At a CEO workshop earlier in September, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings reportedly told the audience that his company relies heavily on references when hiring new employees.
According to Business Insider, Hastings said he spends time picking through applicants’ connections, calling the ones he feels might provide the best insight into a particular candidate’s thinking and workflow. There’s just one catch: He doesn’t call the candidate’s listed references, but connections he finds on his own, by poring through social networks and other online sources.
While Hastings’ habit isn’t common within the tech industry (“I think that the reference checking thing is not as thorough as you would think,” he told the audience, referring to other companies’ hiring practices), it raises an interesting point for any tech pro pursuing a new job: Your prospective employer might not call your listed references, instead opting to pick through your personal network to find people and information you haven’t had time to curate.
That makes things a little more complex for your average job-hunter. It’s not just a matter of cleaning up your social profiles to present your best image (although you should definitely do that); if your prospective employer calls a contact with whom you have a negative relationship, you risk losing any chance of landing the job. If you’re still employed at a company you’re looking to leave, and that prospective employer calls someone linked to your current firm in some way (such as a contractor with whom you’re also friendly), that could also lead to significant problems.
So what should you do? Fortunately, not many companies follow Hastings’ “blind references” tactic—but before applying for a particular job, conduct a Web search to see if HR staff at the firm do something similar (Glassdoor and online forums can prove valuable resources in this respect). If they do, it’ll pay to reach out to a wider circle of your personal contacts, to suggest they might be getting a call.