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It is common practice for employers to ask for a reference from the candidate to assess how good they are and if they fit an open position. How would you react if a potential recruit would ask you (as an employer) for a reference?

Context: I am in the hiring process for a position where they are looking for someone on the long run. They have already asked multiple questions to make sure I know what I am applying for and that if hired, I would actually like the job. I feel like getting in touch with the previous employee would give me the best overview of what the job actually entails, but since I have never heard of such a practice, I feel a little bit embarrassed to ask. It could be interpreted as second thoughts, or they could think it a bad idea since that person left.

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    Have you looked them up on Glassdoor? – ObscureOwl May 25 '20 at 10:43
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    That is usually why you ask questions in the interview - especially how they “hedge” around exact duties etc – Solar Mike May 25 '20 at 10:58
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    You can ask anyone anything you like. You don't need permission. – joeqwerty May 25 '20 at 15:02
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    @joeqwerty sure I am allowed to ask anything I like, that is beside the point. I am interested in potential reactions if one employer would get such a request – Delphine May 25 '20 at 15:27
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    The most they would be able to do, for privacy reasons, is to give the former employee your contact information and a note of your request. – Patricia Shanahan May 26 '20 at 22:06
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If I were considering hiring you, I would find that request bizarre. It is actually not a bad idea, if the person left with goodwill on both sides, but even so, I'm afraid it will come across as off the wall.

Hiring managers tend to be very conservative and rules-oriented, because hiring has long term consequences that directly reflect on the person making the hiring choice.

I do not believe the person you ask will dare tell you, "Sure, talk to the person who just quit." And I think that having to decline will have a negative influence on the conversation between you, overall.

Talking to current employees whose assignments intersect with the position you are applying for is a great idea. Asking them what they expect of the person who fills the role in question can give you much insight into how the assignment will play out. It will also give you a preview of the work culture and some of the people you can expect to work with closely-- better information, perhaps, than you might get from the ex-employee.

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  • Thanks for the opinion! It's true that I could also just get in touch with other employees and get very valuable information as well, without the risk of coming off as odd – Delphine May 25 '20 at 12:42
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I do a lot of hiring, and my answer would be this "Of course. I can't stop you from reaching out of them on your own, but I can't give you contact information do any introductions." There are any number of privacy issues with that. It is possible that the relationship with the prior employee ended badly for any number of reasons, and that could be a very awkward question to ask.

Let me suggest an alternative idea. Ask if they would be willing to let one of your prospective PEERS interview, because you'd like to hear more about the company culture and daily work life to ensure you are the perfect fit for the job." That will come off better and achieve the same goal.

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  • I hadn't thought about the privacy issue, good point, thanks! – Delphine May 26 '20 at 11:39

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