7 Questions You Should be Asking Your Candidate’s References

By David Peterson, Managing Partner of Plastics and Flexible Packaging

You spent time and energy to post the ad, sort through resumes, interview, and run a background check. Before making your final hiring decision, contact your candidate’s references to ask a series of qualifying questions.

 A job applicant will cast themself in the best possible light to a potential employer. As a result, resumes and interviews can lack the details employers need to make their final decision. Most candidates are simply wanting to look good rather than concealing information. But reference checks help recruiters ensure they have the most accurate and complete picture of the candidate.

 Speaking with a reference helps you confirm the accuracy of your investigation and fill any gaps in the information you’ve collected during the interview process. Here are a few questions you should consider asking your candidate’s references to help you know whether he or she will be a good fit for your organization.

 1. What is your relation to the candidate?

This may seem like an obvious first question. But it’s important to know because a reference’s relationship to the candidate will impact the way they respond.

 2. Why did he or she leave your company?

This fact-checking question will help you uncover the true nature of your candidate’s departure. Applicants have a tendency to embellish or remove details surrounding the reason they left their previous employer.

 3. Can you provide an example of a time the candidate went above the call of duty?

Specific examples are often more informative than a reference’s personal opinion. The answer to this question will reveal what circumstances motivate your potential new employee.

 4. How does the candidate work in a team?

Almost every position will involve at least some amount of teamwork. Whether it’s working on a group project or general social situations, it’s good to know how the candidate relates to others.

 5. How would you feel working for the candidate?

This question will cause the reference to consider their relationship to the candidate and forces them to provide an unbiased answer. Be sure to phrase the question so that it requires an open-ended response.

 6. Would you rehire this candidate?

If the reference is willing to answer this question honestly, it can be very revealing as explained by Entrepreneur. If the response is no, ask why. It may not necessarily be for negative reasons.

 7. What areas did the candidate need to improve? And how did they respond to criticism?

You want to know both their strengths and weaknesses. Most applicants won’t voluntarily provide areas they still need improvement during the interview process. This two-part question not only makes you aware of the candidate’s weaknesses but also lets you know how they’ll handle future criticism.

 Finish the conversation by asking if there’s anything else you should know before hiring this candidate. This final open-ended question gives the reference a chance to explain anything they may have not thought of before.

 When talking with the reference, avoid rushing through the conversation. Give them ample time to respond so they have a chance to recall details and provide accurate information. And be aware of any nonverbal gestures. A reference may avoid giving a negative review of the candidate, but you can gain valuable feedback by paying attention to their gestures and voice inflections.

 Asking these questions when speaking to your candidate’s job references will provide insights you may not have discovered otherwise.

Onboarding: The Key to Retention and Job Satisfaction

January 30, 2018

By Rachel Makoski, Director of Food Service Equipment and Supplies

You've landed your ideal candidate. The offer letter is back, notice has been given and you'll see them on their start date, right? Wrong. Nabbing a key player is only part of the battle. The real challenge to any organization is keeping him or her engaged until the start date and ensuring a robust onboarding process to mitigate the chance of anyone else swooping in with a more enticing opportunity or their current company dangling a counter offer in front of them.

You’ve just spent a considerable amount of time interviewing and negotiating to get this person on your team, and with the average cost of hiring a new employee in the tens of thousands, it’s worth ensuring that they aren’t going to jump ship before they even come aboard.

The time between the offer being signed and the end of the candidate’s first six months is crucial to employee engagement, retention and overall job satisfaction and productivity. So, what can you do to ensure that your new hire not only shows up day one, but is excited to be there and doesn't pick up the phone when recruiters are calling?

Once the offer is signed, the next step is for HR to reach out to get all of the necessary paperwork filled out. This should not be as simple as just mailing them a packet of information. Set up a skype call with the new hire, and learn about them. Rather than laying out what your company offers, find out what's important to the new hire and focus the conversation around how the organization excels in those specific areas, then of course bring out the basics if they aren’t covered by that point. Immediately create open lines of communication, understand how they are best managed and how they’ve handled conflict or issues in the past so that in the future, HR is prepared to facilitate an atmosphere where they feel comfortable and confident bringing concerns to your attention. There are many situations where an employee is unhappy in their current role and the employer has no idea until they put in their notice. You want to preempt the situation by ensuring that you’re working with all of the information from the get-go.

The next step should be a welcome package. Maybe it’s as simple as a t-shirt or a mug with the company logo. Or, perhaps they’re working remote and it’s heartier to enable their home office. Just something to let them know they’re now part of a team that is happy to have them is a great onboarding practice. To that point, there should also be one or two reach outs from the person’s manager in the time between the signed offer and day one. Keep them close and let them know you’re excited to have them joining your team.

When possible, send out instructions on basic things that a new hire will need a few days prior to the start date. This should include basic procedures, email login info, company intranet info, standard day-to-day scheduling if there are weekly team meetings or skypes, etc. When this is out of the way prior to day one, it’s much easier for the new hire to come in feeling prepared.

When they log into their email and calendar, it should already have invites to respond to – onboarding should never only include  their direct manager, but should be diversified with lunches with peers, cross functional team meetings, mentoring opportunities outside of their department and other interactions that expose them immediately to the company culture and give them a better understanding of how each department interacts with their own while also organically creating opportunities for them to begin cultivating relationships with their new colleagues.

Be prepared, as first impressions last and it’s tough to overcome a poor one. With that in mind, day one should include exposure to your company’s values and long-term goals and showing how they’re actively present in the culture of the organization. Expose the new hire to as many team members as possible. With that in mind, keeping new employees engaged is crucial. Welcoming them to a culture that not only focuses on day-to-day work environment but also the outside interests of employees will ease their minds as they may have just walked away from stability for the unknown. Team outings, one on ones, and so many other activities happen in non-working hours, so this is an important aspect of the onboarding process.

Set expectations. Go over the metrics that their performance will be evaluated based on so that there is no confusion as to what they need to achieve and the roadmap that will take them there. Be clear and have everything in writing. It is important to be on the same page. Go over the training process, the first week, the first month, 90 days, etc. Set up monthly or bi-weekly check-ins during the first six months so that you’re both staying on track without micromanaging.

Ultimately people work for people they like. I can't tell you how often a personality clash with a higher up is the reason a candidate is primed for a move. Get to know your new employee as much as you can while maintaining your position as their leader. Earning their respect and trust is vital to long-term job satisfaction.

As a recruiter, I have seen great onboarding processes as well as poor processes. Making sure all the boxes are checked will ensure a satisfied employee and increase your chance of retaining him or her for the long run. What types of onboarding methods do you use at your company?

Rachel Makoski
Director of Food Service Equipment and Supplies
440-996-0871
rmakoski@directrecruiters.com