Is it ever wrong to contact fmr. employees before interview?

Hello everyone:

I have done it before, but always using some tact and never asking “so… was your boss an a-hole”? It is always more of an informational inquiry as to what it is like working there and what advice they would give to me before my interview; basically trying to gather as much inside info before my in-person interview. My goal is to ultimately have an upper hand to impress my interviewers and nail the interview. Not to mention, also figure out if I would be a good fit there.

I’ve only done it a few times in the past and have never gotten rebuffed by a former or current employee; as I make it clear my intention is to network and learn about their former/current workplace.

Anyone else do the same? Any tips?


I’ve done it before, but in a very informal setting. Nothing weird in my mind. But these were all personal/professional friends, or friends of friends. So nobody out of the random. Also I’ve had people ask me all the time, I have no problem giving someone a 30minute call to give them info

But I would always say " Hey. Interested in working at Blah Blah. Was wondering If I could talk to you about your experience there. "

Or what happens usually " Hey Eman! I got an interview at XXXXX, would you mind telling me a bit more about working there. Really excited about this opportunity and would love to go into his interview as prepared as I can be. Let me know if your avaliable for a quick chat."

Which sounds exactly like what your asking. I say go for it, but only if your connected to the person in anyway, (just get introduced via your mutual contact). Total random person emailing me via LinkedIn. Might not get the same honest response.

Hi Emmanuel,

Thanks for chiming in. I am not connected to this person nor know anyone connected to him; that I know, but I will double check if this designer and I share some connections on LinkedIn; as it would seem less “weird”.

But at the same time, if someone contacted me out of the blue (and they have; asking for info about where I interned or did contract work), I wouldn’t mind; as long as they were courteous, professional and were strictly asking about the work environment, and not gossipy stuff. Anything to help someone out. So I assume that it is ok to do so.

Thanks for those introduction examples. I am going to personalize them a bit and see how it goes.


I have been on both ends of the line and have contacted previous and current employers as well given out 411 on places I have worked.
I actually just now had an email exchange with a former intern at a place I interviewed this week who now is at my previous employer.
Getting his take was really helpful as he now also knows where I am coming from.

The worst that can happen if you contact anyone is that they just might not get back to you if there isn’t any other connection outside of Linkedin or similar. I could not imagine it ever reflecting badly on you, as long as you are respectful and tactful, which you already mentioned you are.

If you don’t know the person you are contacting, you might get the full, unfiltered take though and you might have to read between the lines a little and pick up on a general tone of the response. Let’s say the design director is in fact an a-hole, nobody in their right mind will ever write this in a email. But there might be hints there that pint to the fact.

If you are in town of the firm where you are looking for work, you might also suggest to actually meet up and temp with a beer or coffee. I have meet with applicants on two occasions and I thought it was great.
Also, I had the chance to have a pre-interview before the interview and was able to hand off a little information myself when it later on as I met the applicant in an informal setting.

My favorite story is from years ago when I interviewed at this place and I naïvely asked what their lawsuit against a former employee was about. It was the most awkward moment I’ve ever been through. (it turned out it was a noncompete violation)

Agree with Eman and bepster’s advice. In person or over the phone is always better as the person will be more candid. In email you will likely get a very sanitized version.

Oh, true… I hadn’t thought about that, yo: everything you put in an email is forever. So they might be hesitant to open up a bit more. I will see if I can be afforded a short phone chat; since it is long distance, but I will keep this advice in mind for future inquiries.

Thanks to everyone thus far.

Agreed with Yo, i contacted a former employee once who i did not know after being hired about working with the design manager… The email was very professional and non-descript but enough info for me to ask to talk with him. Thats when the other information and detailed stories came out… which allowed me to better deal with situations based on new insight.

I now try and talk with former employees before moving to any job if i can find and reach them.