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13 Questions You Should Ask When Checking References

By | Bruce M. Anderson (he-him) |

To the list of things that people either love or hate — Tom Brady, cats, brussels sprouts — we can safely add reference checks. Fans see them as a sure-fire way to uncover candidates’ abilities and to learn if they are likely to be a phenom or a fiasco. Haters, on the other hand, find them to be a complete waste of time

One of the reasons reference checks can feel unproductive is that many companies put no structure in place when asking candidates to list references. Predictably, they end up with the contact info for the prospective hire’s BFFs, who will invariably say the candidate is:

But when reference checks are done right, they can be hugely helpful and be the difference between hiring the right or wrong person. So to help you get more out of this process, we’ve done our research and laid out who are the best references to talk to and the best questions to ask when checking references to get the information you need. 

Talk to the right people: Have your candidates help you reach out to their former managers

Instead of having candidates give you a list of their reference choices, ask them to include the names and phone numbers of their former managers on their application. Understandably, they may not want you talking to their current boss if their new job search is a secret. If that’s the case, ask to talk to a manager from a previous role.

This is a fair request, and the way your candidates respond — are they helpful or evasive? — may be a critical clue to what kind of employee they might be.

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