Employment Reference Checks Screening Questions

You’ve done most of the legwork. You’ve developed a pool of candidates, held an initial discovery call, assessed the candidate’s application and invested time in interviewing them face to face. Now, it’s time to perform your employment reference checks.

Employment reference checks are the often glazed over part of the recruitment process. Resist the temptation to skip over this step – especially when recruiting leaders at the senior level. Asking yourself and previous employers employment reference questions during your checks can help determine whether the candidate is the best fit for your role.

Here are 7 employment screening questions to ask yourself and references during employment reference checks:

1. Verify Functional Expertise
The most simple of your employment screening questions, is the candidate capable of doing the work that will be asked of them? To find your answer, ask references to verify the skills and accomplishments your candidate has provided to you.

2. Values
Your interviewing and assessment process should have already ensured that everyone you’re doing reference checks for will fit your organizational culture. In other words, does the true nature, motivations and purpose of the candidate align with the values of your organization? Asking behavioral questions about the values of the candidate to references can reveal some incredible insight. Do the candidate’s energy and persistence go beyond reasons like money or status? Will the candidate be driven, goal-oriented, optimistic, and committed to the organization if hired?

3. Verify Exceptional Leadership Behaviors
Exceptional Leadership is rare. It is a unique combination of purpose & values alignment, modern functional expertise, and a proven track record of the 3 most in-demand leadership behaviors; 1.) Driving Results, 2.) Developing Others, and 3.) Learning Relentlessly. Your employment reference checks should include the verification that your candidate can drive results, develop others, and learns relentlessly.

4. Strengths
It’s time to verify what the candidate is really good at. Ask your references about the candidate’s biggest strengths. If your reference provides you with similar strengths to what the candidate provided, dig deeper to find out how that strength could be applied at your organization. If the reference doesn’t mention the strengths provided by the candidate, candidly ask the reference about the specific strength the candidate mentioned. If the reference balks at the strength, you may not have a self-aware candidate that has differing views from others.

5. Weaknesses
Self-aware leaders are confident and candid. They can realistically assess and talk about their weaknesses, often with a self-deprecating sense of humor. In your candidate assessment you should have already discussed and identified the weaknesses of the candidate. Now it’s time to discover any additional weaknesses of the candidate by asking references, “What are the weaknesses of the candidate?” If the reference provides the same weaknesses as the candidate provided, you have a self-aware candidate that is conscious about where they need the most help.

6. Ranking
After asking employment reference questions around Functional Expertise, Values, Behaviors, Strengths and Weaknesses, it’s time to develop a ranking for each candidate. Where are their gaps when compared to the opportunity? How does their personality fit with your organization? Are the purpose, values and functional expertise of the candidate consistent with your organizational DNA? Spend some time after conducting the employment reference checks to rank the candidate in each area before moving on to conduct another reference check.

7. Best Fit
Is the candidate a finalist? That’s what you’re ultimately determining after employment reference checks. You’ve done all you can – from assessing the candidate on paper to in person to their references – and your job now is to believe that the candidate is the absolute best fit for the role. If you can’t believe in the candidate, then you should pass. If you believe you’ve found your best candidate, make sure to pair your best fit with other candidates who are a “best fit” and have a candid discussion with all internal stakeholders who will be affected by the hire. Ask the internal stakeholders how they feel about the candidate to get a full 360 degree view on your hiring decision.

What screening questions do you ask during employment reference checks? Contact us to let us know how you differentiate your recruiting process to find the best candidates.

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