Sample Reference Questions

 

  • How well, and in what capacity, do you know the candidate?
  • What were the candidate’s dates of employment?
  • Is this a person you would hire if you had an open position? (Or, in other words: Is the candidate eligible for rehire?)
  • How would you describe the candidate’s work habits?
  • How much supervision does/did the candidate require?
  • How well does the candidate work, and interact, with people? (Supervisors, subordinates, peers, customers/clients)
  • Why is the candidate interested in other employment?
  • What were the candidate’s major accomplishments?
  • How would you describe the candidate’s work habits?
  • How would you describe the candidate’s communication skills?
  • How effectively does/did the candidate use his/her time?
  • What are the candidate’s work weaknesses?
  • Would you consider this individual to be honest?
  • Is this individual a team player?
  • How structured an environment would you say this individual needs to reach maximum potential?
  • Please comment on this person’s response to constructive criticism.
  • Does this individual typically adhere strictly to job duties, or does he/she assume responsibilities beyond the basic, written job description?
  • How does this individual handle interruptions, breaks in routine, and last- minute changes?
  • How would you rate this person’s commitment to project completion?
  • How would you grade this person’s capacity for analytical thinking and problem solving?
  • Does this individual need close supervision to excel, or does he/she take more of an autonomous, independent approach to her/his work?
  • How global of a perspective does he/she have? Do you see him/her eventually making the transition from a tactical and operational career path to the strategic level necessary for a career in senior management?
  • How would you grade this individual’s listening skills?
  • How effective is the candidate at delivering bad news?
  • Will he/she typically assume responsibility for things gone wrong?
  • How does this individual approach taking action without getting prior approval?
  • Is this person’s natural inclination to report to someone else for sign-off,or does she/he operate better with independent responsibility and authority?
  • Is this individual inclined to maintain smooth and amicable relations at all costs, or is she/he more likely to show his/her teeth when faced with adversity?
  • Please describe some of the candidate’s shortcomings.
  • When there was a particularly urgent assignment, what steps did the candidate take to get it done on time?
  • What are his/her leadership (or “value added”) strengths?
  • What were his/her leadership opportunities, if any?
  • Ability to work effectively with individuals at all levels, including government entities.
  • Will he/she typically assume responsibility for things gone wrong?
  • Please grade the individual’s capacity for initiative and taking action.
  • Is this candidate’s management style more autocratic and paternalistic or is it geared toward a more participative and consensus-building approach?
  • How effective is this person at orchestrating a corporate ensemble of functional areas?
  • Please address the candidate’s ability to cope with the significant pressures associated with senior management.
  • How does this individual deal with disciplining or dismissing employees?
  • Does the candidate stay open to all sides of an argument before reaching a decision, or does he/she get personally involved in conflicts?
  • Since none us is perfect at everything we do, please describe some of the candidate’s shortcomings.
  • Have you seen the candidate’s current resume? Let me read you the part that describes his/her job with your organization. (Stop at each significant point, and ask the reference for a comment.)
  • Who referred the candidate to your company? (It could have been a relative or a customer or client.)