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How to get the inside scoop from applicant references

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in Hiring,Human Resources

Having a list of applicants' references won't do you any good unless you can get those people to open up. Don't know where to begin? Here are a few questions for starters:


  • Is she eligible to be rehired? If not, is this because your company has a general policy on rehiring employees, or is there another reason?
  • Would you enthusiastically recommend her?
  • How would you compare her work habits with those of her co-workers?
  • What do you think would be an ideal job for her?
  • Did she function better at your company working alone or as part of a team?
  • What, if anything, distinguishes her from others doing the same type of job?
  • What can we expect from her if she works for us?
  • What were her primary job responsibilities?
  • During the course of her employment, who were her direct supervisors? (Provides additional references.)If you're having a tough time inducing former employers to cooperate use these three tactics:
  1. Obtain written permission from the applicant. Have applicants sign the form as part of their application. Offer to fax a copy of that permission to anyone who's reluctant to answer your inquiries.
  2. Promise former employers that their answers are confidential. Even with a copy of the permission form, some people will still be skittish about giving references in fear of a lawsuit. Promise to keep the answers confidential and stick to the facts. For example, ask "Can you give me an example of a problem he solved?" rather than "Was he creative?" You'll get the same insight without soliciting an opinion.
  3. Give the task to the applicant. If you're running into brick walls, have the applicant call his former employers and ask them to talk with you. His call may alleviate their fears about defamation and give you a clearer picture of how much he wants the job.

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