A growing trend in job search strategy is the emergence of employer reviews found on a variety of internet websites. These posted reviews are designed to provide job seekers an inside peek into how an employer is viewed on a variety of topics such as compensation, benefits, and management. The reviews are marketed as having been written by current or former employees of the company. The concept is similar to the consumer evaluations found on the internet to help shoppers determine what to buy.
In theory, the value of these reviews should be very clear. Like most things, however, using these evaluations to assess a potential new employer is not quite as easy and simple as you would think. There are several factors that must be considered prior to making any type of conclusion based on the review. Let’s examine some of the most important aspects that should be considered.
• Most people will not take the time to write a positive employer review. Think about yourself at a restaurant, when are you likely to fill out a comment card, when something is OK and goes as planned or when you have a poor experience? The answer for most of us is obvious. Everyone is really busy, especially those who are gainfully employed and challenged at work. Logging on to an employer review site takes time and is not on the mind of very many workers.
• So, what are you left with if most employees who are happy or satisfied don’t want to take the time to write a positive review? You have many negative reviews posted, often times by ex-employees whose time with the company may not have ended well. Please also keep in mind that no one is “fact checking” these postings. The posts are made anonymously and some (who knows what percentage) contain either incorrect information or observations made from the perspective of a disgruntled employee.
• Further complicating the review rating is a counter-action that many employers are starting to use. They have begun encouraging Managers (and others) to log in and leave very positive assessments, in order to counter the negative posts. This is a concept that has already been used over the last several years on the shopping websites.
• A way to assess the relevance of the review rating is to consider how timely are the assessments? Policies and leadership can change, so are you reading reviews that express concern over policies that have changed and/or leaders that have since departed, or is it something that is current? You may want to have a calendar cut-off regarding the posted reviews by only focusing on the reviews that have been left in the last year or two (and perhaps do your own rating recalculation).
• Consider exploring the reviews left for other companies in the same industry or profession. The reason being is that the review score for the prospective employer may not be much different than other similar companies. If this is correct, then the concern may not be with the company, but rather the industry or profession. You then have to make the decision whether you really want to work in this job or industry. For example, if you really want to work in a specific profession, then you are not just evaluating the employer based on their review score, but (more importantly) how is the rating compared to its competitors?
• Evaluate the quality of the review and focus on those that seem to be the most thoughtful. Give full consideration to those reviews that provide some level of detail and examples. A review that outlines both positive and negative aspects can provide a full perspective of the employer.
If you are going to utilize the existence of posted reviews, it makes sense to read them prior to being interviewed. By doing this, you can ask targeted questions of the Hiring Manager based on information that you have pulled from the assessments. It is your call whether to actually reference that you have read the online reviews that are available. Personally, I would recommend not disclosing this information, as I would rather have the Hiring Manager naturally answer my specific questions rather than becoming defensive over the reviews that have been posted.
Employer reviews can be a useful resource to use as part of an overall assessment strategy. It is rarely a good idea to just rely on one data set when making a decision. Rather, a Job Seeker should use several information sources besides online reviews, such as direct information from a current or former employee, a general online search of the company, and (most importantly) your own evaluation from speaking to the Hiring Manager and anyone else during the process.
As always, the best of luck in your job search.
The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.
Joe Stein WNY Human Resources Professional
Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at: Joe Stein