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While working in Palo Alto for a start-up accelerator, Ben Fowler was offered a job in Singapore. He knew he wanted to move abroad, but as with any major life decision, he needed to feel committed.
So, before the 27-year-old accepted the gig — to lead the start-up program at a co-working and consultancy firm, which is now called Found — and moved more than 8,000 miles away, he did something rather unconventional.
He went on LinkedIn and reached out to the company’s former employees to find out why they left. “Somebody who left a job, either got fired or they quit,” Fowler told CNBC. “In that, there’s frustration. If you ask the right questions and get somebody to vent, you find out what you need to find out.”
In his online search, he was especially interested in how many people had left the company and their average duration there. “You want to target people who have been around less than a year,” Fowler said.
As he combed through former employees, Fowler said he looked for common reasons that people left. “If a bunch of people leave at the same time, what happened? You can line it up with fundraising timelines or news articles,” he said.
Fowler said he reached out to about five people and three got back to him. He also prioritized people he had mutual connections with.
The insights Fowler gained from former employees — both positive and negative — not only helped him decide to move, but it also gave him more accurate expectations of the people he would be working with, he said.
But his tactics didn’t go unnoticed by the company.
“They shared honestly with me and yet many still told the company that I had reached out,” he said. “My COO at the time found out, but he said he loved that I did that.”
“I told him, ‘Yeah, it’s a level of professional vigor that I bring into my personal life, I’m going to bring it into the company, too,” he added. “Assume that it’s going to come back around and never put it in writing,” he said.
But Fowler’s advice may not be for everyone. He recommends using discretion when reaching out to former employees. “I only know about the start-up space. In this industry, it works very well but, be mindful: It’s a very small space and people talk.”