Questions to Ask When Checking a Candidate's References | CPS, Inc


Here’s a startling reality of hiring today: Over half of employees report lying on their resume. One 2023 survey showed that 70% of job seekers admit to fudging some of the data on their resumes. It’s a good argument for human resource (HR) teams that believe checking references is a time waster. Making a reference check a standard part of hiring due diligence is just another way to check all the boxes, hopefully ferreting out the candidates who aren’t a fit from the ones that are. But what questions should you ask?

What Should You Ask When Checking a Candidate’s References?

Reference Checking 101

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has this to say about checking references:
Candidates can display certain characteristics about themselves during an interview that don’t reflect what they’re like on the job. In fact, if you’re not looking at the reference-checking process as round two of the interviewing process, you’re likely assuming a lot more liability than necessary and leaving much to chance about the candidate’s performance, productivity and conduct. 

Checking references is another way for employers to lessen the risk of hiring. While it may seem like an unnecessary step, it’s just one more chance to get a sense of who you’re hiring. While the numbers vary, there’s no question the cost of a bad hire is substantial. Why would you discard any process that might lessen the chance of a hiring mistake?

When checking a candidate’s references, it’s important to ask questions that provide insight into the candidate’s skills, work ethic, and character. Here are some questions you might consider asking:

  1. Can you confirm the candidate’s employment dates and job title?
  2. How would you describe the candidate’s job responsibilities and duties?
  3. What were the candidate’s major accomplishments or contributions with your company?
  4. How did the candidate perform in terms of meeting deadlines and achieving goals?
  5. Can you comment on the candidate’s teamwork and collaboration skills?
  6. What was the candidate’s relationship with their colleagues and supervisors?
  7. Did the candidate demonstrate strong problem-solving and decision-making abilities?
  8. How did the candidate handle challenges or conflicts in the workplace?
  9. Can you speak to the candidate’s verbal and written communication skills?
  10. Did the candidate show initiative or take on additional responsibilities beyond their job description?
  11. How would you rate the candidate’s overall performance during their tenure with your company?
  12. Would you rehire the candidate if given the opportunity?
  13. Is there anything else you think we should know about the candidate?

These questions help you understand the candidate’s past performance and suitability for the position. Remember to listen carefully to the reference’s responses and ask follow-up questions.

Improve Your Hiring with CPS

Like checking references, partnering with a full-service staffing firm like CPS helps employers lessen their hiring risk. Our recruitment services save time, freeing up HR teams for high-value tasks that improve the employee experience. Talk with our team today about how our best practices could help meet your hiring goals.

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