Did you know there is a "Yelp" for your boss and company?: This is what it's called..,
A couple of weeks ago, I was working to place an executive at a company when I get a call from one of the candidates. He’s in a bit of tizzy; he just heard that he was offered the position. I congratulate him on the good news, but then I hear his voice drop. It turns out that while we were on the phone he went on Glassdoor--one of the growing number of websites that allow employees to rate their experience working at a company--and saw some less than glowing reviews. This was a situation that I had never had to deal with on the fly. It has made me think quite a bit about how these sites fit into the future of hiring though.
Before we go on, it seems like some more information on these sites might be helpful. Essentially, these sites operate in the way that Yelp does; they compile ratings based on current and past employees’ comments and survey responses. The parameters of these posts are often quite wide and the content varies. For example, some people comment only on the general company culture, while many others offer specifics about their bosses, their company’s owners, and even their colleagues. No holds barred. It can be difficult for people to reconcile ratings websites with workplaces, but these sites are, without question, changing the hiring process. In this day and age, people spend months looking at customer reviews of blenders on the internet before committing to one. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that people are thinking about their jobs in the same way. And, good for them! Of course people should do their due diligence before accepting an offer and starting a job at a new company. Say what you want about the internet, but it has proven to be a generally reliable amalgamator of public opinion.
With all that said, they call me “America’s Workplace Guru,” it is my job to know this stuff, and even I must admit that the jury is still out on how much you should let these sites inform your career decisions.
Based on my experience, a couple of things are clear to me. The first is that it is tough for a company to have unanimously good reviews. There is so much that can determine what makes a good or bad work experience that all types of company rating systems leave a lot to be desired. It is worth thinking of how these rating sites differ from a website that rates restaurants, for example. There is only so much that can make a restaurant experience good or bad, after all you’re there for a couple hours at most. Our jobs consume so much of our lives now that rating a workplace can often feel like rating how your life is going. The second point about which I am sure is that these company-rating sites are both most and least valuable because they tell individual stories. By this I mean that because the ultimate rating is an average of a number of individual ratings, I have found that in most cases the overall stars rating is not very useful or instructive. Often, it feels like the good reviews and bad reviews balance each other out, and the just-okay reigns supreme. Now, of course, if there are hundreds of ratings and the vast majority are saying great things or terrible things about a specific aspect of a company, that is worth paying attention too. Otherwise, I have found the best way to use these sites is to find employees whose comments you relate to. For example, if you know that you don’t respond well to people yelling at you, and an employee has reviewed a company and commented that every manager he worked with yelled at him, that company might be a bad fit for you. I also feel like we have all been trained to be skeptical of overly good or overly bad reviews. Millennials and younger workers in particular are quite savvy about cutting through BS on the internet, but I don’t think it’s too hard for most of us to determine whether a review is genuine or is the screed of a disgruntled former employee trying to take revenge. Most of the reviews I read on these sites are very transparent; even if they are not vetted, trust yourself to figure out what happened in each situation.
My opinion, as of now, is that anybody considering a new job would be crazy not to at least look at company reviews on these sites. The tricky part is figuring out how to use the information most effectively. I suggest that anyone trying to sift through this information take these steps: Look at the big picture to see if there are patterns. Then look through the individual comments to see if anything stands out to you personally. The miracle of the internet is that we have endless information; the curse of the internet is that we have so much information that contradicts itself that it’s difficult to figure out what’s the truth and what’s bogus (certain political figures have figured this out and parlayed this acceptance of anti-facts into a real shot at the presidency, go figure). With the Presidential Elections right around the corner, it would be interesting to see the Glassdoor reviews on The Trump Organization and the Clinton Foundation, could be insightful as to their leadership abilities.
Bottom line, do not just glance at the ratings on these sites; they’re only as valuable as the way you use them. I think most people are smart enough to figure out what’s worthwhile and what’s garbage, the rest of you, good luck because if you can’t figure your way through internet commentators, you’re likely to have trouble in just about anything you do.