For most employers, the last line of defense against a bad hire is the reference check. Reference checks can give you more information on a potential employee than just his resume. By contacting a reference you have an opportunity to learn about the candidate's strengths and weaknesses, such as their work ethic or their capacity to work without being told what to do.
There are many questions that can reveal whether a candidate will be a bad hire or a good one. Here is a list of some quality questions that can lead to the referee dispensing some useful clues as to the ability of the candidate to do his or her job well.
"What are the candidate's three strongest qualities?" This question is straight forward. Be aware of any stalling or delaying on the part of the referee. Long pauses could mean that the candidate did not have much going for them.
"Can you describe an area of work that the candidate could improve in?" This question reveals two things: what areas the candidate is not ideal in and whether or not the referee has an objective view of the candidate.
"Are you able to describe a difficult situation and how the candidate responded to the circumstances?" This question lets you know how your hire responds to stress.
"Would you hire this candidate again? Why?" If the referee states that he would not hire the candidate again, make sure to check if it is because the candidate was unable to perform his job to the standards set or simply because the role was not right for them.
"Why did the candidate leave your employment?" This question will verify the information provided by the candidate and reveal any concealed or missing information.
It is also beneficial to attempt to seek additional contacts from the referee, like co-workers; it can be helpful to learn about your candidate from those that worked with them. This way you can get information about a candidate's willingness to work together, or even their temper.
The biggest part of avoiding a bad hire is to make sure you do your due diligence. Make sure that you, as the hiring manager, do the reference checks yourself. You need to take in any information that you can in order to get a more complete picture of your potential hire. Using these questions can help you get deeper into what makes your candidate the perfect employee for you or a bad hire that will waste your time and money.