Glassdoor grumps: are they really a fair reflection of a company?

Once upon a time, word of mouth and angry letter-writing were our top forms of expression when it came to outing a bad company to work for. Now, as our lives are increasingly led online, job review sites such as Glassdoor are making employers take greater care in the way they present themselves to potential staff. But are they 100% reliable?

For job seekers the site is a breath of fresh air; with a wealth of transparent reviews from previous and current employees, detailing what it’s really like to work for a company. For company HR departments, it’s a useful tool to regularly monitor employee fulfillment, and show off their workplace to potential employees at the same time (if its page is glowing with stars, that is). As for recruitment agents, it’s a job advertising dream. So what one thing brings down the entire integrity of job review site, Glassdoor?

Written in the stars… or, not

The answer is the grumps. Disgruntled, ex-employees whose reasons for giving a referral may not always be legit. Staff who are generally satisfied with their workplace don’t have as strong an incentive to get themselves heard as those who are steaming mad with the company - meaning negative, one-star reviews bear a disproportionate presence on the site.

WorkplaceDynamics investigated the accuracy of Glassdoor’s reviews, comparing data from their own surveys to the reviews on the site. 406 large companies were surveyed by WorkplaceDynamics, then compared to their corresponding reviews on Glassdoor. The result? Virtually zero correlation. In fact, it was conservatively estimated that grumpy employees were five to eight times more likely to leave a job review than happy staff.

According to figures from Adecco’s social recruitment study, 70% of recruiters use social media for their daily HR activities, and one third of recruitment agents admit to rejecting a potential candidate due to content, photos and information on their social media. In the same way the HR industry analyses a candidate’s reputation on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, job seekers can turn the table and check out a potential company in a similar fashion.

Say you’re employed by Orion Group, which specialises in engineering careers. You need to hire more than 200 people, and the majority of them are hard-to-fill positions such as software engineers and data scientists. A daunting task, indeed. The last thing you need is a bunch of terrible referrals putting off potential candidates; turning hard-to-fill positions into even bloody-impossible-to-fill positions.

Wrath of the workforce

It’s not just recruiting agencies hindered by biased reviews; companies themselves take the biggest blow to their reputation with these less-than-glowing referrals.

Freelancers outsourced by businesses can leave a one-star review without having ever worked in the office: a huge concern for companies, especially websites taking on vast amounts of ‘contributors’, who aren’t necessarily employees of the company, but appear to be on their reviews.

With great social media, comes the need for even greater transparency. As with any open review site, personal preferences can affect average scores and negative reviews outweigh the positive. The key is to take it all with a pinch of salt, and hope that potential candidates do the same.

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