Here’s Why More Job Candidates are Doing Reference Checks on Companies

September 6, 2016

The tables have turned…

Employment references are one of the oldest tools in the book. Companies rely on them to vet hiring decisions, and to assess the stability, competence and reliability of a possible employee. As a recruitment firm that conducts references on all our successful placements, it’s a great feeling to hear the enthusiasm in a reference’s voice when they speak about a great candidate we’re representing. A solid reference (often arriving near the tail end of the hiring process) provides confirmation of a candidate’s excellence. It helps our clients be confident in their hiring process, and weed out potentially bad fits.

But more and more, it appears like the shoe is on the other foot. As the job market continues to heat up, more job seekers are conducting informal references on prospective employers to make sure a company is right for them, from the perspective of culture, flexibility, and overall respect for employees.

Sound strange? Not really. A new report by Virginia Galt in the Globe and Mail examines this emerging trend, where candidates who are close to securing job offers will not just look up an employer’s “reviews” on sites like Glassdoor, but will go to the trouble of looking up a company’s current or former employees on LinkedIn and actually calling them up for a quick chat about what it’s like to work at the company. A “reverse reference,” if you will.

In our opinion, we think this report says a lot about where the job market is going, and how job searching is evolving in the social media age. With competition for talent heating up, companies, more than ever before, need to be aware of how candidates will do their diligence and walk away if they hear negative things about a workplace. Job seekers are demanding more transparency from the hiring process. They want to know what working for a company is really like, and this information is something you can’t always get from a hiring manager. Hence the emerging practice of candidates calling current and former employees for a reference about the company.

The Globe reporter spoke with a LinkedIn communications specialist about their 2016 talent trends survey, and LinkedIn highlighted something we’re definitely seeing as recruiters: high-end talent is more prized than ever, and in a hot job market candidates can afford to ask about why a job is open, the fate of a job’s previous holder, and other factors behind the veneer of a job description. 

This doesn’t mean companies need to be wary about prospective candidates reaching out to employees, or to crack down on existing employees giving “water cooler references” to prospective candidates. It just means they need to be all the more diligent in crafting a respectful and dynamic working culture – something companies should be doing anyway – so that employees will speak positively about their experience to prospective candidates.

Many companies recognize the importance of a positive working culture. They’re able to “talk the talk” about flexibility, work/life balance, respect for employees. These kinds of informal references and similar trends encourage employers to “walk the walk,” and commit to building a positive workplace in a world where candidates are more empowered than ever to research a company. Which we think is a good thing for a company as well. Because after all, a positive “reference” from a current employee might be enough to entice a candidate to accept a job offer they might otherwise not. logo_icon

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