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References for employers

I was chatting with someone yesterday who is applying for a new job. He/she said "I'd love to speak to whoever it is that just left the company."

I find it strange that employers want references for employees from past employers, yet I've never heard of anywhere where you could contact ex-employees of a company to ask about their experiences there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

I always ask if it's a new position or a replacement.  If it's a replacement, I ask why the person is leaving.  Then I ask if that person is still around so I can talk to them.  About 50% of the time they're still there.  I also ask to speak to some employees.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

He or she might want to contact the previous employee, not only to decide whether they want the job but also to ask questions about anything that's undocumented about the software they'll be taking over.

So, during an exit interview, it's good to ask whether the exiting employee would mind being contacted. My previous employers and peers know how to contact me if they want to.

Christopher Wells
Wednesday, January 21, 2004

That sounds like a great way to find out if the previous person left because it was an impossible position or situation... for any number of reasons.

Joel Spolsky
Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The problem though is what if he/she /did/ leave because it was impossible at that company? Are they really likely to want you to talk to the last person? I think they'd just tell you he moved to somewhere unknown, got eaten by the dog, or they had to nuke his house in case he leaked some of their IP. I toyed with the idea of setting up a webshite for the purpose, but you would have no way of knowing whether anyone who posted information was legit or not.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

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