Reference checking is one of the most important parts of the hiring process of a candidate. Reference checking is used for the following process.

1. To check and validate the personal information provided by the candidate.
2. To decide whether or not the candidate is suitable for the job applied.
3. To get to know the candidate more better, i.e. to get to know the candidate’s abilities and skills.

Critical Questions to Ask

Reference checking has the main purpose of checking and validating the information provided by the candidate in his/her resume or CV. This allows the recruiter to understand more about the candidate and helps them to decide if the candidate is suitable for the job or not. Keep in mind that reference checking is not done to all the candidates who apply, that would mean a waste of time and money from the recruiter’s side. Reference checking is usually done for candidates who have passed the preliminary checking and have successfully passed the first stage of the selection process. Reference checking also includes talking with a “reference”, i.e., discussing with a previous supervisor of the candidate about the past performance and behaviour of the applicant. This allows the recruiter to decide how well the candidate will do the proposed job.

Frequently Asked Questions About Reference Checking:

  • Who conducts reference checks?
    Usually in many big and large companies, those who have the priority and the power to make critical decisions about the candidate’s selection are usually the one who does the reference checking. If they are not available, then the leading personnel from the HR department will check the credentials of the candidate.
  • How many references are usually given?
    A large number of references can be given by the candidate. Multiple references are always the best option for a candidate. As mentioned before, reference checking is used to get an idea about the behaviour and different perspectives of the candidate and providing more than one references for checking does the job. In most cases, candidates give at least 3 references for the HR department to contact. If they feel that those references are not enough, then the HR personnel have the right to ask the candidate for additional references.
  • Who should the candidate keep as reference?
    Candidates have a wide variety of people to choose from to keep as reference. The only condition being that the reference candidate should be in a position to mentor and observe the applicant and should have a professional relationship with the candidate. No personal acquaintances are allowed to be kept as references for a candidate. So, this means that the candidate is not allowed to name his/ her friends and family members as references for reference checking. This will be seen as unprofessional and the candidate will be disqualified from the selection process. Also, the candidates should keep in mind to keep the most recent references, since less recent references may not be able to remember the performance of the candidate and provide a true opinion about the applicant.
  • When you are about to check the candidate’s references, is it necessary to ask for their consent?
    Yes, this is the most important step during the application process. It is mandatory to ask the candidate their permission before checking their references, so as to prevent any future misunderstandings and disagreements. The company can either ask the candidate for consent, by filling the consent employment form or ask the candidate beforehand in the application form itself.
  • What if the candidate does not permit to contact their current supervisor?
    This is one of the most common requests that the candidates ask during reference checking. When asked so, try to ask the candidate for an equivalent or an alternative reference. If the candidate asks not to call their current supervisor, then it is better to call and check on their alternative references.

Constructing Questions for References:

  • What all factors should you keep in mind while developing questions for reference checking?
    When asking information about the candidate from the provided references, try to ensure that you are asking questions about the candidate, in relevance to the job position that the candidate has applied to.

One instance is, if the candidate has applied for a job, where following the rules and regulations is mandatory, then ask the reference about the candidates’ ability to adhere to strict guidelines and discuss about the performance of the candidate when subjected to such conditions.
Try to make sure that the questions you usually ask are open ended and do not have a fixed and definite answer, try to observe the behaviour of the references, to check if they are lying or bluffing about the candidate’s performance.

Contacting the Given References:

  • What is the best method to contact a reference provided by the candidate during reference checking?
    In most cases, the best way to call a reference is usually by phone. When calling the reference, try to follow a professional etiquette. When contacting the reference, briefly explain to them who you are and what your position is and state for what purpose you are calling them. After which, briefly state about the job position that the candidate has applied to and inform them that they have the candidate’s consent in doing this reference check. Also, try to move the conversation in a progressive manner, so as to estimate how long the call will be. Discuss about the relationship between the reference and the candidate and from there, ask the necessary and relevant questions about the candidate when the conversation further develops.
  • What if the provided references do not provide any information?
    Most of the company policies prevent professionals from providing information about their previous candidates and if the provided reference refuses to give so and you fail to retrieve the information that you are seeking, then inform the candidate and ask them to give more reliable alternative references.
  • Is it okay to call references that were referred by the candidate’s given references?
    If a reference provides other references that you can call to check about the candidate, then it is permitted to do so. This can be only done after getting consent and grant from the candidate’s themselves. If the candidate is not providing them consent, then ask the candidate to provide additional references for further checking.

Sample Questions for Reference Checking:

  • What were the various responsibilities that the candidate had while working in your previous company?
    This is a vital question, since it allows you to compare the job qualities and responsibilities provided to you by the candidate with respect to the job responsibilities stated by the candidate’s previous employer. Before asking such a question, briefly state about the job description that the candidate has applied to, just to give an idea to the reference about the candidate. Try to draw attention towards the top priority responsibilities that are relevant to the applied job.
  • What is your relationship between you and the candidate?
    This form of question is used to check whether the candidate and the reference share any personal relationship between each other. Try to ensure that the reference has a professional relationship with the candidate. The reference might be a previous employer of the candidate, or in most cases the references might be a colleague or a mentor that has guided the candidate in their previous jobs. This is a question used to assess the relationship between both the candidate and the reference given. In knowing the correct and specific relationship between the reference and the candidate, the recruiter can then ask questions with respect to the applied job accordingly.
  • Can you describe the performance of the candidate?
    This is to check whether or not the candidate was making bold references about their previous performance and work on their resumes. This is to make sure that the candidate is not bluffing about his/her attitude while working during their previous jobs. Validating the statements made by the candidate is always a good choice to differentiate between the honest and the dishonest candidates. This also provides the recruiter on how well the candidate will do on the job, if selected.
  • Was the candidate responsible enough to complete the given tasks?
    When asking details about the candidate from the given references, ask about the responsible nature of the candidate. This is necessary, so as to ensure that the candidate is responsible and accountable enough to meet the necessary deadlines and tasks and also completing projects. This also helps the recruiters and the employers to get an idea of how well the candidate is suited to work under stress and pressure and how well they would react to mistakes. This also shows whether or not the candidate is a good choice for the job.
  • Can you explain the candidate’s strength and weaknesses while working for you and your company?
    This is to check whether or not the candidate has had any serious weaknesses that could threaten their chances of getting the applied job. This also gives an idea, whether or not the candidate has tried to overcome their weaknesses and improve themselves throughout the whole tenure. This also gives an idea to the recruiter on how well the candidate can be trained and taught about the applied job and how suitable they are in adapting with the office culture and environment of the applied position.
  • What was it like to work with the candidate during the tenure?
    This to check whether the candidate is fit for the applied position and if he or she is a suitable professional for the job. This also shows that how the candidate behaves professionally and how well he or she is able to do the given tasks and projects. This question also provides the recruiter an idea about the interpersonal skills of the candidate, including communication skills, empathy and also the emotional quotient of the candidate. Asking such a question, also gives an insight about the work history of the candidate and whether or not the candidate had any red marks while working under the reference. An added advantage to the question is to check if the candidate is a team player or prefers to work alone.
  • Why did the candidate resign from the position?
    This gives an idea to the recruiter on how long the candidate will stay when given the job opportunity and if there are any other factors that affect the job performance of the candidate during work. If the candidate left the previous job for a more insightful and challenging position, then the recruiter might get an idea that the candidate is constantly developing himself in being a better all rounded working professional. This is a good sign for an ideal employee.
    Also, such a question can also be asked to check whether the candidate left the previous job due to any disagreements between the candidate and the previous company.
  • Would you rehire this candidate?
    This question gives an insight on how well the candidate has performed and worked for the reference. This type of question is usually asked at the end of reference checking, since the answer to this question, basically summarizes the decision of the recruiter about the candidate in handing the job offer . If you do not have the time to ask various other questions about the candidate, then this is the mandatory question that you should ask, since this question will give a good description about the applied candidate. Whatever the answer to the said question is, always ask for a reason from the reference so as to get to know more about the candidate.

Such measures are taken by the recruiters and the hiring managers so as to ensure that they will hire the right candidate for the job. So focusing information about the candidate based on the given references is a valid way to check whether the candidate is the right pick for the job.