Reference check questions for employers: What you can and cannot ask

Reference check question

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Reference check questions for employers: What you can and cannot ask

Reference check question

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The process of hiring the right candidate for a position involves a series of steps, including reference checks. Conducting thorough reference checks is vital for obtaining a better understanding of a candidate’s work history, skills, and professionalism. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the importance of reference checks, the questions employers can and cannot ask, and best practices for conducting these checks.

Why reference checks are important?

Reference checks provide an opportunity for employers to:

  1. Verify information provided by the candidate.
  2. Gain insights into the candidate’s work habits, strengths, and weaknesses.
  3. Identify any potential red flags.
  4. Ensure a good fit within the company culture.
  5. Minimize the risk of negligent hiring claims.

Benefits of conducting reference checks

Reference checks offer several advantages to employers, including:

  1. Verifying a candidate’s previous job experience and accomplishments
  2. Ensuring the candidate possesses the necessary skills and qualifications for the position
  3. Gaining insights into a candidate’s work ethic and attitude
  4. Reducing the risk of hiring someone who may not be a good fit for the company culture
  5. Identifying potential red flags that may impact the candidate’s job performance

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Types of references

Typically, there are two main types of references: professional and personal. Professional references include former supervisors, coworkers, or subordinates who can speak to a candidate’s work experience and qualifications. Personal references are individuals who can provide insights into a candidate’s character, such as friends or mentors.

How to conduct a reference check?

When conducting a reference check, it’s essential to follow a systematic approach to ensure you gather accurate and relevant information.

Prepare your questions

Before contacting a reference, prepare a list of open-ended questions that focus on the candidate’s job performance, skills, work ethic, and cultural fit. This will help guide the conversation and ensure you gather the information necessary to make an informed decision.

Make the call

When contacting a reference, introduce yourself and explain the purpose of the call. Be respectful of the reference’s time and try to keep the conversation focused and concise.

Analyze the feedback

Once you’ve completed the reference check, analyze the information provided and consider how it aligns with your expectations for the candidate. Look for any inconsistencies or red flags that may warrant further investigation.

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Common reference check questions

Some common questions to ask during a reference check include:

  1. How long have you known the candidate, and in what capacity?
  2. Can you describe the candidate’s job responsibilities at your organization?
  3. How would you rate the candidate’s overall job performance?
  4. What are the candidate’s strengths and areas for improvement?
  5. Would you rehire the candidate if given the opportunity?

Red flags to watch out for

During a reference check, be on the lookout for red flags that may indicate potential issues with the candidate. These may include:

  1. Vague or evasive answers
  2. Hesitation to discuss the candidate’s job performance
  3. Inconsistencies between the reference’s feedback and the candidate’s resume or interview responses
  4. Negative comments about the candidate’s work ethic

Permissible reference check questions

When conducting a reference check, employers can ask the following questions:

  1. Duration and dates of employment: Confirm the candidate’s employment period with the reference.
  2. Job title and responsibilities: Ask about the candidate’s role, tasks, and duties to validate their experience.
  3. Work performance: Inquire about the candidate’s performance, including their ability to meet deadlines, manage projects, and work in a team.
  4. Strengths and areas for improvement: Seek insights on the candidate’s professional strengths, as well as areas they could improve.
  5. Attendance and punctuality: Ask about the candidate’s attendance record and punctuality.
  6. Reason for leaving: Inquire about the reasons the candidate left their previous position.
  7. Rehire eligibility: Determine if the reference would rehire the candidate and why.

Questions to avoid during reference checks

Employers should avoid questions that may violate anti-discrimination laws. These include questions related to:

  1. Age
  2. Race
  3. National origin
  4. Religion
  5. Gender or gender identity
  6. Sexual orientation
  7. Marital or family status
  8. Disability
  9. Genetic information

Best practices for conducting reference checks

Employers can maximize the effectiveness of reference checks by following these best practices:

  1. Prepare a list of relevant questions: Develop a list of job-related questions that comply with legal guidelines and focus on the candidate’s work experience.
  2. Verify the reference’s identity: Confirm the identity and relationship of the reference to the candidate before proceeding with the check.
  3. Be consistent: Use the same set of questions for all candidates to ensure a fair and consistent evaluation process.
  4. Document the conversation: Take detailed notes during the reference check and store them securely to comply with record-keeping requirements.
  5. Ask open-ended questions: Encourage the reference to provide more information by asking open-ended questions.
  6. Maintain confidentiality: Keep the information obtained during reference checks confidential and share it only with those involved in the hiring process.

Every stage in hiring process is critical for success

Reference check stage is a critical step of the process, at Emptor we encourage you to conduct a proper due diligence with automated background check and identity validation on your candidates to ensure that you are working with people you can trust.

Schedule a free demo so you can learn how you can perform automatic background checks in a matter of minutes.

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