I heard a wonderful story recently. A CEO from a small agency was hiring a department head and potential partner. He had, of course, obtained references on this candidate. When the job was offered to the person, the candidate did a reverse before accepting – he asked the CEO for five references. He wanted to check out what he was really like to work with and for.
At first this CEO was taken aback. Then he thought about it and said, “Why not?” In fact, he came to love the idea.
So do I. After all, as they say, "turnabout is fair play."
In all my years of recruiting, I had never thought of this or heard of it. But the more I think about it, the more I like it. Why shouldn’t an employee ask for references from a future employer? After all, as an employee, it is your life.
Now, I know that most people check out the company they are going to work for by asking friends and friends of friends. But do they really check out the person they will be working for? An employee has every right to know what working for or with someone is like before starting work.
Finding out what the people and company are about should be a matter of course. Potentially, you need to know whether they are fair, whether they are fun to be with, whether they will stand behind you, whether they will mentor you. And most of all, you need to know if you will like them.
I wouldn’t expect junior people to ask for references, but I love the idea of senior executives doing it. And why not? Not only does it communicate strength, it also communicates self-confidence. I am sure that some hiring managers might be surprised and even offended if a candidate asks them for references, but they should react exactly as the CEO I mentioned above did. (And if they react negatively, do you really want to work for them?)
What a great idea.