Reverse Referencing- The New Normal?

Posted by | July 12, 2022 | Employers, Market updates, Recruiting tips

reverse referencing blog header

By Rhiannon Robinson

When hunting for a job, we expect potential employers to ask for our references before we progress to the final stage of the process. Often, all candidates have to judge the company on is some online stalking and a few hours of interview time. Starting a new job is a two-way commitment, so why do we allow employers to ask for so much more than job seekers?

Our current labour market and brave new working world is turning that on its head. With a dire shortage of candidates in Aotearoa, job seekers are definitely holding the cards. In this situation, we’ve seen the trend of job seekers asking an organisation for their references really kick-off. This reference could be the person currently doing the advertised role, a colleague or another ex-employee.

Savvy job seekers will be asking this referee about the vacant role, company culture, and more. In our pandemic-era working lives, things like hybrid working policies and ‘design your day’ options have become a crucial element when deciding on a new role. But the reality of the job often differs from the shiny corporate-speak in the job ad. Job seekers are not leaving anything up to chance, and if a ‘workplace culture’ reference is not offered- Glass Door and some LinkedIn stalking are the next options. Top-tier talent will often have an extensive professional network, and it’s very likely they have a connection who can offer insight to your organisation over a coffee or DM.

Here at Do Good Jobs, we’ve been recruiting for a new Business Development Manager- and we knew we’d need to bring our A-game in the current market. We not only added a testimonial from our current Business Development Manager to the job ad, but offered her contact details as a reference for Do Good Jobs and the role. We’d prefer candidates to have as much information as possible so they can figure out if they are actually aligned with our values, goals and the way we work. This process had great results for us, and really improved the recruitment experience.

Employers reading this may be feeling a little tentative. What are potential candidates likely to be asking about? Well, PwC’s latest Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey found that people looking for a new role had three top priorities: 

  1. Being rewarded fairly financially
  2. Finding your work fulfilling
  3. Feeling empowered to bring your whole self to work

Candidates will be using the reference, as well as the formal interview and other intel, to ascertain whether a potential role will deliver in these areas. Some hiring managers we talked to aren’t keen on reverse referencing, as they’re worried about losing control of the organisation’s image- or that the referee will say something to put the candidate off.

If these thoughts are running through your head, we challenge you to reflect on how you’d react if a candidate was hesitant to provide their references. It would probably be a big red flag, right? You’d wonder about their performance and character in previous roles? That same red flag will be popping up for candidates if you’re hesitant to provide a reverse reference.

We think reverse referencing will become the norm, and we’re all for it!



About Rhiannon Robinson

Rhiannon Robinson is a labour market and organisational culture nerd and has done research on the use of personality traits in job ads. Read her 2022 labour market predictions here.

Our team offers job ad reviews and other services, like candidate shortlisting. Feel free to get in touch with [email protected] for more info.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.