12 Reasons to Read Glassdoor Reviews with a Grain of Salt

12 Reasons to Read Glassdoor Reviews with a Grain of Salt _ MediaOne

Not to discredit Glassdoor reviews, but we all know they aren’t always 100% accurate. From disgruntled employees to employers with axes to grind, the biases can pile up and make it hard to get a real sense of the job.

Before we dig deep into the reasons, we’d like to clarify one thing: We’re not suggesting that you delete the app and write off Glassdoor as a waste of time. The app is still helpful and can give you a good sense of the company culture, benefits, and perks. Just be wary that some of the reviews may not reflect the actual reality on the ground.

For the unseasoned job-seeker, this can be a bit of a bummer. After all, you may have your heart set on a position that looks great on the surface but turns out to be a lemon in real life. For this, you want to take Glassdoor reviews with a pinch of salt. That said, here are some of the reasons you can’t always trust the reviews you read on the app: 

#1. No Verification Process in Place

Glassdoor relies on the honesty of its users and does not have any verification process in place to ensure the reviews are coming from an actual employee of the company. So, although the reviews may give you some insight into a company’s culture, they could come from anyone with an axe to grind or an ulterior motive. 

The thing is, anyone can post on Glassdoor and for any company. So while the reviews may provide a window into a company’s culture, they could also be false or biased information put forward by someone with a malicious agenda.

They have no review system to confirm the reviewer works or has worked for the company they’re reviewing. Their only guideline is that a person can only submit one review per year and that their content should be related to their jobs or an interview they have had within the last five years.

Their reason for this is that if someone posts multiple reviews, they could be attempting to distort the overall impression of a company. That is all great in theory, but it leaves plenty of room for manipulation.

For one, one user can have multiple accounts and submit reviews under each one. Secondly, there is no way to confirm the review was from an actual employee.

The user must create an account and enter a valid email address, but this doesn’t always mean the reviewer is a company employee. It could even be someone not affiliated with the business yet still posts a review. 

Plus, a lot could change in five years — a lot can happen in one year. Reviews that are five years old might not accurately reflect the company’s current state.

#2. No Posting Limit

While their guidelines state that a person can only post one review per year, their system doesn’t reinforce that. A person could feasibly write multiple reviews in one year and still get away with it. 

Seasoned employees take this as an immediate warning sign. Usually, the feedback is from a disgruntled ex-employee, not a current employee. Or it could be from someone within the company trying to stir up trouble.

#3. Employees Tend to Leave Reviews Only After they Have Had a Bad Experience

I have yet to come across a company so amazing and revolutionary that all of its employees post glowing reviews for them. 

No matter how great the work experience at the company was, many employees are less likely to leave reviews. 

The ones who take the time out of their day to review a company usually do it because they have something negative to say. 

Which means you’re only getting the one-sided opinion of a disgruntled employee who felt wronged and not an accurate representation of their actual experience at the workplace.

Remember, companies are businesses, not charities. They’re only likely to warm up to an employee who performs well and is an asset to them. 

So, if you read an overwhelmingly negative or positive review, take it with a grain of salt and do your own research to get the full picture.

You can always reach out to current or previous employees and ask their opinions. That should help you get a better idea of the company’s dynamics. 

At the end of the day, no review should be taken at face value, and only after you’ve done your due diligence should you make a judgement call.

With LinkedIn and all that, it shouldn’t be hard to find at least one or two people currently working or have worked at the company. 

#4. Over-exaggeration is a Human Tendency

You could be reading a review that is so glowing — it’s practically a love letter. A five-star review doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best place to work. A positive review could be an exaggeration, as people tend to overstate their experiences when excited. 

That explains why most reviews are rated 1 or 5, with no in-betweens. You might not like a company, but there’s no sense in trashing them completely. 

Genuine reviews carry mixed feelings. Someone might like a company, but that doesn’t mean they have no complaints. They might appreciate a company for great pay but complain about their work culture. That’s what makes a review realistic and helpful when job hunting.

#5. People Are Impulsive 

Do 99 good things and only one bad thing, and that’s the only thing they’ll live to talk about. That’s just how people are wired – they’re more likely to remember the negatives than the positives. So, when a reviewer has had a bad experience with an employer, they’ll write about it but not necessarily mention anything good they have ever done for them.

Plus, it’s always a spur-of-the-moment decision to write a review, so when someone is angry at their employer or has had a bad day, they’re more likely to write a scathing Glassdoor review rather than an honest and constructive one.

#6. Glassdoor Reviews Can Be Bought

Glassdoor Reviews Can Be Bought

Maybe you didn’t know, but a simple Google search of ‘buy Glassdoor reviews’ presents a long list of vendors that sell positive Glassdoor reviews. Employers can purchase fake 5-star reviews to look amazing or go dirty on their competition by purchasing negative reviews for them. And they’re cheap, too – anything from $5 for a single review to over $100 for a full-on campaign.

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#7. Flawed Rating System

Users can rate companies between 1 and 5 stars.

Happy employees might rate their company 4 or 5 stars.

But when an employee is angry, they might take it up a notch and give the company a measly 1 out of 5 stars.

There are no criteria to determine how the 1 or 5 stars were reached, leaving room for personal biases and emotions to play a role in the rating.

It’s purely opinions and emotions driving the ratings.

#8. The Reviews Don’t Always Reflect the Current Situation of a Company

The reviews on Glassdoor can range from recent posts to ones that are years old. 

Often, companies go through so many changes year after year, but the older reviews from previous years remain on Glassdoor.

A lot could happen in five years. It could be that the company got a new CEO and management team and improved its structure.

It’s important to consider the timeframe of when the review was posted to make a more accurate judgement about the company’s current state.

Companies don’t take negative reviews lightly. Most will act on it by changing their organization’s policies, procedures, and overall culture.

That’s why it’s important to look at recent reviews and trends in the ratings over time to get a more accurate idea of the company’s work environment. 

#9. The Reviews Don’t Necessarily Reflect the Company as  a Whole

A company can have multiple locations with different teams and management. That means that a single review might not reflect the consensus of all employees, even at the same location.

Ideally, every company reinforces a few core values with every hire. So it doesn’t matter if an employee is located in London or Texas. They should all share the same values and principles. 

But when you’re working for a company with multiple locations, it’s possible that some of those values might get lost in translation.

Ensuring that those values are practised in each location and that all employees are treated equally can be difficult.

A company can have dozens of offices, but it will only exist under one name on Glassdoor. That means that reviews from different locations may not be clearly labelled and can easily be lumped into one big ‘pot’ of reviews, making it harder to differentiate between employees’ experiences in the different locations. 

#10. Unreliable Ratios of Reviews to Employees

Let’s use Amazon as an example. They have multiple offices, with over 300 000 employees from all over the world. Yet, on Glassdoor, they only have 15,000 reviews. That ratio doesn’t make sense and can make the company seem like they have many negative reviews when it’s only a small number of employees sharing their experiences. 

The reviews could be coming from only 1% of the company’s employees, making it easy to distort the actual picture.

Remember that most employees will review a company after they leave an interview, receive a job offer, or when leaving the company. No one hardly wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to go to Glassdoor and review their employer. The reviews are usually postings with negative sentiment, so it’s not a balanced representation of the company or healthy workplace culture. 

In other words, the reviews may be written by people who were fired or left on bad terms and are venting their frustrations.

#11. Limited Scope of Reviews

Glassdoor reviews are limited in scope. It’s based on the opinions of a few people. There’s no way to know if this is truly representative of the entire company or not. Sure, it gives you some insight, but don’t forget that the reviews come from a very small subset of the population. 

If Glassdoor operated like Yelp, where customers rate multiple aspects of a business, it would be more balanced.

Glassdoor reviews are solely based on the employee’s opinion, which can be biased or even completely made up.

#12. No Receipts

Glassdoor reviews don’t provide any real hard evidence to support their claims. It’s just people talking about their experiences, which may or may not be true. No one can verify the accuracy of these reviews, so you should never take them as gospel. 

There is no video evidence, recorded phone calls, or paper trails to corroborate the accuracy of Glassdoor reviews. It’s just a bunch of people voicing their opinions.

I have seen companies with amazing online reviews but didn’t even own an office in the city they claimed to be located at.

How to Effectively Research a Company on Glassdoor?

How to Effectively Research a Company on Glassdoor?

Glassdoor reviews are helpful but not reliable. They might give you a glimpse of the company culture, but that’s not to say you should follow them blindly. 

So, how do you research a company on Glassdoor?

Step #1: Navigate the Overview

Your research process should begin with the ‘Overview’ tab on a company’s Glassdoor profile. This page contains general information about the company, such as its size, mission statement, headquarters location(s), founding date, industry, number of employees, and ratings from current or past employees. 

The section will also include links to other helpful sections, such as reviews, salaries, interviews, and jobs.

Some companies even update their profiles with company photos,  videos, and other relevant information — take a few minutes to browse these sections for additional insight.

Step #2: Don’t Read Reviews. Research them

Glassdoor reviews aren’t to be read as gospel — they are merely one piece of a much bigger puzzle. Read the reviews, certainly, but also take time to research the company, its employees, and how likely it is that the reviews represent the reality on the ground.

For instance, are there reviews from a few years ago that may no longer be relevant? Has the reviewer just recently left the company, or are they still employed there? Are the reviews from real employees, or have they been written by anonymous trolls? Do a bit of digging to get the full picture.

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Here are a few tips to take into consideration when you are researching reviews:

Step #3: Pay Attention to When the Reviews Were Posted

A lot can change in a company over the course of time. Reviews from months or even years ago may no longer be applicable. The company might have changed its policies, or the management team could be completely different.

For this, you want to first look at the most recent reviews, as they tend to be the most relevant.

Step #4: Look for Trends

Don’t just read one review and make a judgment call. Look for patterns in the reviews. Are there multiple people complaining about certain issues? If so, it may be worth looking into further. Or, look for trends in the positive reviews to see what people say is working well.

For instance, if most reviews talk about late payments, the odds are good that the company has some financial issues.

Step #5: Pay Attention to the Detail

Who wrote the review? Has the reviewer been an employee of the company for quite some time, or are they recent hires? Are they anonymous or using their real names? The more details you can glean, the better. That way, you can make an informed decision based on more than just the review itself.

Step #6: Consider Timing

Was the reviewer recently fired? Did the company just go through a major restructuring or had a change in ownership? These could be indicators that many of the reviews may not be accurate.

Step #7: Don’t Forget the Good

Reviews on Glassdoor may be overwhelmingly negative but don’t forget to look at the positive reviews too. There’s no need to read them all. Just ensure you don’t miss the gems between the not-so-great ones.

Step #8: Investigate

If you really want to get an accurate sense of the company, take some time to do your own research. See if you can find interviews or blog posts related to the company. That can help to give you a little more insight into the company’s culture and practices.

Find their LinkedIn page, website or other social media platforms to get a more rounded view of the company. See if you can trace some of its employees on socials and ask them about their experience.

Step #9: Check the Reviews for Things Like Benefits and Professional Development

Glassdoor reviews tend to focus almost exclusively on the negative aspects of a job and rarely mention things like job benefits or professional development opportunities.

Sure, it’s nice to know the pitfalls, but it’s equally important to be aware of the perks as well. Do some extra digging on other sites to get an accurate picture of what working at the company looks like — both sides.

Step #10: Filter the Reviews by Job Function and Location

It’s important to remember that no two jobs are the same, even if they’re held by people who work at the same company. Reviews will vary wildly depending on the job function and location, so don’t judge a company’s overall culture based on one or two reviews. Consider the type of job the reviewer held and where they worked to formulate a more informed opinion.

Navigating Salaries

After you’ve analyzed the company and determined it’s a good fit, the next question you’ll most likely have is, “How much will I be paid?”

Remember, compensations tend to vary between employees based on their roles, tenure, educational background, and other factors. Glassdoor reviews may provide insight into the salaries of certain positions but understand that your salary could be different if offered a job with the same title.

To research salary on Glassdoor, type your job title or function into the salary section and use the information as a benchmark.

Here, you’ll see details like the average salary range, the average salary, and additional pay such as bonuses, stock options, and other forms of compensation. If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty details, you can narrow down the field by years of experience and location. 

While at it, here are a few questions you want to ask yourself:

  • How recently was the salary updated?
  • How close is the position to the position I’m applying?
  • What’s the average salary, and how does it compare to my salary range (or what I am willing to accept)?
  • How many records are there?

The number of salaries in the Glassdoor database also matters. Generally speaking, the more data points they have, the more accurate the median salary will be.

In contrast, if there are very few data points for the position you want, it could be a sign that the salary is outdated or inaccurate.

Glassdoor will indicate if the average salary they have provided is “high confidence” or “low confidence.” You also want to pay attention to that indicator, as it can tell you whether or not the salary is based on a reasonable sample size.

Navigating Interviews

Suppose the company’s overview and salary information on Glassdoor looks good. The next thing to consider is the interview process. 

You want to ask yourself, “What does the candidate’s experience look like?”

Glassdoor reviews can give you insight into this. 

Here’s the information you want to look for:

  • How many steps are in the application process: Are candidates expected to have a phone screen? Will there be a video interview? What about the onsite interview?
  • What was the hiring assessment like? Was there a writing test, coding challenge, presentation, etc.?
  • What questions did they ask in interviews?
  • Was the interviewer friendly or intimidating? Did they take time to explain the company and its process?
  • How Long Did the Process Take?
  • What was the overall vibe of the office? Was it a relaxed and casual environment or overly strict and formal?

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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