Dear fellow Recuiting-Bloggers,

In your professional opinion, what additional questions should be included in the Reference Check for candidates considered for Leadership/ Executive positions? 

I use a standard reference checking template with all the usual questions we as recruiters use on a daily basis, the template is quite comprehensive, however I feel that for the Senior level roles the reference should include more questions focussing on leadership and strategy implementation? 

Look forward to hearing any advice!

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We reference check every single candidate we work with before introducing them to any client. Personally I always find it much easier to get a reference verbally, as opposed to sending out a template for the client to complete. We approach it in a way that allows us to take down notes from what the referee is telling us, and sending a copy of these to the referee for him/her to approve by way of email, or signature. This way of working feels less formal, and enables us to also build rapport with a new client contact. By taking down the notes from the information they give us, it saves them the time and hassle of completing a formal type letter. A mixture of some example questions I would include are:

Let’s use the name Bill to make these examples easier reading.

  • How would you describe Bills institutional, and personnel leadership skills?
  • Please describe the candidate’s political acumen and ability to work with senior leadership?
  • Bill would have come up against some stressful situations; how did he react, and handle situations in such times?
  • Additionally, how was Bill when having to deal with difficult people? What is his/her conflict resolution protocol?
  • From your observation having worked with Bill, would you describe him as an implementer or initiator of projects and proposals?
  • I’ve been dealing with Bill for a very short while, but come to know him quite well within this short space of time. Would you say he deals with situations and others in a tactful manner? 
  • Bill spoke very highly of your organisation, what were Bills key accomplishments or impact on the organisation?  
  • If you could give Bill any advice by way of areas of development, what would you say to Bill?
  • For my own personal benefit, what advice can you give me on how to best I should guide Bill?
  • Why did he/she leave the position? (if relevant)


Hope this help you, or at least promotes further thoughts on what else you could ask.

If you want any more help, just ask. 


Good Luck


@Tom, great points on these questions. I do most reference checks as you described. My questions are very similar, and asked in a way that feels most comfortable with each reference. Usually when asking one question, several get answered at the same time!

@ Julia, if there are very specific skills needed or challenges to the postion, I try to include questions that will address those areas as well.

Many thanks for the reply Thomas and Amber.

Thomas, I do speak to the referees on the phone, but use a template with the questions to be more consistent and structured - apologies if my explanation about the template led you to believe I am emailing the questions without actually speaking to the referee. 

Many thanks on the questions, I will definitely incorporate those. 


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