By this point in the conversation, a respectable amount of rapport should have been established between the reference and the caller or his agents. The reference, in particular, should by now be very much at ease with the caller and the nature of the questions. Now is the time to explore some rather direct questions that are very important!
- “What was his reason for leaving?”
Rationale: This is a totally objective question that should be easy for the reference to answer. After all, there aren’t that many possible responses. Some of them include:
- He found another job.
- He was dissatisfied (for some reason) with his job here.
- He quit.
- He was terminated.
- I don’t know.
There can be other responses, but it’s likely that others will just be a variation on one of the above.
The next question—and one of the most important of all—to ask is:
- “Could he have stayed if he had wanted to?”
Rationale: This question really applies only to the first three bullet points listed above. If a reference doesn’t know why the candidate left, he’s probably not going to know whether or not he could have stayed! By the same token, being fired is pretty self-explanatory and doesn’t include the option to stay, or not. The first three questions do lend themselves to the follow-up question of whether or not the candidate could have stayed put, so the answer to this question provides more illumination.
The response, “He quit,” is often a dodge to avoid saying he was fired or terminated. How so? In many instances, a candidate is simply given a choice—resign or be fired.
The first response, “He found another job,” is also the perfect opportunity for the same follow-up question about whether the candidate could have stayed, or not. The second point, about the candidate not liking his job, obviously leads to a different follow-up question: “Why do you think he was dissatisfied?” There are hundreds, if not thousands, of possible responses to that question, and most can provide further insight.