Mistakes like hiring the wrong candidate can be expensive – and a huge waste of the time you’ve already invested in the process so skip it at your peril.

Checking is simple and straightforward and a star applicant will be happy to cooperate because they know there are no secrets to uncover or nasty surprises in store.

First, get the applicant’s permission to proceed and then request contact details from the previous employer or referee you think is most relevant, not the first testimonial offered up by your potential employee. But do make allowances if an approach to their current workplace is off limits because the candidate is keeping their job search quiet.

And don’t just talk to one person – build up a three-dimensional picture by quizzing two or three referees. Introduce yourself and your organisation, make it clear what you want and that you have the candidate’s permission to talk in confidence.

The rest of the conversation is obvious – make sure your candidate’s CV is bona fide by making sure dates and job titles tally and that there has been no embroidering of skills or responsibilities.

So what questions should you ask?

How long did you know and worked with the candidate?

What did their job entail?

Do you consider them to be reliable?

What did you appreciate most about their work and what needed improvement?

Would you work with them again?