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Reference Checks

These questions fit in nicely with the last two contained in Part 5. It’s always important to gain insight into why a candidate left or is about to leave his current position. The responses to those questions and the ones below can often shed a whole new light on job performance that may not have been part of the responses to earlier questions, as the example below will dramatically show. Furthermore, by this time in the reference call a good measure of rapport should have been reached between you and the reference—by now it should be a cordial conversation, not just a sterile interview.

  1. Could first name have stayed if he’d wanted to?

Note: This question goes right to the heart of why first name left or is planning to leave—and just stops short of asking the more tactless question, “Was he fired/terminated?” Asking if somebody was fired usually tends to put references on the defensive and to be more guarded in their response. Asking if someone could have stayed isn’t nearly as threatening and it gets to the same point, just more tactfully.

  1. If you were hiring people, would you hire first name? And, if you would, what do you think the ideal job would be for him?

Note: This two-part question helps provide additional information about the candidate, again, in a non-threatening way. For example, we did a reference report on a candidate for an engineering position. When I got to this question, here’s the response I got:

“Sure, I’d hire him.”

“What position do you think he’d be best suited for if you could hire him?”

“I’d hire him as a janitor because he doesn’t know a thing about engineering.”

Wow! That was a totally unexpected response to part two of that question and led to a far more honest assessment of the candidate’s job performance than previously indicated. Admittedly, the responses to the earlier questions were a little lukewarm, but not nearly as forthcoming as the answer to the second part of this question. It also helped suggest how carefully I needed to listen in subsequent conversations with the candidate’s other references!