It is an essential part of the interview process that you will
provide references and they will be contacted. As we know,
it is wise to ask if a person can provide a good reference for you
before you offer their name for a reference.
Recently, I was asked if I would act as a colleague’s
reference. After her interview, she and I skyped to
share what the interview was like and to get prepared for
my part of her interview.
The reference checking can happen before you might
interview in places that know your reference. That can
act as a sanity check to go ahead with more detailed
It can happen after the interview in two or three ways.
One is a phone reference check. A second way is
to ask for your reference to complete a detailed form.
And a third variation is to ask for a letter of reference,
which would be similar to the common letter of
recommendation sought for academic position applications.
The reference checking process can be done by a HR
staffer or more frequently these days by a contracted firm
that specializes in this service. Both the candidate’s
performance and my credibility are tested.
So, during our Skype I asked the candidate what she learned
about the position and the company. In addition, I asked for
a few personal/professional details so that I could strongly
describe that I knew the candidate. She was involved in several
seminars, a course I led and we traveled to an international
meeting at which she overcame weather problems.
In our reference checking conversation, I confirmed personal
history and information about her strengths, weaknesses and
near term goals.
The person I spoke with, Sharon, politely confirmed her information
about me that the candidate provided. Then, she asked if it was a
good time to complete this assignment. I indicated yes.
There are standard questions that are usually asked:
- how long is the business relationship and what was the formal
- is there any reason this person is not qualified to work in the
- provide details of directly working with the applicant on a project
- assess the applicant’s performance on the project
- please describe the candidate
- what are her leading strengths
- what performance factors could the applicant improve
- would you recommend we hire this applicant
So, knowing specific personal strengths with examples and areas
the applicant needs to improve are very important. Having an idea
of the applicant’s reflection of how the interview day went will
reveal if the applicant was comfortable with the culture and
people experienced. The reference needs to find a way to express
strong desire with the opportunity and be an advocate.