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What reference check questions should you ask your new manager’s referee?

by Sirius People

Sirius People   Management Reference Checks
Estimated Reading Time: minutes

Reference checks are your company’s last safeguard before bringing in a new manager. 

While it’s important to do reference checks for every level of employee, your management team has the unique ability to push your team toward your business goals or set your business back.

They set the tone in the office and can affect how happy and productive your team is, and your external employer branding perception.

It’s why you not only need to ensure that the candidate has the experience and qualifications they claim, but also ask the right reference check questions for managers to learn whether that person is the right one for your company culture, goals and vision.

Before we get into what questions you should be asking in reference checks for management positions (and who you need to speak to), let’s go over some key tips when you’re considering a leadership candidate for your business.

 

Reference Check Questions for Managers: Who & What You Need To Ask

 

Get to know your management candidate

Before going into a reference check for your management position candidate, take the time to get to know your candidate.

This is through a variety of means, including researching the companies they’ve included on their CV, checking their social media, finding employees and direct supervisors, preparing questions and spending time speaking with them directly. Allocate up to 10 hours to learning about your management candidate.

Over time, people will begin to show their true colours and you’ll learn what questions you need to ask their referees to gain better insight into who they are as individuals.

 

Be prepared to reevaluate

When you’re bringing on a new leadership member, it’s not only important to understand their career, the performance objectives they were expected to complete in previous roles, and how they lead their team to achieve those targets — you also need to know the personal characteristics they’ve demonstrated over a long period of time.

Candidates at the management level have more experience interviewing and know how to communicate their credentials, performance, expertise and leadership abilities. So, don’t be too persuaded by your management candidate.

You will need to speak with a variety of individuals they have worked with and be prepared to reevaluate your candidate based on a less than favourable reference. We’ll get into who you should be talking to in a minute.

 

Be wary of confirmation bias

Along the same lines of not being persuaded by your management candidate — Be sure to go into your management reference check with a neutral mindset.

If you’re going into a reference check for a management position with only positive notions about the candidate, due to your own impression of them or favourable reviews by colleagues or board members, you will not be actively listening to what the referee is saying.

This is what’s known as confirmation bias — You’re only looking for what you already believe to be true.

It’s critical to go into reference checks at a leadership level with the ability to probe beyond the niceties. If you’re unable to learn more about any negative feedback, you must be willing to 

remove them from the hiring process.

As mentioned before, poor management hires impact multiple levels of your business and less than favourable references aren’t worth the risk.

 

Who should you be talking to?

At the executive level, there’s nothing wrong with asking your candidate for specific people. As they are representing your company on an internal and external level, it’s important to get at least three different perspectives to ensure this person has the leadership qualities required and will be a contributor to your company culture.

Each reference check for a management position should take at least 30 to 45 minutes and leave no stone unturned. It’s important to ask the uncomfortable questions to ensure you understand the full history of your background check.

Here is who you should be contacting for management reference checks and what reference check questions you should be asking for managers:

 

A Direct Supervisor

Speaking to a candidate’s direct supervisor is common practice. But, it’s essential to learning more about the candidate, including how you can get the best out of them, where they need to grow, and if they’re a cultural contributor for your company.

They’re also the best person to speak to about any ‘red flags’ that came up during the interview process.

Some reference check questions to ask a direct supervisor include:

 

  • Please confirm the nature of your relationship.
  • What were Tom’s key roles and responsibilities?
  • How would you describe Tom overall? How would Tom’s team describe him? How do other people from your management team describe him?
  • What performance objectives did he have coming into this role? Did he accomplish them?
  • What other achievements did Tom have in this role?
  • Can you give me an example of a time where Tom demonstrated initiative?
  • How does Tom motivate his team and others in the office?
  • Can you describe a time where Tom was responsible for a key business strategy and what role did he play in this?
  • How well does Tom handle pressure? Can you think of an example where he didn’t cope well?
  • Where does Tom need development? Where do you see his career taking him in 5 years?
  • Can you explain any setbacks Tom had at your company, and how he managed them?
  • If you were hiring Tom for [this particular role], how would you change the role to ensure it’s more suited to his skills and abilities?
  • Why did Tom leave your company?
  • Would you hire Tom again? In what capacity?
  • Would you say Tom had a lasting impact on the organisation or his team? What impact did he have?
  • Is there a particular management style that Tom works best with?
  • Are there any other questions that I haven’t asked you that you feel I should?

 

A Former Employee

As someone who will be coming into your company to lead your team, speaking with a former employee is essential to learning more about their leadership style and what the team thought of them.

It also gives you an idea about what kind of teams they manage, and what calibre of employee your management candidate has previously worked with.

Some reference check questions to ask a former employee include:

 

  • Please confirm the nature of your relationship.
  • How would you describe Tom overall? How would your fellow team members describe him? 
  • How does Tom motivate your team?
  • How well does Tom handle pressure? Can you think of an example where he didn’t cope well?
  • Where does Tom need development as a manager?
  • Would you work with Tom again?
  • Would you say Tom had a lasting impact on the organisation and your team? What impact did he have?
  • Are there any other questions that I haven’t asked you that you feel I should?

 

A Fellow Leadership Team Member

Another perspective worth hearing is someone who worked alongside your candidate as an equal. As someone who would have the same pressures from senior management or board members and have a deep understanding of the company’s goals, vision and culture, their view will add some context to your candidate.

They will be able to comment on your candidate’s ability, work performance and approach when it comes to workplace politics, persuading and engaging stakeholders, and bring up other issues and behaviours that might not be apparent to people who worked under him or her, or to senior management.

Some reference check questions to ask a fellow leadership team member, include:

 

  • Please confirm the nature of your relationship.
  • How would you describe Tom overall? How would Tom’s team describe him? How do other people from the management team describe him?
  • Can you give me an example of a time where Tom demonstrated initiative?
  • How does Tom motivate his team and others in the office?
  • How well does Tom handle pressure? Can you think of an example where he didn’t cope well?
  • Where does Tom need development? Where do you see his career taking him in 5 years?
  • Would you work with Tom again?
  • Would you say Tom had a lasting impact on the organisation or his team? What impact did he have?
  • Are there any other questions that I haven’t asked you that you feel I should?

 

A Vendor or Customer

This may not be relevant for every role, but speaking with a vendor or a former customer of your candidate will give you an idea of how they approach different business relationships. 

Some reference check questions to ask a vendor include:

 

  • Please confirm the nature of your relationship.
  • How would you describe Tom? How would your team describe him, if they had any interaction with him?
  • Why did Tom choose your company’s service or products? Was he happy with the product or service? How did he express his like or dislike of your product or service?
  • Would you work with Tom again? In what capacity?
  • Are there any other questions that I haven’t asked that you feel I should?

 

Some reference check questions to ask a customer include:

 

  • Please confirm the nature of your relationship.
  • How would you describe Tom? How would your team describe him, if they had any interaction with him?
  • What expectations did you have of him coming into this role? How did he perform as a vendor?
  • Can you describe a time where Tom was proactive in helping you solve your business needs?
  • How well does Tom handle pressure? Can you think of an example where he didn’t cope well?
  • Would you work with Tom again? In what capacity?
  • Are there any other questions that I haven’t asked that you feel I should?
 

 


While reference checks are a necessity for any role you’re hiring for, it’s especially important to ensure that you’re asking the right people and the right questions before bringing your management candidate on board.

Don’t rush through the employment reference check process, and be sure to investigate areas of your candidate’s employment history, credentials or claims that don’t quite add up.

Again, this is someone who will be leading your team and will have a larger impact across your internal and external company perception. Take your time getting to know your candidate, be mindful of confirmation bias and be prepared to reevaluate their candidacy when you do reference checks for management positions.

As your specialist recruitment partner across the Technology, Business Support, Accounting & Finance, Blue Collar and Sales & Marketing industries, we conduct extensive reference checks on all of the candidates we put forward to you and your business. To learn more about how we can help you hire your next manager, please feel free to reach out to our consultants.

 

2020 11 17

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