Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Hiring: Reference Checks


Reference checks can be insightful when making a hiring decision but this step is sometimes overlooked.

Here are my notes for when I trained first time managers on hiring. To have it systematically conducted, we had to make a web form that the managers typed into!

  • As part of the job posting, make sure to ask candidates to submit their resume, salary history and requirement, 3 professional references that can be checked now (because usually references from the current job will not be available if the candidates do not want the current employer to know about the job hunt).
  • If the first face-to-face interview with the hiring manager goes well, check their reference before inviting them for the second interview (with the team)

Suggested Reference Questions

  1. How do you know the candidate? (in what capacity and for how long)
  2. Give 3 adjectives or phrases that describe the candidate
  3. If you have any concerns/questions you had from interviewing the candidate, frame them as questions for the reference, based on your interaction so far or what s/he submitted as part of the job application (e.g., if you suspect that the candidate seem to be inconsistent with the details s/he told you, you can ask for the reference’s account of the same story or ask about the candidate’s ability for recall and being able to summarize events to others).
  4. Ask for their advice: “If I were to be the candidate’s direct supervisor, what advise do you have for me to make sure that I am realizing his/her full potential?” (This question tends to reveal more than what’s his/her strength/weakness question.)
  5. Would you hire him/her? (count the pause they take, note the tone and any qualifiers they use).

It usually takes less than 30 minutes.


  • Check LinkedIn: who are they connected to? Make sure you ping any mutual colleagues in your circle.
  • Google their name
  • Check Facebook feed (and other social media outlets, such as Twitter)

Photo: Sculpture in Washington D.C.

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2016 by in Management and tagged , , , , , , .
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