Questions For Reference Checks & First Time Interviews

The candidate may want to know what questions are asked in reference checks and common first-time interview questions.

Last week I promised that I would continue with the questions that we use when we are doing reference checks. I got such great feedback that I am going to expand this blog to not only include the questions that we ask and referrals; but we are also going to include questions that we recommend clients ask candidates on first time interviews.  The format of this blog is going to be much different than our traditional blog in paragraph format. I am going to break this into two sections. The first section will be questions that we ask when doing reference checks. The second section is going to deal with suggested questions on a first-time interview for the candidate. There have been many books written that offer inquiries about questions. It is my intent not to repeat those, but to make them much more applicable to public finance professionals like yourself.

Reference Check Questions:

What was the nature of your professional affiliation with the candidate?

What were the candidate’s principal accomplishments?

Do you think the candidate is qualified for the position just described to you?

If you were in a position where you needed to hire someone with these qualifications, would you hire this candidate?

Do you believe that the candidate’s current clients/issuers will follow him/her to a new firm? 

How long do you think it will take to get re-established with a new firm?

How would you evaluate the candidate’s skills in their profession?     

How would you rate the candidate’s intelligence/ability to learn?

What are three of the candidate’s biggest strengths?

Areas in need of improvement/weakness?                

How would you compare this candidate’s work to that of others in the same position? On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being excellent), how would you assess the candidate’s:

Initiative and/or drive?


Follow through?

Business Shrewdness?

Analytical ability?


Growth Potential?                  

Not on a scale, how would you assess the candidate’s tenacity, ability to handle stress, frustration, and problems?   

How should my client best manage the candidate?        

How does the candidate generate his/her business?

With consideration to the candidate’s personality, how does he/she get along with peers and supervisors?

How does the candidate supervise and/or handle people?

Do you know of any personal, financial, or domestic difficulties that might interfere with the candidate’s work?

Professional image: How does the candidate represent himself/herself and his/her company?

Is there anything else you can tell me that might help our client in forming an accurate opinion of the candidate?

Interview Questions For The Candidate:

These are not necessarily related to the candidate, but in general as you asked for some more thought-provoking questions that I use.

Tell me about yourself.

Why are you considering leaving your current firm?

What do you think you can bring to this position that other candidates cannot?

What are your analytical support needs, if any?

What concerns, if any, do you have about our platform?

How do you think the position will differ from your current situation?

Why do you want to change an MA to IB and visa versa?

What relationships will you be able to move to a new firm?

Tell me about your last supervisor. What did you like and not like about him/her?

How best am I to manage you?

Since this is potentially a remote position, have you dealt with that situation in the past? If so, how?

If you could wave a magic wand, what is the ideal new situation for you?

Please tell us about yourself.

What about our job interests you?

Give us a sense of your results in 2020. Number and type of transactions?  Average transaction amounts?  Marketing activity?

Of the positions you have held, which was your favorite?  Why?

Of the positions you have held, which was your least favorite?  Why?

What are you looking for in your next job?  What are you hoping to avoid?

What was one of your greatest career successes?  What about it makes you proud?

What was one of your greatest career disappointments?  How did you address it?

What was the last book you read?

What are your reservations about our position?


If you would like to discuss your options, please reach out for a confidential conversation at 760-477-1284 or email at [email protected]. He can also be reached on LinkedIn. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here, which is a compilation of our weekly blogs, so you never miss one. You can find our listing in the “supplier and services” section of the Red Book under the title of “executive recruiting”.

About Harlan Friedman, JD & Founding Member, H. Friedman Search LLC. Harlan is a thirty-year veteran Public Finance Banker turned recruiter who specializes in the placement of all levels Public Finance Bankers, Healthcare Bankers, Municipal Advisors, Compliance Officers, Issuers, and Bond Counsels.