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What do I ask a candidate's reference?
Insights From Mettl Company Insights

  • Why is it important to speak with a candidate's references?

With increase in seniority of the role, the key elements of a candidate’s personality that make him/her successful become speculative. So references start to play a pivotal role in measuring the true skills and impact of the candidate.


  • What are 2-3 questions you recommend recruiters ask references, and why?

Although, assessments have become a friend to the recruiters, for they can easily depict various aspects of the candidate, be it cognitive skills, technical skills or even personality which could ensure the candidate’s fitment into the organization. Yet there are some aspects where the reference check proves a blow to the decision. Below mentioned are the aspects in increasing order of their correctness through references.


  • Work Ethics & Integrity

A face-to-face interview with the candidate would not be enough to gauge his/her motivation and dedication towards the job. Seeking insights from the references aids in providing the best picture.

  • Overall Behaviour

Recruiters, nowadays incorporate a comprehensive psychometric test in their hiring process which depicts the behavior of the candidate. In addition, reference checks could give the impression of how the candidate treats his juniors , co-workers or for that matter, their seniors.

  • Growth Trajectory

Consulting references regarding the candidate’s growth patterns validates results obtained through interviews and adds value to the hiring decision.


  • Is it okay to reach out to a "backdoor reference" -- aka, someone who you know worked with the candidate but is not officially listed as a reference?

There are cases where candidates probably nominate the references from their work history, with whom they might be more compatible and that is totally agreeable. In my opinion, reaching out to a ‘backdoor reference’ is totally okay but should be considered as a pinch of salt and should not affect your decision at a greater extent.


  • What topics or questions should be off limits for references?

Asking references the questions related to candidate’s personal space is totally off limits. Especially, the questions regarding future goals which the candidate has voluntarily shared with some trust and confidence. Well, develop-relationship-and-ask might be the approach to these cases.


  • What’s the wait?

Now that you know what  needs to be done, go and execute it well, keeping all the tips in mind and confirm your candidate's honesty.


Topics: Human Resource

Originally published August 21 2018,updated June 29 2019

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