OUR RESEARCH PROCESS
We solicited the advice of several leaders in recruiting to provide a guide to gathering useful information from a candidate’s referees.
Log the candidate name, target role(s), your name, and today’s date. ‘X’ is used below as a placeholder for the candidate’s name.
Thanks for taking the time to help me better understand X's history. Is this still a good time to talk?
Overlap & Relationship
Determine how much “data” the reference is likely to have in offering their assessment.
- When did you work with X and for how long?
- During that time, what were your respective roles?
- What was X responsible for?
Specific Professional Impact / Value
Triangulate aspects of the candidate’s work history (particularly the value they provided).
- What’s the best example of valuable impact that they created while you were working with them?
- What obstacles did they have to overcome to achieve that impact?
- What did they/their team learn in the process?
- Do you have a second example?
- How many colleagues have you worked with who occupied similar roles/did similar work?
- Where would you rank X overall in that list?
Behavior / Environment / Future Success
Learn more about what support the candidate is likely to need to be successful.
- Thinking about culture, team structure, process preferences [etc.], what kind of environment does X thrive in?
- How does X deal with ambiguity/conflict? Any specific examples?
- What one thing would most compromise X’s engagement with our mission/team?
- We’re thinking about hiring X to [describe role]. What should we be thinking about in ensuring their success?
Close the reference check by asking questions about the candidate’s work ethic/personality, as well as any additional candidates the referee might suggest:
- How eager would you be to work with X again?
- Is there anything else you think we should be aware of in considering X’s candidacy?
- We’re always looking for good people. Is there anyone else we should be considering?