Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Counterpoint: Why you can't dismiss @Glassdoor

Context: A few years ago I was working for a company.  The work was challenging, but I believed we were doing good in the world.  And then one day, it ended. They were an at-will employer and they had eliminated my department. After eight years, it was "thanks, good luck."  I was thrown for a bit of a loop.  I hadn't kept up-to-date with what was going on out beyond the doors of my organization and I had allowed my resume to drift as I moved around within the organization tackling interesting challenges.

Fast-forward to now. I landed on my feet in a far better position than I could have even dreamed. I'm working with the smartest people I've ever worked with and there's always really interesting challenges and opportunities for growth. But one thing remains the same - the employer is an at-will employer.  I could be gone tomorrow.  I hope not.  But at the end of the day, the business has to answer to its shareholders. If it decides my role is not aligned with its goal of increased profits, I could go. It's nothing personal.

I'm not looking to leave my current employer (hi, boss!) but to make sure I stay in the know, I respond to recruiters who reach out to me. I have a unique skillset that a lot of companies are seeking and I work for a company known for its top-notch people.

So a recruiter recently reached out to me and I looked at the role and the company they were recruiting on behalf of. When I don't know much about the company in question, I'll look at their website and check out Glassdoor.  In this particular case, the company had a 2.1 on Glassdoor.

I asked them about it. Their response was that you shouldn't rely on Glassdoor and sent me a link to this article: 10 Reasons You Shouldn't Trust Glassdoor Reviews.  I thought there was some validity to the author's arguments, but I think there's more to be considered.  So I don't intend to pick apart the original post, but offer my counterpoint:

You can't dismiss Glassdoor. Here's why:

1. We're using it.

Whether you like it or not, we're using Glassdoor to learn more about companies.  Just like a restaurant can't stick its head in the sand and ignore Yelp!, companies cannot afford to plug their ears and go "lalalalalala" whenever Glassdoor is mentioned. Someone who's researching the company on Glassdoor is also showing initiative and discernment. You want to pass the Glassdoor test. You want potential candidates to poke and prod and then respond, satisfied that a relationship with the company you're recruiting for is a relationship they want to participate in.  Onboarding a new employee isn't cheap.  Onboarding a new employee only to have them discover it was a mistake is a big waste of money.  You want informed, inquisitive, proactive candidates.

2. We know how to spot B.S.

Again, Yelp.  Or Amazon.  Any of us worth our salt can smell bad reviews a mile away (and you don't want people who can't tell the difference).  And we're familiar with the idea that bad experiences are more likely to make it into a review than that of someone who's happily plugging away, content in their job.  It takes some work to create multiple reviews, so someone has to really hate you to go to the trouble. Also, the researcher is going to have a positive bias and seek confirmation for what they want the outcome to be. A job seeker wants the company they're thinking about joining to be good, so they will give more weight to positive reviews and less to negative reviews.

3. Where there's smoke... 

The Trending graph is an amazing part of Glassdoor.  It's harder to "game" by people submitting fake reviews and it says a lot.  Got a low score that's getting better over time?  That's a great sign.  Have a high number that was higher a few months ago?  That might give some pause.  (Yelp, please bring this back!)

4. Glassdoor is motivated to make it right

This is a no-brainer. Glassdoor is a for-profit company.  They live and die by their reputation as a legitimate source for on-the-ground insight for how companies are doing. They're going to be fighting bogus reviews and they've made tools for all of us to flag potentially bogus reviews for them to assess as well.  It's not going to be this pristine source of 100% truthiness in all cases, but I think they've established well that they're reliable and that being reliable is important to them.

5. It's a great way to show if you're invested

A brand no longer has 100% control over its own image and reputation.  But, a proactive company will cultivate the image it wants to portray in the areas where its customers are.  So much like investing in a social media strategy, a smart company also invests in a recruiting strategy that includes participation on Glassdoor.  For some companies, that means a generic reply to every review (I almost called this "We know how to spot B.S., part 2") but for other companies, it's a real engagement - responses where necessary, visible attempts to learn and grow from the negative responses, knowing that an engaged and interested potential future employee is going to pick up on this.

So... what if you're recruiting for a company with a low score?

Own it. Be prepared for the question. Know you will lose some who will see the the rating and not respond.  (You may even need to make additional promises, like an increased salary or certain guarantees to protect the candidate from existing unfixed issues.)

Make sure the company is aware of its rating and working to correct it.  Be ready to talk about how.

Watch that trend. Make sure it's on the upswing.  Ask employees -- especially the high-performers -- to post honest reviews.  Don't coerce, don't promise or reward participation.  Be completely above board.

But whatever you do, do not dismiss the candidate or make the candidate feel bad in any way for bringing it up.  That's just bad business.

(Cross-posted on LinkedIn.)