The Case for Asking Your Employer for References

A friend of mine is looking at a life-changing job offer. It would require relocation, sectoral change, a personal clock frequency increase, and, of course new people. There are plenty of reason to take the offer, including lots of independence, challenges, and, it doesn’t hurt, buckets of money.

So, he’s taking the job right? Well, he’s not sure. Not, however, because he’s some nervous sort, afraid of taking risks, etc. It’s because of the people — because it’s a small group, and a few meetings, calls, and emails have only given him a limited sense of what it would be like dealing with them day after day.

He asked me what I thought he should do. I said, “Ask them for references”. Yes, ask his prospective new boss co-workers for references. It’s sort of surprising that you don’t hear about the idea more often, but I’m actually a fan of reverse references. You really sometimes need an independent sense of what employers are like, and one way to get there is via their references.

Sure, there are plenty of ways to game the system, just as prospective employees can, but when you’re faced with a life-changing decision there is nothing wrong with asking for references — theirs.


  1. keithpiccirillo says:

    A couple decades ago when I was exploring a new insurance gig, I made the rather bold request of asking if I could speak to some of the sales representatives to find out how much they enjoyed working there.
    My interviewee told me not to, because they had bad attitudes, and I did not accept the job that they offered me.

  2. This is an excellent point – you often don't know much about the company you're joining. In one case everything was rosy at the interview, but a few months after I'd turned it down one of the guys told me quite seriously that the SVP exhibited "the clinical definition of psychopathy". Really makes the case for reverse references.