Insights to help you build an extraordinary team.
Most references will not intentionally give you negative information. Yet, when you are considering hiring someone onto your team, the candid feedback of people who have worked with the candidate is one of the most valuable sources of pre-hire insight.
How do you get this candid feedback? By asking questions that give the reference permission to share candidly without putting themselves in the position of saying something that can be perceived as directly negative or critical.
I always start by asking questions that invite the reference to speak positively about the candidate, before asking those few questions that may potentially be less comfortable for the reference to answer.
Here are some of the questions I ask in reference interviews that seem to elicit candid responses:
My new favorite reference question generally comes at the end and the response to this question supersedes anything else the reference may have said about the candidate:
Depending on whether I have time, I may ask one or both of the following:
These last two questions generally elicit little more than a chuckle – but the few times the questions have been answered, the information has been crucial.
What is one especially effective reference question that you always ask?
Note: I wish I could claim credit for all these questions. I’ve borrowed along the way, in particular from my previous employer The Dingman Company. The “new favorite” is borrowed from Scott Cook, Co-founder of Intuit.