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Important questions to ask applicant references

Veronica C. | May 24, 2012

After you’ve reviewed an applicant’s resume, corresponded via email and sat down for an initial interview, your next step as a hiring manager is typically to check and consult with listed references. This is a vital aspect of conducting a background check for premium entry level jobs and paid internships at your organization, as it ensures that the interviewee didn’t lie or significantly bend the truth on the job application. Whether you speak to these references over the phone or by email, here are some tips on important questions you should be asking.

How do you know the candidate?
This might seem like an obvious question, but it’s a necessary starting point to confirm how truthful the candidate was being during an interview. Based on the response, you can verify the nature of their professional relationship while also getting some specifics about how long the candidate was employed, what his title was and how he fit into the organization’s larger structure.

What were the candidate’s responsibilities?
This next line of questioning delves into the nature of the candidate’s past work. While you could receive a very similar story that the interviewee gave you during your meeting, it’s also good to hear a supervisor or manager describe these duties in their own terms. This will allow you to see if the applicant was exaggerating his or her contributions in an effort to seem more qualified for the next professional opportunity. 

Do you have any further information that I should consider?
Toward the end of your discussion, it helps to ask this type of general question to allow the reference to speak freely about the person in question. If the candidate is suitable and responsible, you’ll likely hear further proof of his or her work ethic and ambition. However, you may also discover pitfalls in the candidate’s conduct and performance that stuck out in the employer’s mind, which can help you eliminate an unworthy applicant.

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Category: Employers

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