Ask These Questions to Get the Most Out of Employment Reference Calls 

One of the final steps before making a hiring decision is completing a candidate’s employment reference calls.  This critical task is important to confirm if what you’ve learned through the interview process is accurate.  And in some cases, making them can save you the mistake of making a bad hire. 

We always recommend speaking with at least three professional references that have worked with your candidate in a supervisory role.  Your ultimate goal in these conversations is not only to determine if the applicant was a good employee who is eligible for rehire, but also if they will be a good fit with your company culture and team environment.  Sometimes, an employment reference may offer you amazing insight into these areas without being asked, but in other situations, specific questions will be necessary.

Here are the questions to ask that will allow you to learn more about an individual’s work ethic and contributions. 

  1. How did this person foster and uphold the values of your company?
  2. How would you describe the dynamics of the team that this individual was on?
    • Where did he/she fit in?
    • What was his/her role?
    • What was the work pace?
    • How did he/she handle stress?
  3. How did this person handle multiple tasks and deadlines?
  4. How did this person interact with different levels of management?
  5. What promotions or achievements were earned during their time on the job?
  6. How proficient is this individual in the required skills or programs needed for the job?
  7. What was this individual’s weakness or area for improvement?
  8. What attributes would make this individual successful in the job you are hiring for?
  9. If you had the opportunity, would you hire them back?

We recommend that you prepare a blank questionnaire for you to take notes on during each of your individual calls. This will allow you to look back and compare your notes. After you’ve completed all three of your employment reference calls, you should be able to make an informed decision about your candidate.