Develop the Skill of Interviewing References
March 28th, 2017
Once you narrow down the references to contact about potential job hires, you need to make the calls or reserve the table for lunch.
When conducting the discussions, stay away from potential discrimination traps. For example, don’t discuss marital status, age, handicaps, religion or other hot spots. Limit the conversation to job-related matters. That said, here are some tips to help get the most information possible from references:
Warm them up. People are more cooperative in an enjoyable conversation, so don’t put the reference on the defensive, Briefly warm-up the discussion with small talk. When you get down to business, first ask the reference about the candidate’s positive qualities. Often, the reference will then voluntarily shift to the more sensitive subject of the candidate’s weaknesses.
Watch and listen. Good interviewers also observe body language. Even on the telephone when you can’t watch eyebrows lifting or eyes turning, you can still detect whether someone is speaking enthusiastically or hesitantly about a candidate.
Handle hard cases with care. Of course, you will run into references who are difficult to talk to. Some of these people are worried about legal action and others only make general statements. When you run into these references, ask for specific examples of behaviour.
Try to talk with more than one reference. When several people give you similar information about an applicant, you reduce the liability risk. And you get a more accurate picture of the applicant. A couple more tips:
Save valuable time. Use background check specialists to interview applicant references and check out applicant credentials. Turn over these time-consuming tasks to a professional background check service.
Keep confidential the information a reference entrusts to you. When you discuss a reference’s comments with a candidate or other people, you increase your liability. You may want to consult with your lawyer or human resources specialist to find out what questions you can ask.
Plan Your Interview
Before you begin talking with a reference, draft a list of questions you want to ask. This list should include specific questions about an individual candidate and questions asked about all candidates.
Common questions include:
- Dates of employment.
- Position or title.
- Earnings. Bonuses or incentive pay.
- Job duties.
- Strengths and weaknesses.
- Supervisory skills.
- Ability to work independently.
- Ability to interact well with others.
- Capacity to make creative suggestions on how to improve the job and organization