I am amazed at the number of people who think that reference checks are a waste of time. Done right, they are the single greatest source of information about the person you are thinking about hiring. Who better to tell you about the candidate, then people who have actually worked with him/her.
You should do at least four references: two with their former managers and two with colleagues. If the person you are hiring is going to be a manager, then also conduct reference checks with at least two prior direct reports.
Be sure to ask reference check questions that will help you determine if the candidate not only has the skills and experience for the position, but if he/she will be a strong fit with your company’s culture and values. Questions to ask include:
■ In what context did you work with this person?
■ What were the person’s biggest strengths?
■ Questions related to specific job requirements. For example:
– Tell me about the candidate’s ability to meet deadlines.
– Tell me about their ability to use Word.
– Tell me about their customer service skills.
– Tell me about their management style.
■ How would you rate the person’s performance on a scale of 1 to 10 and why?
■ What were the person’s biggest areas for improvement back then?
■ Would you want to work with him/her again?
Note: Some of the above reference questions are taken from the “Topgrading Interview Guide” in Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. I highly recommend this book, it will help you hire A+ employees.
Remember, your business is who you hire! So take the time to conduct thorough reference checks. It will save you time, money, and stress!
YOUR TURN: What reference check questions do you ask? Please leave your reply below.