When checking references, the key goal is to determine the candidate's job performance, skill set, as well as his or her ability to work well within a given organization.
It is imperative to make sure that a potential employee will be a good cultural fit, as well as a productive employee. You also must make sure that the person is honest, accountable, meets deadlines, and is a team player.
While doing reference checks on future PR employees, specifically, it is important to find out about their media relations and writing skills. Are they creative and strategic in their approach to PR? Can they consistently write effective and accurate pitch letters and press releases?
References are also an excellent way to determine someone's leadership ability. Make sure that you ask how the employee managed staff. If it's a more junior-level staffer, find out how that individual worked within a team.
However, I think that the best question you can ask during a reference check is whether or not the person giving you the reference would hire them again. This truly tells you how highly they thought of the employee.
Jane Waldman is director of HR at 5W Public Relations.
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