Before You Ask for a Backdoor Reference from a Connection, Read This!
For better or worse, social media has changed the way we recruit.
Since the adoption of recruiting via avenues such as LinkedIn, we as a society have not established a real etiquette for the “dos” and “don’ts” of recruiting through this medium. There is a false sense of a professional camaraderie that develops on these sites that can in fact be professionally detrimental. One of my biggest concerns is the how this will effect what is called the backdoor reference. A backdoor reference check involves obtaining a reference from a person who was not provided by the candidate. An example of this is when you have a rapport with someone at your potential new hire’s present company who can shed light on how he or she performed. I fear, however, that hiring managers may overestimate the importance of their LinkedIn connection’s opinion of their recruit.
The backdoor reference is more common than you’d think, especially working with expansion-stage companies and startups, where hiring managers are more apt to seek corroboration from someone in their network before hiring the candidate. The reason for this is that these companies are often making critical hires, and making a poor decision will set them back during a critical growth stage.
Before you seek out a backdoor reference who is not on your new hire’s list here are three things to consider:
- Is the person you are reaching out to a credible source? Would you trust them in other business endeavors? If you don’t know the answers to those questions, then why are you allowing them to persuade your hiring decision?
- If you do know the backdoor reference you need to inquire how well he or she knows the candidate in question. Has he or she interacted with them professionally, or does the candidate in question work on a different team? If the answer is that they have not — then there is no need to proceed with the reference. There is nothing of substance that can be provided, and any insight would be about as beneficial as high school gossip.
- Is this reference going to jeopardize the candidate’s current employment? This is a big one. It is always risky to reach out to someone not on the candidates reference list. More often than not, a candidate is not openly looking for a job, and by involving someone the candidate did not list as someone who can be used as a reference you may call attention to their job search. In this instance you may lose your top candidate, as well as ruin your credibility.
While it is a good idea to leverage your network, it is important to make sure you take precautions when reaching out to discuss a potential new hire. The dangers of social networking sites like LinkedIn are that we as the users get lured into a false sense of trust. If nothing else, please heed my advice; be sure you know and trust the people in your network before you allow them to sway your opinions on your candidates.