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The latest advice and best practices in hiring and careers.

Reference Checking: Unexpected Questions May Yield More Candid Feedback

“I’m sorry, but all I can do is verify this person’s name, title, and dates of employment.”

Sound familiar?

These days, getting an honest and reliable reference can be a real challenge.

HR is cautious.  Supervisors are too busy.  And often, the references a candidate has provided are afraid or unwilling to give honest feedback.  So how can you improve the results of your next reference check?

Beyond the standard length of employment/position/job responsibilities questions, here are a few unexpected ones you can try asking.  Designed to start conversations, these open-ended questions may entice a reference to “drop his guard,” and help you solicit more candid feedback:

  1. Did the candidate ask your permission to be a reference for him?
  2. What was his greatest strength?  Weakness?
  3. What circumstances frustrated him the most?
  4. How well did the candidate manage time?  Pressure?  Crises?
  5. What did he learn during his time with your company?
  6. If you could give him a single career suggestion, what would it be?
  7. What was his biggest accomplishment while working for your company?
  8. Would you rehire this person?  Why or why not?
  9. Is there anything else I haven’t asked that you would like to share with me?

Thankfully, you don’t need to ask questions like these when you work with A.R. Mazzotta Employment Specialists.  You can rest assured that every candidate we refer has been carefully screened, tested and reference-checked for you.  To learn more about the measures we take to ensure candidate quality, please visit our website.