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“Expand you reference, and you’ll immediately expand your life.”
- Tony Robbins, American Author
When you’re shortlisted as part of the pool of candidates for a particular job, it usually turns out that your qualifications are very similar to that of the other applicants. It is here that employers look for key differentiators that will give them a reason to hire you. Many times, it is the person who is the best cultural fit, personality fit or has the most ideal work history. The only way the hiring manager or employer can find out about these traits is by asking someone. This person should be someone you, the candidate, have worked with in the past. These people are known as references. Listing references, especially the right ones can be a tricky affair.
References are a crucial part of the job search and interview process. Some companies might provide formal references or recommendations for their employees. Others might avoid it completely due to legal reasons. Then we have personal references which is a whole other story. In this blog, we will have a look at the things you should keep in mind when listing references.
1. Finish Listing References Before Applying
Asking people to be your reference can be a time-consuming process. You need to work your way through the list of potential contacts. You also have to make sure that they are okay with being listed as a reference. This can take a lot of time. Hence, it is advisable to first get your ducks in a row, as it were before you start applying for a job. What if you find yourself halfway down the interview and recruitment process with zero references?
2. Choose Well When Listing References
It might make sense to list your previous supervisor as a reference, but there are no guarantees as to how they might speak about you. Rather take a moment to evaluate all the people who worked above you in previous companies. Determine who is likely to give you the fairest assessment. This will better your chances.
Having references that can communicate well will go a long way in improving your chances at a job.
3. Diversify When Listing References
Another way to boost your chances and keep things fresh in the recruitment process is to diversify your references. Have a list of people who can vouch for your different skill sets and qualifications. This way you can approach them separately for referencing you, depending on the job you’re applying for.
4. Look for Communication Skills When Listing References
You want references who can communicate their thoughts and are rather well-spoken. The same applies to their writing in case they have to reply by email. What you don’t want to have is a reference who has a habit of sending one-liner emails or gives unenthusiastic half-references when called up. It is also a good idea to list references who are prompt. This will serve as a good foundation for your reference list.
5. Always Ask for Consent Before Listing References
Touching back on our previous point, it is always important to make sure the person is willing to be a reference. You can’t just expect it, especially with company policies and the risk of lawsuits they might face. Give them the option to opt-out. This will save you a lot of issues down the line as well.
"The references you do not verify are the good ones."
- Charles Péguy, French Poet
6. Be Patient When Listing References
You might be in a hurry to land a job and desperate to get done with listing references. However, that shouldn’t be a reason to pester people to be your reference. Wait and see, people might take some time to get back to you. If they take too long, like around a week, then reach out to them again. If they still don’t get back to you, it might be best to let it go and keep searching for more prompt references.
7. Make It Easy for Your References
Part of getting someone to be your reference and to make the most of it is to make the process easy on them. Send them everything they need to give accurate and good information on you. Forward your resume or link to your LinkedIn profile. You could even consider sending them documents and certificates of your accomplishments. A highly useful tactic is to include the job description that you are applying for and what qualifications the new employer is looking for. Think of it as giving your references cue cards that tell them what to speak on or touch upon.
Give your references a heads up before every job interview. Just an email or phone call will do.
8. Reference Letters Should Be Considered
Do not be afraid to ask for a reference letter. This can be a great time-saver. It can be included in the job application itself and can eliminate the need for a phone call or email follow-up by the hiring manager.
9. Give Fair Warning When Listing References
Every time you’re listing references for a specific job application process, let those people know. Consider it a professional courtesy. Send out a quick email or call them to let them know that someone will be calling them to do a reference check on you. This is also a good time to let them know what job you are applying for, as well as the name of the hiring manager and company.
10. Follow-ups are Key
You must follow up with your references when you have some news or updates regarding the job. Let them know if you got the job or not, and thank them for the efforts that they put in. You should also offer them a reciprocal offer if they need a reference in the future. Think of it as building good faith and maintaining your professional relationships, which can come in handy down the line.
Reference Checking Questions You Should be Asking
“The ability to ask the right questions is more than half the battle of finding the answer.”
- Thomas J. Watson, ex-CEO and Chairman of IBM
In this article, we will try and tackle the topic of reference questions for new hires. We will also talk about the process of reference checking after the interview. When it comes to reference checks and reference checking questions, people either love them or hate them. On the one hand, you have those who view reference checking as a means of uncovering the candidate’s abilities. It can be a tool to find out work history and even personality traits in some cases. On the other hand, some believe it to be not worth the time. Reference checks can feel like a waste of time when there is no proper structure or procedure in place. A lot of the time, you will end up with a list of references from the candidates who turn out to be their friends or other personal references. As expected, they will of course advocate for how great the candidate is.
Now, when a reference check is done right, it can be a vital tool in the recruitment process. It helps you make informed decisions about the people you hire. So, to help mitigate the negative aspects of this argument and help you get the most out of this process, we bring you this blog. We will talk about the people who would make the best references. We will also go over the best reference checking questions that you should be asking to get the information that you need.
Talking to the Right References: Reach Out via the Candidate
One of the best ways to get the ideal references is to ask the candidate to provide them. Ask the candidate for the names and numbers of their previous employer. Now, if they are yet to resign and are looking for a job, they obviously might not want you to get in touch for job safety reasons. You should respect that. Rather, ask for the contact number of a manager from a previous role. This is more than fair to both parties.
This is where it gets interesting. Depending on whether they are evasive or helpful, you will get a clear reading of what kind of employee they might be. On top of all this, the candidate might be the right person to put you in touch with their previous employers as they have a well-established relationship with them. These references might be more willing to chat if they believe that it would help a former colleague.
A candidate's achievements at their previous job can tell you a lot about their work ethic.
Asking the Right Reference Checking Questions
Once you have the right references, make sure to let them know about the confidentiality factor of the process. This is crucial if you want them to be honest and open with their answers. Tell them that no matter how glaring or glowing their feedback is, it all stays confidential. Here are the best reference checking questions you should be asking.
Question 1: What was the working relationship between you and the candidate?
Start the conversation off in a light manner, ease them into it. You don’t want to hit them with all the reference checking questions at once. This question will also allow you to start cross-checking basic information. You can verify things like the candidate’s title, responsibilities and other things they might have already told you.
Question 2: Did the candidate have any major accomplishments while working with you?
To a certain extent, this is another one of those reference checking questions that will help ease the reference’s mind. It serves a purpose beyond just validating any major milestones that the candidate may have had. This question stands as a reminder that the reference checking process is not built just to catch out candidates. It is an opportunity to learn more about the person behind the resume. So you can understand what exactly they bring to the table.
"If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers."
- Edward Hodnett, Author
Question 3: What are some of his/her greatest strengths in your opinion?
This question is one designed for calibration beyond just the average understanding of skill sets. What we mean by this is that the answer to this question will tell you how well things line up with the initial rounds of interview, the candidate’s resume as well as their work samples. You will have a chance to see how the responses line up with the candidate’s self-assessment. This indicates self-awareness, with which you can calibrate the other answers you get. Essentially, does the reference’s assessment of the candidate line up with what the candidate thinks of their strengths?
Question 4: What were some areas of concern that you think stand out as red flags?
This is a big one. This question serves a dual purpose. As a prospective employer, you need to know if there are any areas for improvement, what they are and how to address them. You also need to know if the candidate is coachable. The other point of this question is to bring to the surface any reason you may want to rethink the hiring of a particular candidate. For example, if the reference says that the candidate might benefit from an extra month of training, then you have to question their capabilities and experience for that role.
Question 5: Did the candidate work better in a team or alone?
Look, neither has to be a bad or good thing, some professionals work best alone and some in a team. It just depends on what you, as the employer, are looking for. This will not only reveal if your candidate is a team player but also tell you how good of a communicator they might be. Soft skills are just as important as any other skills in a business. Keep in mind that when you are asking these questions, you are also evaluating how well the reference knows the candidate.
Depending on if the candidate got promoted at their last job or not will reveal a lot. Did they check all the right boxes?
Question 6: Did the candidate receive any promotions while at your company?
If the candidate was promoted at one point, then this would bolster their resume and the likelihood of getting selected. However, if not, it might serve you better to understand why. Perhaps there were no open positions, or maybe the management decided they needed a stronger internal candidate (which could be a red flag), or something else entirely.
Question 7: Why did the candidate leave the company?
Much like the initial question, this one is another cross-checking question. It will tell you not only why they left but if it checks out with what the candidate told you in the initial rounds of the interview. It is also a good indicator of any red flags like if they left on bad terms, some workplace issue or something else.
Question 8: Would you rehire this candidate?
This is a follow-up to the previous question, because if the reference doesn’t give you a resounding ‘absolutely’, then you might have to reconsider. Hesitation implies there are some underlying issues. This is something you should probably probe more about. Ask the reference why they would or would not hire them back.
Question 9: Is there anyone else you would recommend I speak with?
The whole point of the reference checking process and asking all these reference checking questions is to gain insight from a different point of view. So, ask the references if there is anyone who would be willing and able to talk to you that can tell you more about the candidate. This could be someone who worked alongside the candidate or under them too.
Job Interview Questions Every Candidate Should Ask an Employer
“To ask the right question is already half the solution of a problem.”
- Carl Jung, Swiss Psychiatrist
In this day and age, the workplace isn’t what it used to be. The pandemic proved how valuable job security and satisfaction were for employees. When it comes down to the recruitment process, the job interview is often the defining moment for both employer and employee. In such a rapidly changing landscape, you as the employee, need to also have the assurance that your potential employer has your best interest at heart. You also need to be sure that there is room for growth and that they are adapting to the ever-changing landscape. This blog aims to give candidates and jobseekers alike a helping hand in framing some impressive questions that can not only help your chances at landing a job but also help you assess the company for compatibility. Without delay, let’s get into it!
Job Interview Question 1: What's Your Strategy for Surviving the Pandemic?
Don’t think of this as an offensive question. It’s completely fair for you as a potential future employee to want to know if your employer has a viable business model. You need to make sure you have some level of job security before diving in right? Besides, it’s no secret that a lot of companies went under during the pandemic-induced shutdowns. If not that, it’s been downsized or restructured. Everyone had to learn to adapt or drown, so you need to know how they survived so you can go forward.
It would also be a good idea to check if they have a plan to survive the next pandemic if there ever was one. Given the different variants out there and the consecutive waves across the globe, it’s hard to be certain of anything. Make sure your employer has a backup plan in place.
Your future rides on you asking the right questions during a job interview, so make it count!
Job Interview Question 2: How Did You Add Value During the Pandemic?
Keeping to the pandemic centric questions, this is another one. It was a time when the world was forced to come together. Industries relied on each other and had to go the extra mile to survive. Some companies like food delivery services and grocery stores became key social enablers that people depended on daily. Alcohol distilleries started manufacturing hand sanitisers in some parts of the world.
The point being, asking your prospective employer about how they added value to other businesses or society in general during this time is very insightful. They tell you a lot about the employer’s character and intentions.
Job Interview Question 3: What Are Your Policies on Flexible Work?
Most people have gotten used to the remote work model. It’s flexible and convenient most days. If not that, then a hybrid work model. Whatever the case, not many are in favor of the usual 9-to-5 work model. If you find yourself a part of this crowd, then you should ask your prospective employer if they have flexible work policies. If they don’t ask them what the average week looks like. This is a great job interview question to help you decide where you want to work.
Job Interview Question 4: What Are Your Future Plans?
If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that the future is uncertain. As a potential employee, it makes sense for you to want to know what your prospective company envisions for its future. What are they working towards and are you interested in being a part of that vision? Ask them about projects or strategies that they have in the pipeline.
"I will prepare and someday my chance will come."
- Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President
Job Interview Question 5: What is the Work Culture Like?
To be able to grow or even work at a company, you need to know if you would get along with the other employees. Ask your employer about what the culture is like, how open and free the general atmosphere is most days and what they strive to achieve in that. This job interview question is very important because most employees quit after a few months. This is often due to the company culture not being what they expected.
Job Interview Question 6: What Does Career Growth Look Like in Your Company?
This job interview question has always been a relevant one. Coming back to the idea of job security. You need to know if there is room for career growth within the company. Ask them what incentives they provide, how often do they have their employee assessments, how much do they alter salary increments and even how often they promote people. There is no point in joining a company where you hit a dead-end in terms of career growth.
Interview Bias: A How-To Guide on Minimizing It
“Woe to the man who tries to remain objective and to maintain a wide perspective: everyone will label him as an enemy.”
- Paul Tournier, Swiss physician
When it comes to reference checking or even the recruitment process in general, we often talk about what the candidate needs to bring to the table. We so often forget that the interview process is a two-way street and the role the interviewer plays is just as significant to consider. In this case, what does the recruiter bring to the table? Are they objective or inherently biased? If it’s that latter, what’s the solution? These are some of the questions we will attempt to tackle in today’s article.
Understanding the Issue of Interview Bias
When it comes down to the interview process, as a stranger, candidates get the raw end of the deal. This issue mainly boils down to how they are assessed by another stranger. When the candidate is someone the hiring manager is somewhat familiar with, then those people are assessed based on their past performances for the most part.
However, strangers are more or less judged on their motivation to get the job, some general competency standards, technical knowledge and their first impression. Now, don’t get us wrong, these are good measures to have when assessing a candidate, but not when it’s done through a biased lens. Let’s take a stranger who makes a good first impression, on some level the hiring manager will look for facts to justify their strengths. If it was a bad impression, they might subconsciously look for reasons to exclude them from the job.
The caveat here is, both sides can be factually backed up if you look hard enough. So, as you can see, interviewer bias has many layers to it, and it’s never really a clear-cut thing. Having said that, there are some ways in which one can reduce interview bias and keep the process relatively fair.
The first impressions play a huge role in the interview process. Try to hold off final decisions based on that alone.
Top 10 Ways to Reduce Interview Bias
Before we dive into the list of ways in which you can reduce interviewer bias, we need to make note of one simple fact. Bias can only ever be reduced or managed. As a rule of thumb, human beings are biased on some level, consciously or subconsciously. It’s in our nature, be it for the better or worse. Having said that, these tactics will help you manage the bias.
Tip #1: Define the Job Requirements, Not the Person
When you put out an ad for a job, you will of course provide a job description. This is usually where the bias can start. More specifically, you need to define the description as a set of things that need to be done by a person. Oftentimes you might find that it is a list of things that the person needs to have.
If during an interview the candidate proves that they have previously done such work, it means that they have the skills to get the job done. However, this can contradict what was listed in the job description. Once you redefine the work for performance objectives rather than candidate requirements, you open up the talent pool. This not only brings in diversity, but also reduces bias as you would be comparing their past experiences, and not their first impressions.
Tip #2: Do an Initial Phone Interview
One sure-fire way to reduce bias is to make the process a little less personal, at least initially. Before you even have an interview with the person, consider a normal phone call. This reduces bias by removing visual cues that could influence us. Instead, we would be going purely off their resume, track record and so on. Establishing a decent connection based purely on their performance history will set the pace for the rest of the interview. This way, the first onsite impression, be it good or bad, won’t matter, because you already know what they are capable of.
"You have to attempt to be objective about yourself"
- Charles Dance, Actor
Tip #3: Panel Interviews Can Help
Having a panel of interviewers, as opposed to one person, lessens the odds of there being any bias in the room. This is especially helpful if all the interviewers are assigned specific roles. Having this diversity and a controlled proceeding will give the interview a good balance.
Tip #4: Scripting Can Reduce Interview Bias
Scripting the interview, be it fully or partially can help reduce the interview bias as well. Giving the candidate the pre-scripted questions ahead of time brings down the chances of any deviations during the interview. This tip is pretty connected to the previous one, so perhaps consider combining them both in certain instances.
Tip #5: Take Time to Decide
Now, we don’t mean you need to be slow in deciding, but rather take your time and think it through. A good rule of thumb is to wait 30 minutes before you make any yes or no decisions. In the meantime, make sure to ask all the candidates the same set of questions, regardless of if you have a positive or negative reaction.
Tip #6: Taken Everything into Account
Much like how a courtroom operates, you need to take into consideration all the evidence, i.e., the facts, before settling on any one decision. To make the closest thing to a balanced decision, you need to have all the information in your hand. Once you have all this you can make a more informed and balanced decision that is fair to everyone involved.
The interviewer's mindset is perhaps one of the biggest influencers of the interview outcome, regardless of the candidate.
Tip #7: Reverse Psychology Is a Great Tool for Reducing Interview Bias
Remember the point we mentioned earlier about looking for facts that back up how we perceive a candidate? Well, this is a good way to combat that issue. Once you, the interviewer, have been through the recruitment process a few times, you will notice the pattern. Use this information to do work in opposition to what you perceive. Let’s use the earlier example of how we look for facts that back up how we perceive the candidates’ first impression.
Now, in such a case, force yourself to look for reasons that contradict how you perceive them. If they give a negative first impression, look for positive facts and vice versa. Think about it as looking for the other half of the puzzle.
Tip #8: Treat Candidates Like They Are Experts
When we interview people who are viewed as experts in their field, we tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. It is highly recommended that you treat every candidate as an expert too. If you give all your candidates the same courtesy, the truth will become obvious, whether you like them or not. This is a good way to objectively approach the recruitment process.
Tip #9: Use a Scoring System
When it comes down to personal opinions there will always be bias involved to some degree. This is good in certain instances where you have to use your intuition to judge the quality of the candidate. However, if you’re trying to reduce interview bias in the process, consider using a scoring system to back up your opinions. Perhaps something along the lines of a scorecard.
Tip #10: First Impressions Should Be Considered Last
When all is said and done about the bias of first impressions, there is still a use for first impressions. They can reveal a lot about the character of the candidate, which is essential for assessing workplace compatibility. Having said that, reserve all judgements on first impressions and only consider them towards the end of the interview process. This will allow you to get a reasonably objective view of them as you won’t be that deterred or wooed by said impression. You will have facts and reasons to measure it against.
While all these steps are great individual tools, it would be better if some aspect of these guidelines were involved throughout the recruitment process. It drives up the overall quality of your recruitment process while driving down the chances of interview bias.