Ranking employers in real-time

Do sites like Glassdoor hurt or help the recruitment process?
By Liz Bernier
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/18/2016

No one likes negative feedback, particularly when it’s posted online for the world to see. But negative employer reviews on job sites such as Glassdoor may have more dire consequences than a few hurt feelings. Reviews of a company could have an enormous impact on the calibre of talent they attract, for better or worse.

“We are seeing more and more social transparency sites for employers, so that shouldn’t be ignored,” says Stacy Parker, co-founder and managing director of Blu Ivy Group in Toronto.  

Glassdoor is probably one of the better-known ones but there are lots of ranking sites, she says, such as Indeed or RateMyEmployer.ca in Canada.

And a lot of jobseekers are checking those sites out before applying to a job — and that proportion is especially dramatic among millennials, says Parker. 

“About 80 per cent of millennials actually do go to Glassdoor when they’re looking at jobs they want to apply to.”

If a candidate is exploring a job posting and he goes to Glassdoor and see a negative ranking, it’s absolutely going to be a deterrent — particularly if there are a number of negative reviews, says Parker.

“Another thing with sites like Glassdoor is when you go onto that site, the competitors will also be right there, and so if a candidate’s been interested in your company enough that they look them up, and they see negative reviews, they could then very easily be able to click over to your competitors. And if there are better rankings there, there’s a good chance that that candidate’s going to apply to them and not to you.”

These sites, and Glassdoor in particular, are fairly balanced when it comes to reviews, says Marc Cowlin, director of corporate and employer communications at Glassdoor in Mill Valley, Calif.

“Bad reviews are interesting in the sense that what we see mostly is a pretty balanced (set of reviews). For the most part, people are pretty happy with their jobs on Glassdoor, so you don’t tend to see things skew too far either way when you look at things in aggregate,” he says.

The average rating on Glassdoor is 3.2 out of five and 71 per cent of users report they are “OK” or “satisfied” with their jobs, according to 2015 research from Glassdoor.

“That said, bad reviews can ultimately offer a balanced view of what it’s like to work for the company,” said Cowlin.


What are jobseekers looking at?

Online reviews help companies in showing what it’s really like to work there, which helps job candidates make decisions, says Cowlin. But exactly what information are jobseekers looking for? 

“We’ve actually done some surveys internally and found that 61 per cent of users seek company reviews and ratings before making a decision to apply for a job. So that’s a pretty astounding number,” says Cowlin. “What we do is give the jobseeker the information they need to make a decision, regardless of where they are within their job search process.”

In fact, there is pertinent information to every stage in the search process, he says. For instance, Glassdoor has general company reviews, interview reviews and CEO reviews and it has the ability for people to share their salaries.

“This is information that you don’t typically find on a company’s ‘About us’ or employment pages, and that information can actually help, regardless of what stage a person is at in their search cycle,” he says. 

“If you get to the interview stage, you actually have the opportunity to go read interview reviews and learn what it’s like to interview at that company, what types of questions might be asked, and a little bit more about leadership and what that might be like.”

The commentary about leadership can be critical for a jobseeker, says Parker. 

“People make decisions not just about a company’s brand, but also about the leaders they work for — so they’re looking at that stuff, for sure.” 

Another interesting consideration? Many jobseekers trust information on review sites — positive or negative — more than awards for employers. 

“Many jobseekers also tell us ‘We trust looking at Glassdoor review sites much more than employer awards,’” says Parker. 

“There is a lot of attention by companies on winning a top employer award — they think that that is so important. But the reality is that when we talk to jobseekers, or we talk to internal employees about how much that is an influencer to them, it doesn’t even appear (on the list). So executives think it’s very important, but jobseekers and employees look more at those ranking sites and trust those more because they don’t think it’s just a marketing pitch. They think it’s true perspective.”

Value-add for employers 

Many employers think online review sites are just complaint sites or they only attract disgruntled ex-employees, says Parker. But online review sites can actually add a lot of value for an organization seeking to build a strong employer brand.

“In fact, there’s a lot of organizations that have a lot of great reviews — great, amazing things that your marketing team couldn’t even capture from a copywriting perspective… so it can be a huge sales tool,” she says. 

Even if there is negative commentary on the site, employers can look at it as an opportunity, says Cowlin. 

“When you see something that’s particularly bad, a lot of brands look at that as an opportunity to understand where they can actually make improvements. So it’s not necessarily always bad to hear some of the more negative feedback… it gives you an opportunity to spotlight where you might want to think about change,” he says. 

“We’ve found that employers often respond to those reviews on Glassdoor — we’ve found that people who are reading the reviews definitely like to hear those responses and it shows that the employer cares and is looking into the situation.”

Also, employers can’t be too quick to classify a review as negative or off-putting to candidates when “negative” is often in the eye of the beholder, says Cowlin. 

“What’s good and positive for some may not be good and positive for others, and it goes the other way too. What’s negative for some may not be necessarily negative for others. A good example of that is, for instance, work-life balance. Some people have a different view about what work-life balance should be,” he says, adding that a “negative” review about work-life balance might actually be a positive for someone who is looking for a challenging position. 

“Negative and positive can actually vary from person to person depending on what they’re looking for in a position,” he says. 

“The other thing about negative reviews or more challenging reviews is that from a jobseeker perspective, it gives them a chance to self-select… it gives them the opportunity to go through and determine what makes sense, and that can have a positive impact in the recruiting process because what we’ve found is that people actually self-select whether or not it’s a good fit for them.”

At the end of the day, it’s like any other open review site, says Parker. 

“There are going to be people that are incredibly negative and there are going to be people who are very positive, and you kind of have to read what the median is — what are the averages saying?”

If there’s an advice for employers around monitoring and leveraging these review sites, Parker says stick to the theme of transparency and clear messaging. 

“It’s really important that employers — because of the push for transparency — that they do not try to influence what employees say. I’ve seen that backfire tremendously,” she says. “But I’d say having an employer brand and an employee value proposition that employees know, it helps them start to repeat that similar language when they are online… if you don’t talk about what makes you special and unique and what you stand for, then people will create that dialogue on their own.”

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