Getting the “unvarnished’ truth about employees

May 3, 2010, 10:58 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

It’s easy to find hotel, book, movie, and restaurant recommendations or reviews online, but how do you find out if a potential employee is a great hire or a loser?

Peter Kazanjy, and two of his Silicon Valley friends, came up with a website for community-contributed reviews of professionals called Unvarnished. It lets people post reviews of co-workers and bosses. Their name is not attached to the review, but it’s not entirely anonymous because his company records IP addresses.

“It’s not a place where you go to grind an axe on someone,” Kazanjy tells me. “In fairness there are going to be situations where somebody has done something obnoxious that does merit censure in the form of a review and previously that information wouldn’t float, but for the most part people are contributing very positive reviews.”

Unvarnished requires users to rate people on a scale of one to five stars, and Kazanjy says more than 70 percent of the site’s thousands of reviews are four or five stars. Co-workers and employees are also evaluated based on 10 characteristics including productivity and integrity.

He sees a need for this kind of service because a lot of companies don’t give out recommendations anymore. Or if someone calls looking for a reference, the human resources person might gloss over any deficits because they don’t want to face legal action from a former employee.

“There’s an extraordinarily high failure rate when it comes to hiring with 30- to 40-percent of new hires failing to last more than 18 months on a job,” Kazanjy says. “Interviewing is a lost art and trying to figure out resumes can be like reading tea leaves, so Unvarnished tries to get down to information about who’s great, who’s good and who maybe I don’t want to work with.”

The site launched on an invitation-only basis through Facebook, which is another way to guard against people signing up so they can take out a personal vendetta on a co-worker.

UnvarnishedUnvarnished co-founders Peter Kazanjy (far left in picture) Danis Dayanov, and Jason Heidemasays.

Unvarnished is a cross between LinkedIn and the kind of book or product reviews you might see on or Yelp, with peers contributing anonymous information about their co-workers. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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Getting the “unvarnished’ truth about employees