Checking references from previous employers
Hi, I’ve been reading your articles on hiring, and it helped a lot. I was wondering if you have any tips on what to ask when checking references from previous employers? I’m curious to know if there are things I would not have think about.
Thanks for posting your question on checking references. The most important question to ask is this:
Would you rehire this person if they applied to an open position that they were eligible for?
Many employers won’t answer more than this anyhow. Bigger firms will answer Yes/No to ‘eligible for rehire’. That’s all.
If the prior employer opens up, you can ask things like, “tell me what you liked most about working with this person,” “what was this person best at,” or “what kind of work ethic does this person have?” You may also want to know about their interpersonal work style or leadership skills — do they get along with others? are they well liked?
Be careful that you don’t ask questions that could get you in trouble — don’t ask about prior salary (illegal in some states), arrests (illegal in most states), sick time off (discriminatory and violates HIPPA and ADA). You can ask about attendance, timeliness, work performance and anything that will help you decide if the person is a good match for the skills and requirements of the job. Avoid any question that could be seen as discriminatory, such as marital status, whether they have kids, childcare issues, illnesses, where they live, and the like.
Here are three articles that may help you refine your reference checking!
Laura, SPHR, MAEd, HR Staff Writer