What Typical Reference Check Questions Should I Be Ready to Answer?


What are a few typical reference check questions that job seekers should prepare to answer before they go in for an interview?

Question: On what dates did this person work for the company?
Purpose of This Question: This question is a quick check of your resume. Are you lying about working somewhere or about the duration of employment? How long were you employed by the company, and when did you leave?

9463888_sQuestion: What duties did this person perform at the company?
Purpose of This Question: The answer to this question confirms the actual tasks you did at the job. If you've inflated your job title and responsibilities, this question will reveal the deception.
Employers may also ask if the person was qualified for the position they held or what positions the prior employer thinks the person is qualified to hold. Potential employers often ask how employers did in reference to specific job duties, such as accounts payable or UNIX administration.

Question: What was this individual's starting salary? What was this person's ending salary?
Purpose of This Question: Employers would like to know what you were paid to determine the salary they should offer you. Unfortunately, if you've been underpaid due to poor employer practices or reluctance to request a raise, you'll have to fight harder to get a higher pay rate if your prior employer admits how little you were paid.

Question: Was this person reliable and honest? Did he or she have attendance problems?
Purpose of This Question: All employers want reliable and honest employers. Some employers refuse to answer this question due to the risk of lawsuits by those they let go. However, employers are not liable for defamation if what they say is backed up by employment records, disciplinary records and legal documentation.

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Question: How well did this person get along with coworkers? How well did this person get along with customers?
Purpose of This Question: This question is intended to determine how well you would fit in with the organization. Regardless of your certifications and education, those with poor people skills are not a good fit with a customer service position or working with large groups.
Employers could also ask if someone is a team player or works best alone. If the job position demands an extrovert, an introvert will not meet expectations. Positions that call for long hours on site or working alone may drive extroverts to diversion and idle chatter. Employers ask these questions to determine if the candidate is a fit for the position.

Question: Can you tell me about this candidate? What are this individual's strengths and weaknesses?
Purpose of This Question: Candidates aim to present their best side to potential employers. Asking these questions of prior employers gives the hiring manager the whole picture.

Question: How do you know this candidate?
Purpose of This Question: Employers want to vet the reference. Was this reference a supervisor of the candidate, or was the reference merely a coworker?

Question: Why did the person leave the position?
Purpose of This Question: Potential employers want to know if someone was fired due to incompetence, quit out of anger or was let go as part of a mass layoff. Potential employers want to know if candidates were terminated for behavior which they themselves would not tolerate.

Question: If you had the opportunity, would you rehire this person?
Purpose of This Question: If your prior employer would not rehire you, this gives the potential employer reason to question why they should hire you. However, there are companies that will not do more than verify dates of employment, job titles held and pay rates to avoid the liability of an angry manager defaming someone and preventing the person from getting another job after laying them off.

Word of Warning:

Answering the typical reference check questions can be a delicate matter. It is inappropriate to discuss someone's medical history when admitting they needed to take time off due to illness. Those answering reference check questions should not discuss a former employee's religious beliefs or political beliefs, even if those beliefs caused conflict with a former coworker or necessitated time off on holy days.

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About The Author

Yves Lermusi (aka Lermusiaux) is CEO & co-founder of Checkster. Mr. Lermusi is a well known public speaker and a Career and Talent industry commentator. He is often quoted in the leading business media worldwide, including Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Business Week, and Time Magazine. His articles and commentary are published regularly in online publications and business magazines. Mr. Lermusi was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the Recruiting Industry” and his blog has been recognized as the best third party blog.