reference questions

The Top 10 Reference Questions — According to Research

Do you ever wonder which reference questions your future employer plans to ask about you and why?

If you do, keep reading to learn about the most popular topics and how to prepare people to talk about you. Because very few candidates do this, you can gain a competitive advantage by making this effort. 

Reference Questions Survey

A survey of 500 human resources professionals showed that over 90% of employers ask questions about these ten topics:

  1. Reason for leaving.
  2. Character traits.
  3. Attendance.
  4. Discipline problems.
  5. Strengths and weaknesses.
  6. Ability to get along with others.
  7. Eligibility for rehire.
  8. Job performance.
  9. Work ethic.
  10. Overall opinion.

Prepare People to Talk About You

Share those ten topics, along with your future job description, with your references. Then, using the ten questions, and the selection criteria in the job description, help your references understand how well you fit the job.

Having this conversation will help them imagine you in the new job. When they can do that, they will frame their answers more in that context than in the context of your old job. If you’re worried about any negatives from an old job, this will go a long way toward eliminating them.

Ask About Back Door References

Then, be sure to ask your prospective employer if they plan to call people who aren’t on your list. Those are called “back door” references. They happen. If your prospective employer plans to dig beyond your list, call those people and prepare them as well.

Preparing People for Reference Questions Makes Sense

Giving people a heads up, which provides them with time to think about how they want to discuss you, is both thoughtful and likely beneficial to you. If you want the job, then don’t lose it in the reference check!

Image: Fotolioa/stepan popov
Updated April 2019

© 2010 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 3

  1. Thank you August!

    BTW folks, August offers job search tips on Twitter. Follow @Resume_Writer for great information.

  2. Great advice Donna. Thank you for sharing this.


    My pleasure Lee. Good to see you! Donna

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