How to ace the candidate reference check when looking for a job
When Canadian hiring managers look for a great candidate to fill the required role, they know it’s easy to get swept up by a well-rounded resumé and impressive interview. While those are certainly a promising sign, to really understand whether you would be the right fit, your hiring manager will also want to talk to the people who know best: your references. And for a good reason. They believe it is important to speak with a few of your peers so they can get the full picture of your experience or background, especially if much of that experience is international in nature as an immigrant to Canada. This helps them learn about projects you assisted with, get a better idea of how you interact with team members and get a more accurate picture about things like punctuality and ability to meet deadlines. During the course of the interview, the hiring manager will typically ask if they may contact your references and to make your references aware that they will be doing so. A reference is always contacted after receiving consent from the candidate first. You can also be assured that they will usually avoid any discriminatory references to a prospect’s personal life, such as age, familial status, religion, etc.
6 questions typically asked — and ideal expectations
“How would you describe the candidate’s reliability and dependability?”
Hiring managers often expect qualities like reliability, punctuality and self-motivation to be standard in a candidate’s application. But that doesn’t mean they simply assume that you would possess these traits without checking first. This question is key to finding out if you are able to complete projects assigned, adhere to deadlines and arrive to work on time.
“What are the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?”
There’s a good chance they’ll ask you what your strengths and weaknesses are during the interview itself, but typically they could ask the same to your references, too. The similarity between the two responses can show them how self-aware a candidate you are, and can also give the recruiter better insight into whether or not you would be a good match for the particular company and the role at hand.
“Can you describe one of the candidate’s most memorable accomplishments?”
The difference between a good candidate and a great candidate can often be traced back to whether they regularly went above and beyond their everyday responsibilities — something this question does a great job of shedding light on.
Ideally, the hiring manager expects your reference to be able to recall a time (or two) where you took initiative on a project or displayed leadership skills that resulted in getting the job done and the outcome.
“What type of work environment do you think the candidate will thrive in?”
This question helps them observe whether you will function well in their work environment. Remember: during the interview, they are not just trying to figure out if you are the right person for their company. They also want to verify that their company is the right place for you. If their company isn’t the sort of place where you can thrive, they would feel that you are more likely to perform at a lower level or leave the company quickly.
“What skills would you like to see the candidate develop fully?”
Very rarely will they encounter a candidate who meets every one of their desired qualifications, but asking a question like this will help identify gaps in your skills. If the prior knowledge of the missing skills is critical to the success of the role, they will not hesitate to move on to a more qualified candidate.
“Would you recommend this candidate”?
It’s a straightforward question, but one that can never be ignored. Some of your references may feel obligated to highlight positive things about you when asked about your strengths and weaknesses or accomplishments, but with a question as blunt as this, it will be much more apparent whether they are truly enthusiastic in their endorsement of you — and this perhaps is the best predictor of you getting hired and your future success.