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Employer Reviews

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Should you believe online company reviews?

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Should you believe online company reviews?

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Career Resources

Interviewing

Should you believe online company reviews?

By Kirsten Malenke

To prepare for a job interview -- and sometimes before even applying -- many job seekers conduct company research via online company reviews. It's helpful to know what you're getting into, right? For this research, applicants can turn to websites such as Glass Door or Indeed, which typically offer information regarding average salaries, interview experiences and questions, and provide a platform for company reviews of past and current employees.

But how reliable are these online reviews? Do they provide an accurate evaluation of the company? Are they really written by employees? To find out, ADVANCE turned to career experts for their thoughts on these review sites and how to use them effectively.

Insider Information

One benefit of online company reviews is they provide employee perspectives, which may offer more relevant information than that provided by the company website. "It's natural to want to know a bit more about a company before you apply for a job, and what better way to find out what it's really like working there than hearing from former employees?" said Monica Mizzi, a Career Adviser & Resume Expert at ResumeGenius.com. "Sites like Glass Door provide an insider perspective about what life is like for an employee, beyond all the marketing slogans and the rather cheesy employee testimonials found on a company website."

However, as Mizzi added, it's important for applicants to remember that these reviews are based off of just one person's experience. "You really don't know what went on in the months or years they spent at the company for them to form that opinion," she said. "It's the internet after all, and -- surprise, surprise -- there are people who do just make things up or do not tell the whole truth."

If a company has a number of correlating reviews, that's likely a good indication of what the company culture is like. "It's useful to look to such sites, so long as you remember to take a critical approach to doing so," Mizzi concluded. 

Potentially Misleading

However, according to Valerie Streif, a senior advisor with thementat.com, an organization that hires, manages and mentors hundreds of prospective job candidates, online reviews can be misleading. "The major problem with online company review websites, such as Glass Door and similar websites in markets outside of the U.S. (www.ratemyemployer.cajobadviser.com.au, etc.) is that many of the reviews on these sites are submitted completely anonymously, without needing any sort of proof that the reviewer actually worked in the specific position at the company," Streif said.

Employer ReviewsAccording to Streif, it has been revealed that many Glass Door reviews have been written by HR departments in order to lure in prospective job candidates. "This sort of deceit can lead job hunters into positions that actually had very high rates of turnover and unhappy employees," she related.

"Even for reviews written by legitimate employees, it's important to take all the information with a grain of salt, as usually people who bother to write reviews either really hated or really loved whatever it is they are reviewing," Streif continued. "Behind polarized feelings are usually specific reasons, which may or may not apply to the job seeker reading the review." 

For example, if an employee's priority is paid time off and they work at a company with great benefits and a lot of PTO, they may review the company very highly, even if the actual work they do is not satisfying or fulfilling, Streif shared. On the other hand, if an employee wanted a benefit that wasn't provided by the company, such as continuing education or other perks, they might become frustrated and therefore review the company negatively.

"These biases can be misleading; it all just depends on what each job seeker is looking for," Streif said. "People using employer review websites can discover useful information, they just have to understand how to read between the lines, evaluate each review objectively, and seek out specific details before making a decision to write off a company or go ahead and apply."

According to Streif, reading the median reviews (3-4 stars out of 5, for example) will likely lend more accurate insight than "angry 1-star rants" or "fake 5-star raves."

Supplemental Research

If you do indeed choose to utilize an online company review for company research, be sure to supplement it with a variety of additional sources. Visit the company's website and social media profiles. Even better, try to speak with current or former employees about their personal experience with the company. Lastly, when you interview, be sure to ask plenty of questions and make your own observations -- you'll likely get a better idea of what the company is like after meeting the hiring manager or other employees.

Kirsten Malenke is a staff writer at ADVANCE. Contact:kmalenke@advanceweb.com


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