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3 Questions to Ask a Candidate’s References

thinking about questions

Companies lose an average of $14,900 on each bad hire from the previous year. Let that really sink in for a second. That’s a good chunk of change, no matter how you slice it.

As we all know, the top investment at most companies is people. Pumping that much money into hiring the right person means you can’t afford to make a mistake.

This is why your recruitment process needs to be spot on. Recruiters need to analyze everything — from the interview to the background check. Another crucial aspect of the recruitment process is checking a candidate’s references. This gives you insight into who you may be hiring from someone who’s actually worked with them in some capacity.

Of course, this is only effective if you ask the right questions. If you’ve done your research during the recruitment process and know what information you’re looking for — speaking with a candidate’s reference can be a huge help. Here are three great questions to ask when you make the call.

Why Did the Candidate Leave the Company?

The idea behind this question is to get some insight into why your candidate left their previous companies. Your goal here should be to understand the circumstances surrounding their departure.

This question can open up different avenues for you to ask about commitment and passion as well. If they left for a better position at another company, they’re likely actively trying to advance their career. If they left after a dispute with management, you need to identify what the root of that was.

Was it because they were challenging to work with? Was it something on the management side? A compensation dispute? These are the types of questions you have to find answers to. While you may never get the full scoop, you’re forcing your mind to consider the scenarios. With this information, you can determine whether your candidate’s story about leaving lines up with their reference.

How Did the Candidate Communicate with Their Team?

Every company wants a team player. Even if the work itself is more independent, having someone who interacts well with co-workers and can communicate difficult concepts and ideas is a huge benefit. It’s a dated notion that someone has to be in sales or marketing to be a brilliant communicator and, often, untrue.

Ask your candidate’s reference if they were a strong communicator with their team members. Did they take time to understand problem areas of their team and work to solve them? Were they open to constructive criticism when their message wasn’t coming across? If your candidate is a poor communicator, even in an autonomous role, they’ll probably have trouble as an active participant in important meetings and team huddles.

What Were Your Candidate’s Strengths and Weaknesses?

The answer to this question can offer you insight into how well-rounded your candidate actually is. As a recruiter, you’re trying to identify if those strengths and weaknesses align with the duties of the role the candidate is interviewing for.

If a reference says that the candidate has no weaknesses — they’re probably lying. Everyone has flaws, small or large. As long as it’s something you can work on strengthening with them — there’s no major issue. Of course, if the weaknesses far outweigh the strengths and the candidate has a track record of repeating their mistakes over and over, then they may be a liability.

Certn can help you find out everything you need to know about a candidate before calling their references. Sign up for a free account today!

About the author:

Andrew McLeod is a C3O of Certn, a leading global data company specializing in lightning fast background checks. In addition to running one of the fastest growing tech start-ups in Canada, he advises leaders on how to thrive in the current era of disruptive technological change and how to go from idea to $1M in ARR while “living the dream”. Andrew previously disrupted the rent payment space with RentMoola, pioneered Canadian online classifieds (2007 Exit) and was a Forbes 30 Under 30 Nominee. He holds a BBA and a Masters of International Business and Law.