Employer reviews: how they impact your ability to attract talent

Are recruiters and employers paying enough attention to online employer reviews? If you aren’t staying on top of them, you should be. Bad reviews on sites like Indeed and Glassdoor (the best known review site) may be costing companies dearly when it comes to talent. Anyone who thinks this doesn’t matter or doesn’t apply to them might want to think again.

A 2019 Randstad survey found that, while 66% of managers didn’t think negative online employer reviews had a significant impact on their ability to recruit top candidates, 57% of people said they won’t even apply to a company with negative reviews. Another survey by Fractl, conducted in 2020, found that one in three respondents (out of more than 1,500 people) had turned down an actual job offer after reading negative reviews about a company online. And a 2017 study by CareerArc found that 55% of job seekers would abandon a job application if they read negative employee reviews online.

This is only common sense in 2023. People look at online reviews before making all kinds of decisions, mainly purchase decisions, like what to buy, where to eat, where to travel, and what to read or watch. And most people are going to want to gather as much information as possible before making any decision that will impact their lives, particularly one as important as how we’re going to be spending 40 or so hours every week. So, we look at online reviews of potential employers before applying for and accepting jobs, and make our choices accordingly. Online reviews aren’t going to be the only factor that comes into play, but they certainly do come into play.

Are online employee reviews all lies and fakery?

This is potentially frustrating for employers for a few reasons. One is that we know online reviews might be heavily weighted in one direction or another and we also think they might be entirely dishonest. We suspect some employers are incentivizing workers to leave good reviews or padding the sites with fake ones to improve their image. And we all know that a lot of people only leave reviews when they’re unhappy with something. Some research suggests that, when it comes to purchase reviews, people are two-to-three times more likely to leave a negative review than a positive one. When it comes to the workday, most of us aren’t going to take the time to hop onto Glassdoor to say that a company is a perfectly fine place to work.

The Fractl survey found that disgruntled former employees were indeed the people most likely to post about their experience, and that over half of workers gave their former employer 1 or 2 stars. But, were the reviews honest? For the most part, yes. Only around 10% of workers admitted to lying or stretching the truth in their review and about half of those people said they did this to damage their former employer’s reputation.

Can people create fake reviews? Probably. Glassdoor says it only allows reviews from current or former employees but also admits, “At Glassdoor, we aim to verify as much of our data as possible. Considering the reality of our digital age, however, we’re unable to fully confirm our users’ identities, the truthfulness of their contributions, or their employment status.”

Regardless, people still read them and put stock in them. Raymond George conducted our own LinkedIn survey asking “Do you trust employer reviews on Glassdoor?” The balance was weighted on the “yes” side with only 32% of people saying no.

It’s definitely a good idea for company leaders to stay on top of employee reviews and try to ensure that people don’t want to leave negative ones.

Some tips for employers on managing online reviews:

Check reviews regularly: It’s important to read what your employees are saying. Don’t ignore this.

Don’t dismiss the feedback: It’s tempting to dismiss negative comments as unwarranted criticism or a problem with the reviewer rather than the company. Resist this urge and pay heed to what people are saying.

Respond: People are also reading your responses to reviews. Silence says you’re not paying attention and/or don’t care, which is not a good look.

Don’t get defensive: Be measured in your responses and don’t get angry, accusatory, or defensive. The more thoughtful you are the better you look.

Use the feedback to improve your workplace: Those reviews are telling you something whether you like it or not. Try to turn negative feedback around by making changes.

Encourage good reviews: If you know your employees are happy, ask them to share that information with the world. This should not be required but encouraged.

Examine your exit process: Domenica D’Ottavio, lead researcher for the Fractl study, told CNBC, “Conducting thoughtful exit interviews, and offering decent severance packages can leave a lasting impression and turn a 2-star review to a 4-star review.”

At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone. But you can do your best to manage your reputation. Good employer reviews will make a difference and improve your talent acquisition.

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