(By Dan Simmons)

Reference checks on a potential hire can either be a routine matter to complete their file or a way to resolve any concerns that the hiring team might have.  It all comes down to your approach.  Below are examples of questions that can provide some insight.  The example questions are in bold type, and the explanation for each one is located directly below it.

  • “If you gave X an important project on Monday and it was due on Friday, when would you receive it?”

This will show a sense of urgency and follow-through.

  • “Does X delegate well or is delegating a challenge for him/her?  OR Would you say X empowers people or over-manages them?  Is empowering people a struggle for him/her?”  Follow up with, “How does X follow up with those reporting to him/her?”

Using these instead of the basic question of describing management style will help determine where the person fits on the micro/macro manager scale and how they hold people accountable.

  • “How would you describe X’s leadership style?  How does he/she engage and retain his/her team?”

Learn whether team turnover is an issue.  See how X communicates and if X develops people.

  • “X has many positive traits.  As X continues to develop his/her executive skills, what areas will be most difficult to master?”

No one wants to tell you that their buddy has weaknesses.  This rephrases the question and makes them think.

  • “How is X best managed?”

 See if you have a fit.  If X is a maverick and the hiring manager is a micro-manager, you’re hiring a problem.  The reverse is also true.

  • “Is there anything else you would like to tell me about X?”

 This open-ended question near the end of the conversation can lead to undiscovered skills, problem areas, or will be met with kind words.

  • “Do you feel this is a good time for X to make a job change and why?”

This question might reveal the real reason X is considering a job change, and it often reveals family issues that might be driving or will cancel the change.  If concerns arise, this provides you with a chance to address them before an offer is turned down.


Dan Simmons Bio

Dan SimmonsDaniel C. Simmons is a Certified Personnel Consultant who has been recruiting since 1991. Dan has won over twenty awards in the last decade with the Top Echelon Network, America’s leading placement network including Placer of the Year in 2009 & 2010.

Frequently Dan also is a recruiter trainer and has been featured at various Top Echelon Conventions and online as a speaker for various webinars. He has also been published in The Fordyce Letter the recruiting industry’s #1 magazine.

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