Glassdoor is a platform that allows employees to leave reviews about their employer, as well as their opinion of the CEO, salary information, and more. It is often used as a place for employees to vent their frustrations because there is nowhere else for them to scream.
But can you trust Glassdoor reviews? Are they actually a (mostly) accurate depiction of what working at that company is like?
In the marketing world, we often lament customers only leave reviews when they’re upset. Meanwhile, happy customers don’t bother to share their experiences. They just go on with their day, satisfied that their experience matched their expectations. You can apply this same logic to Glassdoor reviews.
But the bad reviews are still out there and, as a prospective employee, they’re hard to ignore.
How do you know what’s a legitimate complaint from a distressed employee and what’s a vindictive move from someone who deserved their pink slip?
Here are tips on what to keep in mind regarding Glassdoor:
- Reviews that mention the same points repeatedly
- Happy employees rarely vent on Glassdoor
- Employers can (and do) manipulate reviews
- You can find truth in other sources
Reviews that mention the same points repeatedly
You’re checking a company’s Glassdoor page and they’ve got ten reviews, ranging from five-star sonnets to one-star rants. Some employees had great experiences and some left with their self-esteem shattered. Which reviews should you believe?
First, pay attention to the details. Reviews that are barely coherent, filled with grammatical errors or just seem downright petty are not your best bet when you’re seeking the truth. For as many honest, hardworking people that are out there, there are also those who believe everything should be handed to them on a platter. The tone and style of a review should shape your outlook on its contents because those factors give you an insight into the reviewer’s character.
Second, notice the patterns. Corroborating evidence is pretty damning. Are the negative reviews always bringing up that the CEO is disrespectful to women in the office? Do the positive reviews mention the salaries are generous? If similar points come up in different reviews, you can give them greater weight as they’re more likely to be truthful if shared by multiple sources.
You don’t have to worry about spam reviews either. Glassdoor has pretty good safeguards against keeping one person from spamming an employer’s page with reviews, even if they create new accounts to do it.
Happy employees rarely vent on Glassdoor
If things are going great at your job, there’s little chance you’re going to go to bother submitting a Glassdoor review. Some companies have zero reviews on Glassdoor, even though they’re well-established and have been around for a while.
But bitter people have plenty to say, especially if they have had no opportunity to vent to management or HR. Exit interviews are still not a common practice and some small companies won’t have an HR representative you can speak to either.
This means that even when you’re looking at multiple companies, the Glassdoor reviews you read are often negative. This can truly spook you away from an opportunity. But what if you really want the job anyway?
Try this exercise: if reviews complain there are never any company outings or team-building exercises, ask yourself if that bothers you. If reviews mention that employees are cliquey, ask yourself if your skin is thick enough to withstand that.
It’s not a pretty sentiment, but let’s be honest, it’s tough to find a job. Especially your very first job in the industry. And you may end up somewhere that isn’t perfect. Or, far from perfect. How much can you handle?
Do some self-reflection and then approach with caution.
Employers can (and do) manipulate reviews
Glassdoor reviews are increasingly a point of contention among company executives. When you Google search an employer, their rating on Glassdoor can come up on the first page. Seeing your company associated with 1 out of 5 stars isn’t pretty.
Executives will encourage, and downright pressure, staff to leave positive Glassdoor reviews. If a flood of bad reviews is being drowned out by five-star reviews all of a sudden, you can assume an executive sent out a mass email to his employees to leave reviews. After all, there’s a slim chance a company’s culture underwent a massive overhaul overnight and everyone is so thrilled that they ran to Glassdoor to rave about it.
The Sunday Riley scandal involving Sephora product reviews is an example of companies advising their employees to leave fake reviews. One thing is for sure: writing a review under pressure automatically dismisses its authenticity.
Such scandals definitely made people question if we should trust Glassdoor reviews. After all, the motivation to manipulate them is high and it’s not difficult to do.
Fortunately, Glassdoor does provide the ability to flag a review that you suspect was written by management or HR. However, it’s unclear how they determine whether the review is fake or real.
You can find truth in other sources
What do you do after you’ve read all the reviews and you’re more confused than ever? Here’s a final tip: forget about Glassdoor. Find the information you’re looking for in a different way.
Reach out to past or current employees at the company and see if they’re willing to chat. Most people will be extremely forthcoming, even with strangers, especially when that experience is far behind them. Ask them to not hold back, and see what you can learn.
You can also do some digging on Linkedin and note many employees, especially those in professions similar to yours, have stayed at the company for several years or fled early.
Take a look at the company’s Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter pages to get a sense of its culture and values. Do they highlight their awards more than their employees? Well, then you know what they value more.
These days, organizations put themselves out there quite a bit. You just have to be mindful that whatever they are showing you is only the best side of them, and you should do the due diligence to look beyond that.
So can you trust Glassdoor reviews? In my experience, Glassdoor has shown me more truths than mistruths.
The majority of people out there are decent, hard-working people who just wanted to be treated with dignity and respect. When that doesn’t happen, they want to share their experiences. Both to relieve themselves and also to help others avoid the experience they had. Glassdoor is one of the few places they can do so anonymously and have it directly reflect on the company.
Ultimately, an employee’s experience depends on their role, their team, and their manager. These are all factors that could be totally different from yours.
As a final note, I would encourage all employees to share their experiences on Glassdoor as accurately as possible. Whether they had a positive experience or not. You would be doing all incoming employees a big favour. And I would encourage prospective employees to check Glassdoor and potentially avoid a very bad situation.