11 great reference-checking questions

November 3, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

When it comes to checking the references of a job applicant, a thorough job can help prevent a lot of problems down the line. With that in mind, anyone doing the checking wants to ask good questions.

During the 2014 Nonprofit Risk Summit, Melanie Lockwood Herman, executive director of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, said prospective employers can help themselves out a lot by asking, not good questions, but great questions. They take the process up to a higher level. Herman’s great reference-check questions:

  • Have you seen the applicant’s current resume?
  • May I read to you what it says were the person’s duties and accomplishments at your organization?
  • How well does the applicant relate to other people? Which employees does the person work best with: superiors, peers, subordinates?
  • Would you have any hesitation placing this applicant in a position of authority and trust with respect to (small children, vulnerable adults, large sums of money)?
  • What is your business relationship with the candidate and how long have you known this person?
  • Are there any roles or situations in which you would avoid placing the candidate?
  • If you could re-hire the applicant today, would you?
  • What comments, suggestions or advice would you have for the applicant’s new supervisor? Co-workers?
  • How did the applicant’s last performance review go? What strengths were noted? * What areas were identified as needing improvement?
  • Who else should I speak to about the applicant?