Employer Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Bogus

When looking for a new job, one thing you might do is read up on the company to which you are applying for a position. It’s reasonable to want to know about the benefits, culture, environment, and CEO before clicking the “Apply Now” button. One option is to browse company ratings and reviews, such as those found on Glassdoor or Indeed.

Ratings and reviews can be extremely helpful in making your next career move. However, you can’t always trust that these ratings are legitimate. Many reviews are quite biased, resulting from former employees who held a grudge after termination, management’s request for employees to post their review, or, my personal favorite, employers making up their own employee reviews.

So how do you know which reviews to trust and which are simply rubbish? It’s not easy, but there are a few tell-tale signs that you should look out for when reading employer reviews.

The All-Negative Review

Though many of us have had that hellacious job that we couldn’t get away from soon enough, I doubt very seriously that there was not a single positive aspect to include in the review (otherwise, why did you take the job in the first place?). You may not have liked your boss, but you loved your coworkers, or the culture was less than desirable, but it was close to home.  There are usually at least one or two pros to the numerous cons within a negative review. Reviews that do nothing but talk about how terrible the company is can be a good indicator of an ex-employee who just wants to “get even” with their former employer.

The All-Positive Review

Just as it is unlikely for a review to be nothing but negative, the all-positive review is usually a good indicator of an illegitimate rating as well. Though some of us are lucky enough to have a job that we truly love, the likelihood of writing a five-star review portraying the company as “perfect” with “no complaints” is slim to none. There is always something we wish we could change, whether it is higher pay, better benefits, being closer to home, casual Fridays, etc. A review that speaks wonders on the company, benefits, salary, and CEO without a single con listed is probably one that was written by a representative within the company itself to make the company more appealing (or to counter poor employee reviews and ratings).

Multiple Reviews Posted at the Same Time

I would venture to say that most employees don’t meet up on a Friday night to write company reviews together for fun, so if you see several reviews posted on the same day (and especially around the same time), it’s safe to assume that these reviews are phony. It could be that a manager or company owner requests his/her employees to write a review, hence creating biased and more positive reviews since employees are unlikely to give poor ratings or write negative comments knowing that their boss is going to read their review.

Another likely explanation for several reviews posted in the same time frame is that the owner or company representative compiled fake employee reviews in attempt to make the company more appealing or to combat several negative reviews posted by dissatisfied employees. The likelihood of this situation is increased for small companies where just a few poor reviews can easily damage the company’s reputation and deter future candidates from applying to openings.

Though company ratings and reviews can be helpful tools when job hunting, it is important to consider that not all reviews are legitimate. Factor out those reviews that seem too good to be true or overly negative and focus on those which seem more balanced and honest. Also, make sure the reviews are spaced out and not written in the same day. Once you eliminate the bogus ratings, you should get a clear picture of what current and former employees truly think about the organization.


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