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Reference Checks Are A Valuable Step In The Selection Process

“Would you hire this person again?” is probably the most common and most useless question asked in reference checks.  Almost every time the question is answered in the affirmative and provides little insight into the candidate’s work history. Most hiring


managers have made their decision to hire a candidate before reference checks and, if they do references at all, do them casually.




In fact, references are an important step in the selection process and should be conducted with as much concern as interviews.  Hiring managers should allot 20 to 30 minutes for the reference check call and at least that much time preparing.  The questions asked of the reference should be behavior based and tied to some concerns uncovered about the candidate.




No candidate is perfect; the job of the hiring manager is to find the candidate’s weaknesses and determine whether or not they can accept them.  What better way to understand this than by asking someone close to the candidate about their observations?  For example, if the hiring manager is concerned about a candidate’s ability to handle conflict, one of the questions they should ask is:


“Joe has made it very far in out selection process and we want to make sure we position him for success.  Like all of us I’m sure Joe does some things better than others.  We’d like to get your observation of some situations in which you observed Joe could use support and those times when it’s best to stay out of his way. Can you describe a situation in which Joe had conflicting opinions with a co-worker?  How did he react?  How did the situation turn out?”


Hiring managers must not be afraid to push for specifics and ask for other situations. References want their associate to succeed and often freely recount situations that will help managers position the candidate for success. These same recollections often help to decide whether to hire the candidate or not.


Empowered hiring managers use well constructed reference checks to make successful hires.



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