art technology to reduce unwanted turnover and improve employee performance. For more information contact us at (800) 827-5991.

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