You can conduct interviews, assessments and run a background investigation, but reference checks are the only way to confirm your conclusions and get the real scoop on prospective employees.
Former managers and peers have first hand knowledge of a candidate’s assets and liabilities and they'll tell you everything you need to know, once you get them talking.
Figure out what you want to know and create a short list of open-ended questions to illicit the information. Remember, it's better to ask two or three questions and listen intently to the manager's answers then run through a checklist of closed-ended questions.
Break the Ice
Ease into the conversation and build trust by verifying critical information on the candidate’s resume or application and since there’s no point in continuing the conversation if you uncover major fabrications.
Once you verify a few facts segue to an open-ended question for instance, after verifying an applicant’s substantial list of technical tasks, ask how he was able to master so many different technologies and diverse responsibilities. Once the manager starts talking, it should be easy to ask the rest of your questions. Listen carefully to his answers and be sure to ask follow-up questions if the manager hesitates or seems to hedge his response.
If the manager absolutely refuses to talk due to company policy, read him the job description and ask if he would hire the candidate for the position. You may be able to ask why, but even if he refuses to elaborate, his short answer may tell you whether to make an offer or keep looking.
Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a business and careers writer based in Southern California. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the staffing industry and has been writing blog posts, sample resumes and providing sage career advice to the IT professionals in our Dice Community since 2006. Leslie has a bachelor’s degree in English and Journalism from the University of Southern California.
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