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I wanted to write about Reference checks. With startups, there’s a variety of roles to hire for. And investors will do their own checks on the founders.

Before we get into the questions, here are some logistics that you should understand.

Finding people to talk to. You want to ask for a few reference contacts from the person. You’d want to have two or three provided contacts from the person you are interviewing, but also a few “blind” contacts that could be from mutual connections. The games industry is small so it’s usually possible to scout for 2nd connections who are willing to talk. Talk to a minimum of four people, but ten should be the maximum.

Who to talk to. Mix things up, try to get a hold of previous managers of the interviewee, for example, bosses or former investors. Then look for one or two peers. If they’ve had people working for them, add one or two of previous subordinates.

Conduct reference checks after interviews. Once you’ve created an image for the interviewee, based on your conversations, the reference checks are a great way to dig deeper and to understand if what they are telling you is the truth. Also, it’s good behavior on your end to not disturb people until you know for sure you are moving forward.

Questions

A reference check shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes and it’s important to have a set of core questions available. These will help you to determine the accuracy of the feel you have the person’s attitude and skills.

Let’s get into our top six reference check questions:

1) What are they like to work with? Ask for certain moments where the interviewee was involved in working with a team. How did they collaborate, how did they take ownership and responsibility for tasks, and were there any weaknesses that needed to be worked around?

2) Did they do what they said they did? You can ask this by just asking what was their role in the project? You want to find out if they are honest and that they’re not exaggerating their work in their previous roles?

3) What are some areas for further development? You can also ask this by gauging the interviewee’s strengths, and you’d ask what are their strengths and weaknesses?

4) Are there any red flags I should know about? You might not want to ask this directly at first, but rather ask some general questions like How they do under pressure, or if there have been moments of conflict and how the person dealt with these conflicts. In any case, you want to give the referee the feeling that they have the permission and opportunity to tell you things they want you to know.

5) How good are they at what they are going to be doing? You want to understand if the interviewee is “good enough” and they are truly exceptional. Ask this also from another angle.

6) Finally, is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share with me about them? With all the previous questions, you’ve asked about characteristics, skills, and attitudes with quite straightforward questions. At this point, the referee has had some time to think about the person you’re talking to, and something new might still come up. Remember: given they have more information around the person, you want to make sure that nothing slips through the net.

Template for founder question

Since Elite Game Developers focuses on founders, we wanted to create a list of questions that are specifically tailored for co-founder recruitment. This list can also be used by investors who are looking to invest in a company and want to do their DD on the CEO and/or co-founders.

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