I have found that, aside from getting a pool of qualified candidates, reference checking is the most important part of making a good hire. Here’s how to do it according to Topgrading methodology:
What to ask
- In what context did you work with the person?
- What were the person’s biggest strengths? Please give me some examples.
- What were some of the person’s biggest areas for improvement back then? Please give me some examples.
- How would you rate their overall performance in that job (1-10).
- (Optional) The person mentioned that they struggled in that job with ____(e.g. hitting their gross margin targets); tell me more about that
Some do’s and don’ts
|Get numbers (e.g. What was revenue when you started? When you left? How much did you budget to spend on that system implementation—and what did it end up costing?||Do not accept vague answers (e.g. sales really took off! My boss and I had a difference of opinion. That job just did not work out).
|Talk about actual experiences in their life.||Do not ask about hypothetical situations|
|Listen and ask lots of follow-up questions.
|Don’t talk too much. Talk less than 20% of the time. Don’t “lead the witness.”|