Fred Wilson has a great post on reference checking. From the post:
The thing I have learned in thirty plus years of making reference calls is to pay attention to how things are said more than what is said. And pay particular attention to what is not said.
However, reference checks aren’t just for CEOs, hiring managers and VCs. They are a powerful tool for job candidates. It is tedious and time intensive, but is an additional source of information about a company for which you are considering working. LinkedIn is in particular very useful here, because if you are thinking about working for company XYZ you can find out not only who works now for them, but also who used to work for company XYZ. You can also find out who knows someone who knows someone who used to work for them. Yes, this takes additional time, but if you’re going to be spending 40+ hours a week at a company, isn’t it worth gaining some perspective from people who are or were on the inside?
Consider it one more method of doing your research.