Does anyone still trust Glassdoor reviews?

It was once viewed as the go-to tool for making a career decision. But has the glass shattered on Glassdoor reviews?

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young
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Back in 2007, Expedia founder Richard Barton made a simple mistake: he accidentally left the results of an employee survey in the printer. At first, he panicked. What if Expedia employees had seen the results? Then, he paused. Would that be such a bad thing?

That office mishap snowballed into an idea that became Glassdoor. So-named because it would be a transparent look at what went on behind closed doors, the site was intended to collect reviews from employees and display them anonymously for public viewing.

For years, it worked. The platform has undoubtedly been a reliable screening tool for job seekers in the past. I confess that whenever I see a job advert that sounds promising, I will reflexively search for the poster on Glassdoor.

But do we actually trust it anymore? A quick at-the-desk poll of the Startups office tells me just half of my colleagues believe Glassdoor reviews when investigating a prospective employer – although all of them had used the site in the last 12 months.

Has inspecting Glassdoor become the equivalent of checking your passport after boarding a plane: a useless habit that’s nonetheless hard to drop?

Mixed reviews for Dell

For proof of where Glassdoor has gone wrong, just look at Dell Technologies. Having recently made headlines for its unpopular return to office policy, it has since also been revealed that the technology giant has laid off 13,000 staff members in 12 months.

Cue a string of one-star reviews being left on Dell’s Glassdoor profile this month, as enraged workers lamented Dell’s poor leadership, lack of benefits, and office mandates.

Simultaneously, however, just as many positive, four-star reviews have popped up to praise Dell’s flexible work culture and great management.

One review, shared on Monday, points out that competitors like Microsoft have also laid off staff, begging the question: are employees raging against a genuinely exploitative employer, or just bitter about today’s dismal economy and its effect on the job market?

Why trust in employers is tanking

The growing scepticism towards Glassdoor is partly down to external factors. In today’s struggling jobs market, relationships between employees and employers have soured.

Thousands of workers have been laid off in the tech industry, while tens of hospitality and retail brands have gone into administration.

Meanwhile, rising stress and burnout has forced millions out of the workforce. It’s no surprise that 90% of UK employees are currently unhappy at work, according to Gallup.

Employees feel powerless and in today’s world, bad PR is their only weapon. As dissatisfaction festers, Glassdoor has become a place for employees to air their grievances, leaving greasy fingerprints on their employer’s profiles.

I know the temptation only too well. When I left my previous role, I went to Glassdoor to write a review on instinct. Yet what began as a genuine analysis quickly became a list of things I’d not been able to get off my chest in the job: a lot of waffle about salary, and little praise for the colleagues I’d loved working with. Ashamed, I ended up deleting it a few minutes later.

A Glassdoor rant might be cathartic for leavers. But for job seekers, the result is a befuddling mix of feedback that feels too anecdotal to be taken seriously. With trust supposedly being Glassdoor’s key export, this spells trouble for the platform.

How employers can fill in Glassdoor cracks

Disturbingly, Glassdoor’s technique for combatting disgruntled ex-employees has been to publish their name and other identifiers without authorisation.

Last week, a software developer named Monica reportedly deleted her Glassdoor account after the company covertly took information from her support email and added it to her Glassdoor profile, effectively outing her to previous employers.

There are also reports that some companies on Glassdoor will spam their own profiles with positive ratings to boost reputation after a wave of layoffs.

It should be obvious, but firms can’t shortcut their way to rebuilding their relationship with employees. Poor Glassdoor reviews are a public shaming that wouldn’t be present if issues were properly addressed internally.

The reason I felt compelled to leave a Glassdoor review in my last job was because my previous employer didn’t invite me to an exit interview. Without the proper channels for employee feedback, companies can miss out on red flags, causing negative feelings fester.

By investing in regular surveys, companies can check employee sentiment and address any problems before ties are severed. Performance reviews feedback will allow for course correction and fosters better communication.

These practices will create an “internal Glassdoor” – a safe space for honest feedback that can be addressed before it spills over onto public platforms.

Where does Glassdoor fit in the new job landscape?

Today’s jobs landscape is hard, with layoffs everywhere we look and unemployment rising. Employees are angry and falling Glassdoor scores are the result.

Businesses need to remember that a negative Glassdoor review is a HR, not a PR, concern. Solving your external reputation starts from the inside, and effective employee support and engagement is your best route to rebuilding workforce trust for smoother future recruitment.

Perhaps Glassdoor was always doomed to fail. Accepting any new job is a leap of faith, and whether a company will support an individual’s specific career goals and learning objectives can hardly be predicted by a number on a screen.

But while we might now take Glassdoor reviews with a pinch of salt, I will doubtless keep checking them when I begin my search for a new employer; just as I will always check my passport hasn’t somehow fallen out of my zipped bag.

Because the truth is, in a chaotic labour market, Glassdoor is one of the few psychological scraps of reassurance left to cling to.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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