Checking references is a normal part of the hiring process.  Although they are meaningful, it is unlikely that a candidate is going to give you a set of references that don’t speak highly about their performance.  So, you ultimately need the inside scoop, right?

Since every hire at a startup is critical, it is very helpful to get one or two backdoor references to further validate the person’s performance and potential fit for your company.

Here are three tips on identifying sources to provide you with that critical, final vote of confidence that you are truly making the right hire.

1.     Look inside your own company

This is the obvious one.  As you are reading a resume, you should pick up on the companies where the candidate worked in the past and be able to recognize if there is any cross over with current employees.

2.     LinkedIn is your friend 

Hopefully, you have been doing a great job at building out your network on LinkedIn because there are two ways that you can use LinkedIn to identify potential backdoor references.

First, look up the candidate on LinkedIn.  If they are a second degree connection, you will see “shared connections,” which is the contact between the two of you.  Hopefully, the mutual connection is a former co-worker, but if not, perhaps he/she has previously dealt with that person in some professional capacity.

Second, if you are a LinkedIn Premium account holder, there is a great feature called Reference Search.  This feature allows you to find coworkers by doing a search via company name and years they were employed there.  The search results will give you everyone in your network who overlapped during the same period of time.

3.     Founders typically help founders

If the candidate previously worked at company, where the founder was involved in the hiring process or potentially worked directly with the candidate… don’t be shy.  Reach out directly to the founder and introduce yourself.  Let him/her know your intentions about talking about the performance of a past employee.  Since they understand the entrepreneurial journey and the critical importance of every hire being a star performer, it is likely that they will respond to your request and give you the inside scoop.