I’ve been a referee for a lot of people over the years and when recruiting I’ve contacted a lot of other people’s referees.

There seems to be a list of standard questions that are asked during the process.  Questions about reliability, teamwork, strengths and weaknesses.

To be frank, they don’t really matter.

The responses to these questions rarely have an influence on the recruitment process, so what’s the point of asking them?

And even if they were going to have an influence, it’s rare that referees give negative responses, preferring to be nice and lie than be mean and honest, so again I ask, what’s the point of asking them?

The reality is that a sizeable percentage of references aren’t even really the ex-manager of the candidate, but a friend or relative who is prepared to say nice things about them, so remind me, what’s the point of asking them?

There’s only one question that matters in reference checks.

Would you re-hire this person?

That’s it.

If you’re going to insist on performing reference checks, save yourself a lot of time and just go with this one.

If the answer is a spontaneous yes, then you’re good to go.

If the answer is no, then you’ve got a red flag that you need to consider.

And if the answer is a hesitation before answering, the real answer is probably no, again causing concern.

That is of course, assuming you haven’t called their Uncle Barry, posing as a reference.  In which case, I’ve got nothing.

By the way, if you’re a job-seeker, make sure that you’re the type of person that your referees want to re-hire.  That way, you won’t need to place your relatives in the potentially awkward position of having to lie for you.

But you wouldn’t do that.

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