Checking job or employment references is time-consuming and frequently unsatisfactory, as many employers, despite recent legislation, refuse to offer more than dates of employment, salary history and job title. Secondly, if you’re not careful, each reference check can turn into a friendly chat during which you don’t obtain the information you need to make an objective decision about hiring your candidate.
As with most Human Resources processes, a standard reference checking format is useful. You can easily compare candidates and ensure you are asking the “right” questions to make an educated decision before offering the applicant a job with your company.
I don’t check references until we are ready to make an offer to a candidate. This saves staff time and demonstrates our respect for the candidate. After all, you don’t know whether his current employer or her favorite professor even knows. That he or she is looking for a new position. (I prefer candidates who tell their employer, but realize this isn’t always possible, or even desirable.)
Here is the format use to check references.
(Verify that the candidate’s reference checking permission signature is on your employment application before starting the interview.)
Dates of Employment:From:____________________To:_____________________
Starting Position: ________________________Ending: ___________________
Starting Salary: _________________________Ending: ___________________
What does your company do?
Please describe your reporting relationship with the candidate? If none, in what capacity did you observe the candidate’s work?
Reason for Leaving:
Please describe the key responsibilities of the candidate in his/her most recent position.
How many reporting staff did the candidate manage? Their roles?
Tell me about the candidate’s most important contributions to the achievement of your organization’s mission and goals.
Describe the candidate’s relationships with his/her coworkers, reporting staff (if applicable), and supervisors.
Talk about the attitude and outlook the candidate brought to the workplace.
Describe the candidate’s productivity, commitment to quality and customer orientation.
What are the candidate’s most significant strengths?
What are the candidate’s most significant weaknesses?
What is your overall assessment of the candidate?
We are hiring this candidate to (job title or quick description). Would you recommend him/herfor this position? Why or why not?
Would you rehire this individual? Why or why not?
Are there additional comments you’d like to make? Is there a question I should ask that I may have missed?