Answer by Auren Hoffman on Quora.
Reference checks are really important. Here’s a guide on how to do them and how to get them:
1. Try to get as many references as possible from a candidate. It should be easy for a candidate to give you at least six references and you should be able to find another three to five through backdoor, LinkedIn, friends, etc. It gives you a general sense of the candidate. What is her personality? How does she act in certain stressful situations? What is her judgment like (what would the candidate do in a certain situation)?
2. It gives you a window on how best to manage the candidate if you do hire her. Ask how one could get the most out of a candidate and what work environment they strive under most. This will give you a heads-up on how to get the most out of the person if you do work with them.
3. The list of references themselves tells you something about the person. Does she give you her current boss (if so, she’s more likely to leave her current job and she has a very open relationship with her boss)? How far back does she reach for her references? Is there a good mix of references?
4. Look for how quickly the references get back to you, and how quickly they call you back. Presumably the candidate is going to first contact the references and let them know you will be calling, so this is a good indicator of how organized the candidate is, how the candidate prepped the references, and how passionately people feel about a candidate. (I once did a reference check on a candidate who listed a very well-known CEO as a reference. The CEO called me back within one hour — he obviously really liked the candidate.)
5. Look for consistency. If all the references say the same thing, it is likely to be true.
6. Find out how the candidate has changed over time. My personal favorite question is asking how the candidate improved over the time the reference has known him. This usually gives an interesting window into the candidate’s personality.
7. References can often predict a candidate’s future. “Where do you see this person in 5 years?” is a good question.
This question originally appeared on Quora: How do you optimize reference checks for prospective employees?