Reverse Reference Checking = Peace of Mind!

The other day, a client of mine called me up to report the news that after several months of searching, he finally had a viable job offer in hand — and that a local high-tech firm had invited him to come join their team in an account management capacity.

Needless to say, he was quite excited by this turn of events.  It always feels good to be “wanted” by an employer, after all, and the job description in question happened to center around the exact type of work he was most interested in performing.  So on the surface, it was “all systems go” and everything looked like a tremendous fit!

When he asked me for my opinion about the opportunity, however, I was a little more reserved in my assessment of the situation.  For starters, having worked with this individual for a while, I knew that he’d be leaving a perfectly stable job, with a stable company, in order to accept this new assignment.  Secondly, after conducting a few minutes of reconnaissance on the Internet via sites like and, I uncovered a vein of feedback about the company that wasn’t all that positive or encouraging.  There were a series of negative comments posted on these sites, from former and current employees, saying things like: “The office feels like a sweatshop” and “the senior management team has absolutely no idea what they’re doing” and “there are not many opportunities to grow and be challenged at this organization.”

So we were in a quandary, wondering how seriously to take these negative comments.  Would it be mistake to leave his current “okay” position to take a potentially flawed one, in a less-than-ideal culture?

In these situations, however, there’s a helpful remedy that not everybody always considers.  In today’s hyper-connected world, you’re often able to conduct a “reverse reference check” by hunting around for someone in your network who knows somebody who works at the company in question — and who might be able to shed some light on the “fact or fiction” of the company’s desirability as an employer.  Sites like LinkedIn make this ten thousand times easier than ever before.  And in this case, I jumped on LinkedIn (on my client’s behalf), ran a quick search, and was able to turn up an acquaintance of mine who currently works for the employer in question.  This individual was happy to share his opinion on the company, if we agreed to speak off the record, and he gave us some invaluable insights into the culture, stability, politics, and other dynamics of the organization.

At the end of the day, the input from this individual broke the tie — and assured my client that while the company in question was not without its challenges, the specific issues involved weren’t insurmountable and would not likely affect my client’s day-to-day satisfaction in a major way.  So he ended up taking the job (hooray!) and I wanted to share this story, while it was fresh, just in case there are other folks out there who haven’t thought about using networking — and social media sites like LinkedIn — in this particular capacity!


3 Responses to “Reverse Reference Checking = Peace of Mind!”

  1. Richard: Agreed — people have to take ANY feedback like this on Internet sites with a grain of salt, and just one data point, since there definitely is a bias where “complainers” tend to frequent these sites more often than happy campers. This being said, though, I think one can weed out the “ax grinding” pretty easily if you read the language of each post — and see if a person is willing to balance their complaints with some positive “pros” in the section above. That’s how I tend to sort the good stuff from the bad stuff, at least. If somebody isn’t willing to give credit where credit is due, or say ANY positive things about a particular employer, than I obviously won’t give their comments quite as much credibility.

  2. Lately more and more employees seem to say negative things about their work environments and sure there are 2 sides to this.

  3. Richrd Mcleland Wieser June 15, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    It seems questionable just how relevant and accurate sites such as like and are. After all, it seems people with an ax to grind are more likely to post on such sites than those perfectly content with their job, thus skewing the data. The tactic you employed, using your network to investigate the company seems to provide much more reliable information.

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