Reference Check Interview: A Checklist

Table of Contents

    A reference check is the simplest yet most thorough type of validation for professionals. This entails recruiters checking up on applicants’ references. These could be a previous boss, workplace or former colleague.

    Recruiters should ask queries that would help them find more details about an applicant. This can help them make informed hiring decisions. The goal of reference checking differs from company to company. So does the significance that is assigned to the entire process.

    It is recommended to talk to at least three references for each applicant. Here’s what to expect from an applicant:

    • Names of at least 2 to 3 references, or as specified by the company.

    • E-mails or letters from references about the candidate’s work experience at the company. They should also provide a few lines about the candidate’s character and abilities.

    Reference check interview questions for HRs

    A reference check interview is usually the final stage of the screening process. If an applicant makes it to this point, it is most likely that the company is positive about hiring the person. However, a few phone calls to references can make a huge difference. Especially, if the applicant has fabricated few work experience details.

    Reference checks are essential to validate the final application for the following reasons:

    • Determine if the applicant is truthful in their application.
    • Find out about their personality traits.
    • Find out about their performance at work.
    • Find out how they work in the company’s culture and interact with colleagues.
    • Find out if they have got the required skills for the job.

    These are some common questions asked in reference check interviews:

    • Can the candidate suggest someone the recruiter could speak to as well?
    • Define the candidate’s performance at work.
    • Why did the candidate decide to quit this job?

    Reference check interview questions based on behavior

    • What drives the applicant to perform at a high level in their job?
      The reference’s response to this can prove very crucial for HRs. This can help create an environment that is most suitable for the applicant to work productively. This is a query that wouldn’t just help in the hiring process but also the future of the applicant, as an employee, at the company. It will provide information on how to keep the employee engaged and motivated, which is a major issue for many employers.
    • What aspects of their culture did the candidate show?
      HRs should check whether the candidate is an active member of a company’s cultural group or the employee resource groups. This can help the recruiter determine the direction that the candidate will take in their company’s cultural context. They may also use this data to highlight specific aspects of their cultural background during the offer phase.
    • How was it having the candidate as their employee?
      HRs should ask a reference about the candidate’s performance as an employee to gain a better understanding of how the candidate has handled challenges in the workplace. Also, how they have worked to achieve their goals and objectives. This data can be used to assess the candidate’s potential for success in the role. Also, to determine whether they have the skills and experience needed to excel in the position.
    • Do they think the person has the right attitude for the job?
      The reference has previously worked with the candidate. They have more information about the candidate’s attitude toward the job. HR professionals need to straightforwardly inquire about the opinion of the reference, regarding the candidate’s potential for work. HRs should inquire about the possibilities of the candidate’s career prospects based on their knowledge of the company and openings for jobs.
    • How was the candidate’s work ethic?
      This type of question will reveal more about the applicant’s attitude to work and commitment to the project. Find out instances where the reference observed the applicant working tirelessly on a task or project and how the results of the project turned out. Knowing how hard a person works on their projects could be a good indicator of the level of performance they will deliver at the new organization.

    Reference check interview questions based on work experience

    • What type of work was assigned to the applicant?
      The reason for asking this question is to confirm the work experience mentioned in the applicant’s resume. This question also determines whether the applicant handled all tasks assigned to them. HRs’ judgment and hiring procedures should be based on the responses they get.
    • How was the performance of the candidate?
      This is among the most important inquiries that the recruiter could ask in the course of the verification of references. It will help them determine whether they are a suitable candidate for their company. It also determines if they have committed any crimes that might hinder their capacity to contribute fully to the company. Take note of how they did when compared to others in the same position.
    • How reliable was the candidate’s performance to complete tasks in a timely and precise manner?
      Employees who are engaged are more likely to stay at the top of their work and finish their work on time while maintaining a high standard. The answer to this question by references is also an indication of the reliability of the candidate applying for the job. By asking this question, HRs can gain insight into how candidates have performed in their previous roles. Also, how well they have been able to meet the expectations of their managers and colleagues. This can help HRs decide whether the candidate has the skills and work experience needed to be successful in the role and can help identify potential areas for improvement.
    • Did the candidate switch roles within their company? What role did they take on?
      With this response, the recruiter will get an idea of the way the applicant’s career has developed and the abilities they have acquired throughout their professional journey. If the applicant has moved within the company and was promoted laterally or upwardly, it would be a good sign. It would mean that the applicant was a top performer and highly valued by the previous employer.
    • In what areas does the candidate need improvement?

    When HRs conduct a reference check, they want to confirm the candidate’s skills, work experience, and overall suitability for the job.

    By asking this question, HRs can gain a more complete picture of the candidate’s abilities and areas for growth. This information can be used to decide whether the candidate is a good fit for the role. Recruiters should identify any areas where the candidates may need additional support or training.

    With this question, HRs verify the candidate’s self-assessment and compare it with the views of others who have worked with the candidate in the past. It can also reveal how the candidate has addressed or improved upon areas of weakness in the past, which can provide insight into their ability to learn and grow on the job.

    Personality-based Reference Check interview questions

    • Did the applicant have any notable accomplishments during their time of employment?
      Asking this question could check two boxes. One is to confirm the applicant’s information. The other provides the recruiter with the chance to gauge the reference’s response. An enthusiastic tone could signify how valued the applicant was during their time at the company. An official response could mean otherwise. It can help HRs learn more about the strengths and abilities that a candidate has. Especially, if the candidate is an introvert or a nervous person who has struggled to present themselves in an interview.
    • What are the applicant’s most important strengths?
      Answers to this query allow HRs to measure their impressions of the resume versus reactions from the people the applicant worked with. A recruiter can also compare interview transcripts and work samples to first-hand accounts of the references. These answers can also help HRs observe whether the response is in line with the applicant’s self-assessment. This may give a hint about their self-awareness, allowing the recruiter to understand the applicant better.
    • Was the applicant a good listener and speaker?
      It is useful to gauge the applicant’s soft skills. Being a good listener or speaker determines if the applicant is a capable team leader or a good team worker. If a reference mentions that the candidate is a skilled communicator, it is prudent to inquire about instances when this was evident. The same goes for listening skills. Each time a recruiter requests particular examples, they are also testing how well the reference knows the applicant. Naturally, the recruiter can switch the soft skills depending on what they feel is more important for the job.
    • Would they consider hiring this person again?
      This is a great question as it will tell HRs precisely what they need to be aware of while hiring the applicant. These simple yes/no questions will tell them just as many things as open-ended questions. However, they require clarification. So depending on the one-worded response, HRs should ask for a further explanation. Each company values different skills and work ethics. While some prefer a friendly work environment, some prefer a more formal one. An applicant’s temperament can be more suitable for one company than another. The same goes for skills.
    • Can they briefly talk about the candidate’s skills?
      If HRs are speaking to the candidate’s manager or an HR specialist, then they ought to have a clear understanding of the performance review they received. It is not easy to recall certain projects of the candidate and therefore skills help in reflecting on the candidate’s work at various phases of their career with the company.
      HRs should be aware that the references may not have the answer to this query immediately. They should therefore be contacted earlier, either by the recruiter or the applicant.

    To sum it up

    At the end of the day, a reference check interview could determine the chances of a candidate being hired. If HRs plan to run reference tests, they must be sure to have guidelines or procedures to control the process and ensure the same.

    Reference checks are essential to any hiring process and should be conducted alongside background checks for employees. However, employers should make sure they are focusing on the character of their employees, work ethic and accomplishments, which are essential for those who hold high-level posts within their company.

    A thorough reference check interview will make sure that the new employee is a good fit with the company. This will also prevent any problems in the future. The recruiter should avoid speeding through the process to find the perfect candidate for each job.

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