You have gone through the interview process, and now you are just waiting to start the new job. But before you can, the perspective employer is checking your references. Even though you may not know exactly what questions a potential employer will ask your references, there are basic topics that typically are included, and there are even areas they legally cannot ask about.
Typically when contacting references, a potential employer will begin with general questions such as dates of employment, job title and job responsibilities. The answers received provide basic parameters of employment and provide confirmation of information provided by the applicant.
After establishing the basics of the position, questions typically focus more on the applicant's performance while employed in this capacity. Questions include the documented reason for vacating the position and whether or not the applicant would be rehired if the situation presented itself. Other questions in this area should focus on attendance record and punctuality.
One of the most important aspects of checking references with prior employers is past performance in that position. When checking references, a potential employer will ask questions about overall work ethic, strengths and weaknesses, punctuality, tardiness, whether or not you function well in a team environment and how much direct supervision you require. Others questions in this area will often ask about your attention to detail, your ability to meet deadlines and how you handle working under pressure.
Employers realize all employees have a life outside of work and often wonder how these outside forces are handled in the workplace. Questions in this area are not limited to specific areas but are open-ended and allow the reference to fill in the blanks as they see fit. These are not intended to pry into areas that are not of their concern but are to merely get a better sense of how these factors will impact job performance.
Federal laws prohibit potential employers from asking the applicant, or references, about certain topics that could be used as a basis for discrimination. These areas include age, race, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, color, pregnancy, marital status, citizenship or disability, along with others.