Questions to Ask During a Reference Check

The One Question to Ask When Checking References

Over the years, I have received countless reference check calls from the potential employer of a friend, previous employee or colleague. Out of all the calls I received, I will never forget one call. It went something like this (and I have changed the names):

“Hi Ryan! I am Sam from ABC Company calling behalf of Steve Smith who has recently applied and interviewed for the position of ‘Fancy Bogus Title.’ Do you have 3 minutes for some questions about Steve?”

“Absolutely,” I replied.

“Did you know that Steve put you down as a reference?” Sam asked.

“Well no, Sam, I didn’t.”

“So Steve did not ask your permission to put your name on his recommendation form?”

After a moment of thinking I replied, “Nope, I can’t say that he did. Haven’t talked to him in several months.”

“Mr. Vet, Thank you very much for your time. I don’t have any further questions about Steve. Have a wonderful day.”

I couldn’t believe it. Never in all my reference request calls had any “investigator” inquired as to whether or not the candidate asked permission to record me as a reference. The answer to the question, whether yes or no reveals a great deal about the job candidate and their consideration for others as well as their relationship with the reference. From that day on, thanks to “Sam,” the first question I always ask listed references when I am doing my own research on someone is whether or not they knew they were a listed reference. If that answer is “no,” it is easy to throw out all other questions I ask during a reference check, I have found my answer.