If you've gotten through a bulk of the candidate search process and whittled the field of candidates down from dozens to just two or three, it's time to start calling their references. Of course, your mileage may vary when it comes to the conversations you have with those people, depending upon their relationships with the candidates and how much they know of the person's recent professional history.
The following five questions could help you uncover a little more in these conversations than you otherwise might:
1) "How reliable is this person?"
This question may often be overlooked but at the end of the day, it gets to what the hiring process is all about, according to Glassdoor. People who come to the job prepared and can be counted upon to do their work without a lot of hand-holding or guidance are typically the best ones to hire, so asking the reference what you can expect in terms of dependability is a great opening query.
2) "Can you recall one of this person's accomplishment that stands out above the rest?"
A candidate can tell you all about the things they've accomplished on the job, or areas where they've fallen short, but they're also a potentially unreliable narrator who has good reason to downplay challenges and inflate their success, Glassdoor added. Getting some details from a more impartial observer about the achievements they mentioned, or even some they haven't, could be a good way to get to the heart of what the candidate brings to the table.
3) "Why is this person the right fit for this job?"
If you outline a number of details about the job the candidate is eligible for, and give the reference a little more insight into what's needed from the ideal employee, this question can be particularly illuminating, according to Workbright. Someone with years of experience in the industry may be able to give deep, specific insights into how the candidate's strengths specifically tie into this position.
4) "What support do you think this person might need early on?"
Every prospective hire has strengths and weaknesses, so if you follow up the previous question with this one, you'll get a better idea of the other side of the coin, according to LinkedIn. While they may be a great candidate in many ways, no one is perfect, and getting an idea of the areas where you can actively support and otherwise great hire as they ramp up their work is always a great idea.
5) "How would you rate this person's communication skills?"
The ability of any employee to talk with supervisors, coworkers and professional contacts outside the company is perhaps the most critical skill of all, so you need to know what you're getting into, LinkedIn noted. Consequently, asking for an assessment of any candidate's ability to effectively communicate could show areas that might be a problem in the long run - or a huge advantage that puts a potential hire over the top.
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