Candidate reference checks are a critical part of the hiring processEight out of 10 recruiters use them to learn more about candidates and ensure that the job seeker is the right fit.

However, if you aren’t asking the right questions when you talk to a candidate’s references, you might be missing out on critical information. References are a tool that can help you avoid making a bad hire, a mistake that could cost you upwards of $250,000.

Since most references won’t divulge certain details without being prompted, the questions you ask can make a significant difference regarding what you learn. If you want to make sure that you can gather the right information, here are five questions you need to ask every candidate’s references.

1) Why Did the Candidate Leave Your/the Company?

Asking this question allows you to fact-check the candidate. Since finding out why the job seeker left their previous position is a standard for most interviews, this enables you to make sure that they were honest with their answer.

Additionally, it isn’t uncommon for candidates to be vague if they didn’t leave on positive terms. So, by discussing the departure with a reference, you might get a clearer picture of what happened.

2) Can You Describe a Time When the Candidate Went Above and Beyond?

In many cases, an example is more informative than if you ask a reference for an opinion. They will have to recount the scenario and might reveal details about what motivates the job seeker to exceed expectations.

If the reference isn’t able to provide an example, that could be considered a red flag. While the candidate might have met expectations while in the role, this could indicate that they don’t do more than is asked of them. That might suggest that the candidate isn’t passionate about their field or motivated to exceed expectations, both of which may be troublesome.

3) How Does the Candidate Work in a Team? What Role in a Team Do They Fulfill?

At some point, nearly all jobs require a degree of teamwork. By finding out how the candidate performs in group situations, you can find out if they’d mesh well with your other employees.

Additionally, by asking what role they usually fulfill, you might learn some additional details. Is the candidate a leader or a follower? Do they enjoy planning, or are they all about executing the plan? Every team is comprised of a few archetypes. By learning which one the candidate tends to fall into, you can see if they are a good fit based on the other personalities that are present in their workgroup.

4) Are There Areas Where the Candidate Needs to Improve? How Would They Respond to Constructive Criticism About That Shortcoming?

This question enables you to find out about the candidate’s weaknesses as well as how they deal with negative feedback and actionable guidance. Most job seekers aren’t overly open about their shortcomings, so this question allows you to learn more about a topic the candidate may avoid.

Additionally, a job seeker will usually say that they are open to constructive criticism, even if that isn’t the case. The second part of this question ensures you get a realistic look at how they may respond should the need for negative feedback arise.

5) Would You Rehire This Candidate?

This question can be incredibly revealing. If the reference says “yes,” you can find out more about what the candidate brings to the table that makes them say that. If they say “no,” you can ask why. In some cases, the reasons aren’t negative, such as a company policy that forbids all rehiring.

However, if there is a reason, that can be critical information. Even if the reference can’t discuss it in detail, it may still be enough of a red flag that you would want to only proceed with caution.

By asking the above five questions when checking a candidate’s references, you can gather critical insights that can support a wiser hiring decision. If you’d like to learn more, the professionals at Cloutera can help. Contact us to speak with one of our recruitment specialists today and see how our hiring expertise can benefit you.

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