Ask LH: How Can I Do A Reference Check On My Employer?

Ask LH: How Can I Do A Reference Check On My Employer?

Hey Lifehacker, When you’re applying for a job, there is quite a bit of emphasis placed on your own references — but no one seems to do a reference check on their potential bosses. If you were going to work for someone, wouldn’t you want to know what management style that person had? Should I ask for references from my potential employer? Thanks, Looking For Work

Dear Looking For Work,

Yes, it’s always a good idea to find out something about your potential employer. Looking for a job is not a one-way street — it isn’t the case that being offered a role should make you so pathetically grateful that you’ll ignore whether it’s a good fit.

That said, asking directly for references is going to come across as arrogant in a lot of cases. The main exception is if someone has actually headhunted you for a position — in that case, understanding the job and who you’ll be working with is a sensible thing to bring up.

Assuming that’s not the case, there are two key things you can do to investigate your employer’s “references”:

  • Before going for the job, investigate the company online. Look for employees of the company on LinkedIn, and check out what people say about the firm on sites such as Quora.
  • Prepare questions to ask in an interview (assuming you get one). This is your chance to find out more about the company, so don’t waste it. Check out our suggestions for the best questions a candidate can ask.

How have readers gone about checking out potential employers? Tell us in the comments.


Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].

Investigation picture from Shutterstock


  • I find social media and LinkedIn to be kinda worthless in respect to assessing a potential boss. No one is going to keep negative feedback about themselves on those sites.

    I haven’t found the ideal way yet because asking questions outright does, as you point out, seem arrogant.

    The trick might be to ask subtle questions and piece it all together at the end of the interview when you have quite introspective time.

  • Now, this would be a great idea for a social media site: people reporting anonymously on their employer…all facts, nothing libelous, of course; but what a boon to help lift employeer’s game. And even if you ended up having to work for a creep, at least you’d know (then end up taking a constructive dismissal case to FairWork Australia, if you had to).

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!