Why You Should Ask For Potential Employer References

23 04 2008

“He get’s bitchy sometimes.  Just understand that it has nothing to do with you, it’s just his personality.”

The words of wisdom from a co-worker on my fourth day in the office, and subsequently his last, rang through my head today as I entered my bosses office and realized he was in one of his “moods.”  I quickly turned on my comedic relief to ease the tension in the room and help to lighten his mood.

Allow me to backtrack, I have a great boss, I have the kind of boss most employees would love to have, he’s not about facetime, he’s about getting work done, and he understands the concept of a work/life balance.  He fights for his employee’s rights and for these reasons I love him.  If we had 360 degree feedback, and I were to write his review, it would definitely be a good one.

The words of my co-worker while I was still in my first week stay with me.  There are days where my boss is one step from seemingly taking it out on me, so I have learned to defuse the situation by making him laugh or letting him vent.  Occasionally I have to stop him and remind him that he isn’t mad at me.  This relationship is my other serious relationship.  Penelope Trunk often writes of having a friend at work who you can work with and who helps you work better.  For better or for worse, for me that person is my boss.

I’ve learned how to cope with my boss, and I’ve learned to defuse situations by comedic relief or just calling him out on it, but I wonder if I would be working where I am now if he had given me his references when I interviewed for the job.  Afterall, I do spend just as much time with him everyday as I do with my wife.

So I ask you this, why is it expected for employers to check references for employees, but the employee doesn’t get to see a reference for his boss before accepting the position?  

Many interview books recommend that you spend upwards of 24 hours with a person before hiring them or accepting their offer, however, no one actually does this, we don’t have the time, so we are forced to base major life decisions on what we can learn in about an hour (if we’re lucky).  

So I ask again why don’t we, the employee, get to check references?

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7 responses

24 04 2008
Rachel

I was so excited to read this post! My boss is the same way. Having been in this job for so long, I am very used to him, his way of communicating, and I we get along together well. At the same time, it’s evidently hard to get that comfortable with him and most assistants we hire are gone within two months. Even though I am not really part of the interview process for new hires, we are such a small office that I’ve made it a point to try to spend some time with potential assistants so that they can ask questions about him without feeling that they will make a bad impression. I think that this has really helped prepare some of them, so that they were not taken aback when they did start.

24 04 2008
danielb

Thanks! I’m glad to hear that other people are in the same spot. I understand that this concept is kind of far out there, but I think it’s a perfectly valid argument. Like I said, I spend as much time with my boss as I do with my wife, and My wife and I dated 5 years before we got married!

24 04 2008
Ian Selvarajah

“…why don’t we, the employee, get to check references?”

This is a great question I’ve often wondered about as well! However, I wonder how this would play out logistically though? Could you ask to speak to other employees about what working with your future boss is like? Would they [always] tell the truth?

I’ve been fortunate enough to always have good bosses/mentors so I’m quite pleased with that!

24 04 2008
danielb

That’s the standing issue. I think it’s a great idea, albeit radical, but why not? I don’t think anyone would be offended if you asked the question in the correct way, in fact if I were the hiring manager it would just impress me more.

25 04 2008
Jerry Matthew

Dan –

I think it’s a good idea ( and quickly becoming more important) for a candidate to ask for interviews with potential new co-workers. This would give the candidate a chance to quiz his/her potential new teammates and perhaps find out more about the culture, environment, and yes, the potential new boss. If you’re hiring into a leadership position I think this is essential. You want the ability to size up your potential new team before taking the reins.

If the company or the hiring manager resists you may want to look elsewhere.

25 04 2008
The Career Encourager

This is a terrific post – very wise idea to ask for references on working for a particular boss / company.

25 04 2008
danielb

@ Jerry, thanks I definitely agree. If I saw resistance I’d want to look elsewhere!

@TCE, thanks!

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