The internet has changed how we do so many things, from how we shop to how we make doctor’s appointments to how we study. According to a Zendesk study of consumers’ use of online reviews, 88% of consumers have been influenced by an online customer service review. Since consumers and candidates are the same people, it’s no wonder that the internet has changed how we find jobs, as well.
But the internet’s effect on job seekers goes beyond just changing how candidates find and apply to jobs, or how companies find and recruit candidates. It has also changed how we make decisions — like what job we want to take. Before you panic about negative online company reviews, or invest lots of time and money into polishing your online reputation as employer, here is what impact online company reviews really have and why a less than stellar reputation may not be a huge deal.
Online Company Reviews: The Impact
Glassdoor, Vault, and CareerLeak give employees, former employees, and even interviewees a digital soapbox from which they can share their experiences of what it’s really like to work for your company, or even what applying for a job at your company is like.
In a 2011 Software Advice study that surveyed 4,633 random job seekers, 48% had used Glassdoor at some point in their job search. Just under 50% used Glassdoor before job seeking, in order to identify the best employers to work for, with just around 15% waiting to use until after receiving an offer, to assist in making the decision to accept or reject the position.
The study also found that 60% of job seekers would not apply to a company with a one-star rating, on a five-star scale, and 33% would not apply to a company with less than a three-star rating. Of the subcategories for ratings, it was most important for a company to have a good compensation and benefits score, with 30% of job seekers surveyed ranking that as the most crucial subcategory for a positive rating. Work-life balance followed closely, with almost 25% of the vote. A positive rating for senior management was the least important, at just 10%. As expected, a poor compensation and benefits rating was most likely to deter candidates from applying to a company.
Age of ratings matters, too. Study respondents valued reviews from the past six months the most, suggesting that older reviews might be considered out-of-date by candidates who believe that they are unlikely to still reflect the present reality of working at your company.
The Software Advice study found that individuals making $25,000-$49,000 per year were most likely to use Glassdoor in their job search, suggesting an entry- to mid-level applicant skew. However, over half of all Glassdoor users are over 45 years old and 55-64 year olds make up the most active demographic of Glassdoor users.
This suggests that Glassdoor might have a socioeconomic skew, with the professionals who seek out higher paying positions finding their information elsewhere. Personal connections, professional networks, and alumni groups are all possible information sources, so remember that, even in this hyperconnected age of technology, your company’s offline reputation is still incredibly important.
Another implication of the combination of low salary and older age range is that Glassdoor may be used more by individuals in positions with typically low base salaries and high commission potentials, such as sales.
Rotten Tomato: How to Manage Negative Company Reviews
The first step to managing your online company reputation is knowing what it is. Stay on top of what is being said about your company by regularly checking Glassdoor and other top company review sites. If you find negative reviews, respond quickly and appropriately to minimize the reputational damage.
“You shouldn’t ignore negative reviews, as that could be viewed as either an admission of guilt or, simply, apathy” says Dawn Alcott, owner of Alcott Media. “It’s all about transparency — address any reviews or negative posts quickly, with empathy for the employee, and without sounding defensive.” Try to avoid entering into a ‘he said, she said’ argument online. Instead, respond in a non-hostile way that shows that you’re listening. Then take the rest of the discussion offline.
“Rather than specifically addressing negative remarks, you could say, ‘Thank you for your valuable feedback. I would love the opportunity to talk with you about your experience in detail. Please contact me at your earliest convenience’” says Jayson DeMers, Founder and CEO of AudienceBloom. “Where possible, having someone directly involved in the situation respond is preferable to having a customer service agent respond.” Don’t let your concern with fixing your image prevent you from recognizing an opportunity to improve your company.
If there is truth in the complaints, even if it is buried under a disgruntled former employee’s exaggerations, learn from that truth. Incorporate the feedback into your company now, in order to improve employee satisfaction and prevent disgruntled employees from posting or quitting.
Of course, sometimes an employee who doesn’t work out is angry about being fired or asked to resign. Thus not all reviews are honest reviews. “If a post contains false, libelous, or inflammatory information, you may contact the social media site to have it removed” says Alcott, “This is especially effective if the post is racist, contains obscene language, or violates any of the terms of service of the specific site.” Well-handled exit interviews can help reduce the likelihoods of an ex-employee taking his/her complaints online, by giving the employee the opportunity to vent his/her frustrations and diffuse any anger over the situation.
Take advantage the effect of reviews’ timeliness by making your company as great to work for as possible and then asking satisfied employees to write positive reviews of your company. Over time, the older reviews will look outdated and be buried under new, positive reviews. Working in an unpleasant workplace is not desirable, but most will not be put off by the prospect of working in a pleasant workplace that used to have some, since resolved, problems.
Another great way of addressing negative reviews with potential hires is by showing that the complaint is either unjustified or no longer applies. “If online reviews say your organization lacks career advancement, don’t just talk like the car salesman” says Bob Corlett, president of Staffing Advisors. “Invite candidates to meet with 3 people who were promoted. Engineer the interview experience so that the conclusions candidates form about your organization are favorable. When you create an interview experience that addresses people’s natural concerns, and allows them to gather their own information, they will chalk up your bad reviews to disgruntled former employees or old habits your organization has made efforts to change.”
ROI of Online Company Reviews: Apply A Grain of Salt
Or a shaker-full. Of course it isn’t good to have negative online reviews and of course it’s great if the first thing potential candidates see when they look up your company is pages upon pages of raving employee reviews, but the reality is that investing in improving your online company review collection has a questionable ROI. According to a 2015 CareerBuilder Candidate Behavior study, only 20% of candidates do extensive research, beyond visiting company websites before applying. That means that only 20% of potential candidates might be put off by negative reviews before starting the conversation.
The other 80% of candidates, who will either not see your online company reviews until after beginning the application process or will never bother to take a look, base their decisions throughout the process primarily on things other than the thoughts of strangers who have worked for you before. So what do they care about, if your ex-employees’ two cents isn’t it?
68% of respondents in the 2015 CareerBuilder Candidate Behavior study said that their experience during the application process has an impact on whether or not they accept a job offer. To win those candidates over, be sure to make the application process as transparent and considerate as possible.
Don’t make them go months, or even weeks, without hearing back from you after submitting an application or participating in an interview. Keep them updated on their application and try to move quickly enough that they believe that your respect their time and they might lead to application from even more candidates. After a good application and interview experience, 86% of respondents in the 2015 CareerBuilder Candidate Behavior study told at least one person about it, with some applicants telling ten or more.
On the flipside, 33% of study respondents said that a bad in-person interview is the most likely factor to negatively impact their opinion of a company where they had applied to work. 23% voted a negative referral from a friend, family member, or colleague as most likely to negatively impact their opinion and 14% identified a bad job posting as the worst indicator.
In comparison, only 11% of study respondents said that negative information found in a Google search would be most likely to negatively impact their opinion, only 5% cited bad reviews on Glassdoor, and only 2% cited bad reviews on Yelp. Every candidate matters, especially when it comes to filling hard-to-fill roles, but it boils down to a simple truth.
Some candidates will look at online company reviews and some won’t. Some candidates will care about your employees’ and ex-employees’ opinion of your company and some won’t. Some candidates will avoid you and some will still come running if you’re paying enough.
There are still many questions to be answered, based on the interesting results from online company reviews studies in the past. Candidates in which industries care the most about online company reviews? Are sales professionals and others in commission-based positions more likely to use Glassdoor and similar sites? How positive can reviews be before they’re written off as attempts to pander to HR?
Overall, if you are interested in optimizing ROI, cleaning up your online reputation may not be the path to take. But if you have the bandwidth to make your reviews gleam and serve as another attractant for new talent, or if your online company reviews are absolutely awful and you need some clean-up efforts to make sure your reputation as an undesirable employer isn’t scaring off the great talent you need to succeed, make your offline company reality great and then tap your satisfied employees for praise.