The Disturbing Influence of Glassdoor

GlassdoorLast night a colleague went to Boston University to do a focus group on how undergraduate computer science majors perceive various aspects of a company’s employer brand. The results were quite interesting…

What Went Down

A software engineering job posting at a local company founded by some MIT folks was projected on a wall. Then, the speaker asked: “How many of you would apply to work here?” More than a quarter of the students in the room raised their hands.

Next, he showed this company’s Glassdoor page for 1 minute. In a quick scan, the students could see a rating below 3.0 and limited, or lame, reviews. Then the presenter asked again: “Now, how many of you would apply?”

Not a single hand went up!

“Why not?,” he asked the millennial group. Some of their answers were“It’s not worth my time to apply to this company,” “their best rating is a 4-star review that I don’t even believe,” “all I know is that this isn’t a great place to work, why would I apply?”

This is happening every single day to companies who aren’t managing their employer brand.


Ratings And Rankings: How It All Adds Up

The average Glassdoor rating is 3.4. That probably doesn’t seem half bad until that rating is the reason why you’re nauseous in the backseat watching a batshit-crazy Uber driver, bob and weave through heavy traffic.

Think about it. You wouldn’t get in the car (in fact, if they are below a 4.6 they are gone anyways). You wouldn’t eat at that restaurant. You would check the reviews and pick an alternative. That’s what candidates are thinking, too. They don’t want to apply unless you give them a reason to think they should. Being average isn’t good enough.

Of course, we know that 1/3 of people leave negative reviews for a company they leave, and, therefore, Glassdoor is negatively biased. Ask anyone you work with; they will tell you they take Glassdoor with a grain of salt. “It’s like Yelp.”

Take Note

Companies need to pay attention to Glassdoor – but the real lesson is that your broader online brand is important. We’ve all heard how candidates are now “job shoppers.” But, very few companies have actually worked to build proactively an employer brand. Bottom line: Don’t let your worst employees define your brand?

The top brands (Google, McKinsey, Goldman, etc.) spend millions each year on their employer brands. And here’s a hint, in case you haven’t caught on: they aren’t doing this because there is a low ROI. If Google needs to spend time and resources building their brand, do you think you can get away with simply spending more on Indeed postings?

GlassdoorRemember how no one wanted to apply to the test company once they saw the Glassdoor rating? Take a step back – remember that only 25% wanted to apply based on the job description – and this isn’t top talent. This is for undergrads who don’t have any experience!

Be proactive. This is costing your business every single day. Stop the bleeding and start reaping the rewards the best companies do from attracting the very best candidates. Get your best employees out there as ambassadors. Create interesting content and make sure it lives in the right places! You can start with a hashtag or a few Youtube videos. And, for companies beyond the startup phase, graduate to employer branding software that can scale.

Remember, the power of Glassdoor is that people trust people. High-level marketing influenced scripts, c-level execs talking about “innovation,” and cheesy background music just doesn’t cut it. Be authentic, own your brand, and get it out there!

About The Author:

philPhil Strazzulla is the CEO of LifeGuides, a software company that creates, manages and shares employee authored content about life at your company. In minutes, you can create employee testimonials with LifeGuides, automatically distribute the content via social, you careers page, relevant Google queries, and job postings. Phil started LifeGuides at Harvard Business School where he earned his MBA. Previously, he was a venture capital investor at Bessemer Venture Partners.

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  • Thorvington Finglethorpe

    Maybe, if your perception is that Glassdoor has a “negative bias” the problem isn’t the site, it’s that your company isn’t that great of a place to work in the first place. If it were, maybe your non-disgruntled employees (if any) would feel more compelled to have posted positive reviews before this.

    Maybe you should take the negatives more seriously: Those people who told you what’s bad about your company are doing you a favor… Trying to bury that information, trying to silence that criticism is foolish: Embrace those negatives! If someone criticizes you in a way that’s valid (i.e. obviously, some criticisms are sour grapes, some are “a matter of opinion,” but other’s are substantively correct. I looked my company up and found the reviews we’d received to be relatively accurate: That is, yeah, the people who said negative things did complain about things that weren’t really our fault, some of the time–but a great many of their criticisms were spot-on!

    Everyone is so nervous about “negative” things–the only way you really learn from something is through knowing what your actual failures are. If you only hear sugar-coated criticisms from people who need their paychecks (so aren’t likely to be 100% honest, no matter how much you swear you won’t fire them over their criticisms) you’ll end up with a false impression of your company, and wind up at competitive disadvantage.

    • LifeGuides

      Thanks for the comment – for the record I think Glassdoor is a very valid place for companies to better understand their culture and what’s going on. Ideally you’re using a more effective tool (pulse surveys, etc). But, GD can be a place to find out what needs attention in your org/culture.

  • Debra Hegler

    I had the pleasure to interview someone from Glass Door and found their strategies quite fair. Thank you for the reminder that employment is becoming more complex and it’s important not to trash employees or you’ll have trouble attracting talent. Fair warning.

  • Hoo Maxim

    I dont think author has any touch with reality. Glassdoor is good first step to know how a company treats its employee , if too many employee leaving the company are posting negative comments then there is something wrong with the company not all the employees.

    • LifeGuides

      GD is a good resource, but there’s no doubt it’s negatively biased. The activation energy needed to post a review is high, and typically only achieved via a negative experience (just like Yelp reviews, etc). Most companies have a disgruntled section, but they may be a very small minority (albeit the people most likely to post on this type of website).

  • Celine Tessier

    Indeed has only been doing company reviews for 2.5 yrs GD has been doing them for 9. Yet Indeed has more company reviews than GD and a company’s ratings tend to be higher. Not to mention that they won’t spam your page with your competitor as a way of blackmailing you into making an outrageous purchase that yields only 1% of hires. Maybe it’s because the reviews are sourced by actual resume users rather than someone with an email alias running around blasting companies because their friends, with a friend, who’s cousin worked there once. Can you fix that with more Indeed postings? Well, Indeed is a search engine first, posting tool second. And yes, you can post for free if you don’t use an ATS. Your ATS is indexed for free. So 180 million unique users every month, translates to 58% of all external hires. So why please tell me, are you talking about disrupting GlassDoor? Who cares about it? Look at the profile of one real company on Indeed and one on GlassDoor, they are not paying for either company page.,23.htm
    2.5k reviews with a 3.0 rating compared to: 4.7k reviews with a 3.7. rating. Indeed, 180 million unique visitors per month, GD, 18 million. You are barking up the wrong tree. But to answer your question, YES, you can overcome this with more Indeed postings. Especially if you are managing your brand to a 10 times larger audience FOR FREE.

  • Sarah Aviles

    Great article (with the exception of the word “batshit”). Other than that, very true and informative.

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  • Lia Economos

    Uh, if you don’t think that MIT CS grads are top talent, I don’t think you know what those words mean.

    Recruiting and hiring undergrads in CS from top schools is literally one of the hardest things to do as a recruiter.

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  • Jason Day

    While I do agree that the rating system on Glassdoor can hurt the company’s hiring process, it also helps us job seekers get a slight sense of what the company is about. There have been so many times that I have been approached or have found a job that looks attractive, but after going on Glassdoor and reading the reviews, it really turned me away from applying. Obviously, when you read these reviews who have to make good judgement on whether the reviews are authentic or fake. Personally, I try to read a good amount of reviews before I make a decision. I look at consistency, reasoning, and time period, which I have found to have worked for me. Every company has its issues and it would be naive to disregard that, but if their seems to be a trend of a specific problem, it should raise some eyebrows. And to your point about former employees bashing their former company, maybe its because they have a legitimate reason for their outlook. People come and go from companies everyday, so usually there shouldn’t be hard feelings, unless they were treated incorrectly in some sort of way. The best way to avoid that is for companies to establish a culture that truly cares for their employees so that if one day they leave they can say they had a positive time while working there.

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