what are best questions to ask references of people you are interviewing?

I recently asked the question "what are best questions to ask references of people you are interviewing?" over Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and here are some of the responses I got:

"If you were in my shoes, would you hire this person?"

What advice would you give me as a future manager this person?

What are the major accomplishments of the candidate? Are there any areas that are development opportunities for the candidate?

Based on what you know of this person's desires and capabilities, what do you see him/her doing in 3-5 years?

(other than making sure to contact references other than the ones they gave you) – how about "do you trust this person's integrity, capacity, and intellectual curiosity?"

does he know if he has 5 pairs of white socks and 5 pairs of black socks, and he HAS to get dressed in the dark… how many socks does he have to pick to actually find a pair?

or just, would you work with this person again???

Are you friends outside of the work?

Why do you no longer work together? And how come you haven't hired him/her already.

is there anything else that I should know about so and so.. last question.. the truth comes out usually if they have been lying..

I'll pay you $500 if you save me from not hiring this person. A great person will have sufficiently impressed that reference so that they would reject this.

What kind of a drunk is he/she?

i always ask if the reference would hire that person again to work directly for them. usually gets a good response.

3 thoughts on “what are best questions to ask references of people you are interviewing?

  1. Raoul Duke

    Hmm, while these are great questions I dont think they’re legal. 🙂 Not that legal concerns have stopped me much.

  2. Joy Chen

    Hi Auren! I actually just wrote a blog post titled “Nine Tips to Make References Count,” which says essentially that this depends entirely on what’s required in the position you are filling. If I did have to pick one question, it would be: “If you were xx’s executive coach, what would you have her working on in the next three years?” You can see my broader thoughts on this at:


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