Having a PA, whether this is in a corporate setting or in your private household is a great addition to any busy setup. If you already have, or have had a PA, you know how helpful they can be. However, getting to the stage of having a great PA can sometimes be tricky. The recruitment process can be confusing, but reference checking your PA candidates is a crucial step. But do you know how to reference check your PA candidates? This guide will help you properly conduct reference checking on your PA candidates so you can be more confident in your decision.
When you have gotten through the sea of CVs and applications, and are at the point of hiring the new PA, the real work starts. It is essential to reference check your OA candidates so you can find a trustworthy and qualified person. Apart from CVs, interviews, and any relevant qualifications you will need to check and verify references. Even if you are doing your recruitment via an agency, and they do all of the checks for you, is it still highly advised that you check the references yourself.
Reference Checking Your PA Candidates
What type of questions do you ask your PA candidate’s references?
The first questions you ask should be broad enough to give you a feel for the character and quality of your PA candidates. As you learn more about your prospective PA from their CV and references, you can ask more specific questions that will help you find out more. This can be things such as how good of a fit they will be for your company or household. Here are some general questions to get you started:
How long was the PA employed/working for you?
You want to confirm start and finish dates of the PA candidates’ previous positions. This is to verify that they have been honest on their CV. If a PA has wrong or extended dates on their CV, it might be an attempt to show more experience than they have. Any dishonest dates of employment should be a red flag for any employer. It undermines their honesty and actual experience.
Why did they leave previous positions?
Ask this to make sure there are no warning signs on them being a PA. Perhaps they did not enjoy their job – but why? Did they not like that particular position? Or do they actually not like being a PA? Use this information to compare with what the PA candidates told you during their interview.
What were their duties?
Although a PA role can seem quite straightforward, tasks can range enormously. Find out about previous duties. Also, if there were any duties that the PA was not happy to undertake. This will ensure that you know from the start where you stand with what duties the candidate will be able to help you with.
Were they always punctual, responsible and trustworthy?
A good question to ask to get an overall idea of how the PA candidates worked.
How was their attendance/sickness record?
Similarly to above, it gives you an idea of their work ethic, how they worked and if there might be any red flags.
Were they organized?
You want to find out about the organizational skills regarding multitasking, diary management and meeting planning. As well as their work in a family setting, dealing with multiple members of the household etc. If you have a very busy schedule then you need the PA to be able to multitask.
Do they have initiative? Can they work on their own or did they always need instructions?
You’re hiring a PA to help take on some of the work. So you want to make sure they’re up to the task and need minimal management.
How were their communication skills with both colleagues, visitors and superiors?
Great communication will save you time and many headaches. You should get a feel for how well your PA candidates can communicate in their interviews. But it’s best to check with a reference to see if they had any problems with communication while under their employment.
What are their strengths, weaknesses and areas could they improve?
Try to see if there are any big problem areas you haven’t already uncovered from previous questions.
Are there any negative points about the candidate that you should be aware of?
Are they fit, healthy and what are their energy levels like? A PA role can be stressful and having bad health can potentially affect productivity.
Was the PA happy to go the extra mile if you needed them to do something that was not included in their list of duties?
Find out if the PA is flexible enough to help out when something unexpected happens. Such as you’re running late from a meeting and you need a report finished. If the PA is a clock-watcher who has to be out of your door by a certain time, this could clash with your diary and affect productivity. Flexibility is the key on both sides so do ask about this!
Would you rehire them if the situation arose? Would you recommend them for a similar role?
Listen for any warning signs here. Because if the reference says they would not re-employ or recommend the PA then it might be clear that you should not employ the candidate either.
How did the PA handle stress and medical emergencies (if any)?
This is important as there might be high pressure and stressful situations that the PA will need to deal with and you want to make sure they are up for the challenge and won’t crumble under pressure.
Make sure to adjust these questions depending on your company’s or household’s needs. Everyone is different and you will want to make sure a PA is both qualified for the tasks required and they embody the characteristics of a PA right for you.
What To Take From Reference Checking
First of all, make sure that the person who provides you with a reference is not in a hurry because this might affect what they say and how clearly they talk about the previous PA. And don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. When listening to what they say about their PA, try to also pay attention to what they don’t say and dig as deep as possible for information.
Also listen to their tone of voice, because if they speak enthusiastically about their ex-PA and they don’t stop praising them, that’s always a good sign. However, if they are very short, if their tone of voice is very flat and they want to finish the conversation very quickly, then it’s not a good sign.
At the end of the day, you’re looking for insight into each candidate’s character that you can’t find out from an interview.
How many references should you call/speak to?
If you have the time, you should do reference checking with as many people as possible, but it’s recommended that you check at least 2-4 recent references.
Are written references enough or should I call/email them?
You can get a much better feel for your candidate through a reference phone call than an email or letter. Written references are never enough. Unfortunately, they can be easily faked or modified and don’t provide much insight. While a written reference may seem easier, a conversation is much more informative and often faster.
What else can be done when checking references?
While checking references, you can have a copy of the PA’s CV in front of you. This so you can double-check dates and duties with the referee against what the candidate has stated on the CV.
SOURCE: Polo and Tweed