A good reference is candid and provides building blocks from which to work.
|Bob Piper, Principal, The Talon Group|
Secure written permission from the candidate. The best way is to incorporate it on your application. Provide room for three to five names, phone numbers and relationships of recent work-related references.
Ask the candidate to contact the references so they will expect your call. This eliminates phone tag.
Structure questions around things you learned from the interview(s). Ask for specific examples of the candidate's performance or about an accomplishment or a situation the candidate highlighted. Ask about work schedule, work environment, interactions, challenges, successes, etc. Compare responses with the candidate's.
Gauge the reference's tone. How something is said can be more important than what is said.
Most candidate-provided references will not tell you anything extremely negative. The key is to talk frankly about the best way to help the candidate succeed in the job. A good reference is candid and provides building blocks from which to work.