For recruiters, the path leading to the best job candidate shouldn’t stop after the interview. Often, it’s the work done post-meeting that separates a good hire from a great one. And there’s one essential step that gives employers a major leg up in finding the right person for the job — the reference check. A reference check is the practice of contacting an individual who previously worked with the job applicant to learn more about the applicant’s qualifications, skills, and work history. To ensure that qualified hiring decisions are made, it’s important to know the right questions to ask when checking references.
In this article, we’ve compiled our top 20 reference check questions to ensure that you walk away with strong insights about your candidate. Plus, we’ll detail some tools that can help make the reference-checking process easier when navigating an ongoing stream of job openings.
Table of Contents
- Employer best practices before conducting a reference check
- The 20 best reference check questions for recruiters
- Ask the right questions more efficiently with Vitay
Employer best practices before conducting a reference check
Reference checks play an important role in the hiring process for several reasons. Not only do they help verify applicant information, but they also assess a candidate’s skill set, work ethic, and suitability for a job position. They also help organizations to predict how a candidate will perform over time. Most importantly, they protect businesses from illegal conduct and prevent expensive mis-hiring. For peace of mind and long-term success, recruiters do well to invest time into running a proper reference check for every job candidate in serious consideration.
For best practices, remember the three C’s of compliance before scheduling a reference check:
- Confidentiality: Any information received from references is completely confidential and should not be discussed with any colleagues or candidates (unless specified by the reference).
- Consent: To stay within legal bounds, ensure that candidates provide written consent for the reference check before it gets sent out.
- Caution: Only ask questions related to the candidate/job position. Don’t delve into protected information like age, disability, or nationality.
Additionally, hiring managers should gather at least two business references and may want to reach out to a character reference as well. This can help determine that a candidate is not only professionally reliable but also that they have the right attitude and personality to fit your team. A resume indicates career achievements and qualifications, and the interview process will allow you to grasp the personability of the candidate. Next to these two, the reference check confirms past performance and helps predict future performance. When done correctly, a reference check will validate the candidate while simultaneously identifying strengths, weaknesses, and behavioral characteristics. Below, find our recommended list of the twenty questions to ask references during the reference check.
The 20 best reference check questions for recruiters
Save the shortlist below of the top reference check questions to ask your referrals:
Begin with introductory questions that detail the candidate/referee relationship:
1. What was your relationship to the candidate?
2. How long did you work with each other?
Highlight the candidate’s employment dates, job titles, and responsibilities:
3. Can you confirm the candidate’s job title, the length they were employed, and the nature of their role at your company?
4. How would you describe the candidate’s job performance and overall work ethic?
Ask questions that assess previous job performance:
5. What were the candidate’s primary work-related strengths and weaknesses?
6. Were there any circumstances in which the candidate needed improvement or additional support?
7. How would you rate the candidate’s communication skills?
8. Would you consider this candidate to be proficient with technology and flexible with adopting new online business processes?
9. Can you share any examples of specific tasks or assignments in which the candidate showed notability in their performance?
10. Can you provide a few examples of how the candidate contributed to the success of your company?
Make sure to include behavioral questions to assess their soft skills:
11. How did the candidate deal with challenges and conflicts in the workplace?
12. Would you say that the candidate helped cultivate a positive culture in the workplace?
13. Did the candidate work well as part of a team? Can you provide any examples of how they conducted themselves in a team setting?
14. How well did the candidate accept feedback?
15. Did the candidate show reliability with working under pressure and meeting deadlines?
16. Did the candidate take on any leadership positions or display leadership potential within your organization?
17. How did the candidate demonstrate dependability, trustworthiness, and integrity?
Leave time at the end of the reference check for exit questions:
18. Can you share any instances where the candidate showed remarkable growth or development during their time working for you?
19. Why did the candidate leave the company?
20. Would you rehire this candidate?
Make sure to also leave time to ask the reference if they have any additional feedback about the candidate before wrapping up your time with them. Post-reference check, you might also consider using additional assessment tools before offering the candidate the job position. For example, some businesses run BarOn Emotional intelligence testing or personality testing as an addendum to the interview and reference process. But you may find that the twenty questions above provide enough perspective on the candidate’s suitability for the position that you can skip additional testing and make a job offer right away.
Hire more efficiently with Vitay
Vitay gives recruiters and staffing firms the ability to request a reference check in just 60 seconds. Vitay’s user-friendly reference-checking platform allows users to send reference requests, receive and store reference responses, and access detailed analytics and insights about each candidate. Plus, Vitay’s customized question sets let hiring teams tailor reference checks to the specific positions they’re hiring for.
Rather than spending valuable time phoning or emailing references to set up in-person meetings, HR teams can send a request to each reference that can then be completed on the reference’s own time, making it easy to get feedback faster. Here are a few other features that Vitay provides that set it apart from other reference check companies:
Email and Text Notifications
Not only are references able to fill out their requests on both desktop and mobile devices, but they can also receive notifications from Vitay via both text and email, enabling faster communication.
Multi-Point Fraud Detection
Vitay employs an advanced fraud algorithm to catch suspicious activity and prevent reference check fraud through tracking. Our system monitors IP addresses, browsers, locations, devices, and timestamps to ensure candidate integrity.
Organizations can easily compare potential hires using Vitay’s candidate analytics, which provides HR teams with a detailed reference report PDF that summarizes the candidate and rates their job-specific skills and reference feedback.
Client and Candidate Sourcing
Businesses can automatically compile candidates and referrals into a talent channel to passively source new potential for future hiring. Vitay helps organizations to expand their talent pool effortlessly, saving time and money in the long run when it comes to finding new qualified hires.
Vitay’s ease of use, quality customer support, and affordability empower businesses of all sizes to make better hiring choices faster. The Vitay platform helps businesses attain reference checks 95% faster, with access to 65% more candidate data and a response rate of 90%! You can learn more about switching to automated reference checking with Vitay here.
Reference checks help protect businesses from wasted time, wasted resources, and costly legal matters. They also assist with filling in the blanks between the resume and interview to offer a more well-rounded understanding of the qualities each job seeker has to offer. However, reference checking can be highly time-consuming, demanding hours weekly before the best candidate can be vetted and brought on. Instead of relegating the task of never-ending phone tags to your human resources team, choose Vitay and fully automate the reference checking process. Protect candidate and reference data with secure and compliant software like VITAY!