According to SHRM, nearly all companies surveyed (92%) complete reference/background checks. However, it’s less common for employees to complete reference checks on their employers—beyond a casual google search to verify what they do and screen out any major red flags.
Networking sites such as LinkedIn have made it easier than ever for people to search connections and find someone who knows someone who works for or did work for the company. A quick connection request with a message asking for feedback and the candidate has a reference for you—that’s a reverse reference.
Reverse references are a great way for job seekers to flip the script in the interview process. While you’re calling their references, they might also be looking into yours.
Why not beat candidates to the punch and offer them references? It’s a great way to build trust with potential hires, demonstrate a positive company culture, and you’re able to curate your own list of references that can provide the best insights into your company.
Logically, potential employees should want to check your references for the same reasons you want to check theirs.
The reasons that reference checks are common during hiring are the same whether they’re for the employee or employer:
- Verify that everything they said is true
- Get a better understanding of what they’re like
- Uncover any potential red flags
Checking references is essentially an exercise in verifying information, which employees should have the option to do easily as well. By providing candidates with a list of people they can reach out to, you ensure that they aren’t doing their own homework and potentially get a skewed view of you or your organization.
Offering candidates reverse references can be a great strategy when it comes to reputation management.
Providing candidates with references you can trust will share an honest—but generally positive—perspective of their experience working at your company can quell any concerns an applicant may have. It’s also a great way to naturally eliminate any people who may have been on the fence about whether or not they would be a good fit—hearing it from the viewpoint of someone who has nothing to gain or lose by them accepting the job or not.
Reverse references can be particularly helpful if you have received some negative publicity or feedback from sites such as Glassdoor. Choose a mix of current and former employees (with their permission) that will be able to address some of the specific concerns that a candidate may have.
When deciding who to offer as a reference to potential hires, you should be sure the reverse reference meets a few criteria:
- They should be willing—and maybe even a little excited—to provide a reference for you and the company.
- They should be relevant to the role that the candidate is applying for by having either worked with their team or worked with their direct manager in some capacity.
- If they’re a former employee, ensure that they left on positive terms (eg, a new opportunity or retirement).
- Ensure that they are generally available (don’t live in a completely different time zone or have little cell/internet service) to respond to the candidate in a timely manner.
A manager may also choose to include additional references from colleagues outside of the organization to give a better sense of their management style and what it’s like working with them. This is up to their discretion.
Transparency is increasingly important to employees—they want to work for companies and people that can trust. Ultimately, providing reverse references can be a great way to build trust with employees before they even become employees.