When you’re in the middle of a job search, you’re doing all sorts of tasks: prepping resumes, networking and researching companies. One of the most popular job search resources are employer review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. These job review sites offer an abundance of information about a company’s culture, morale, work/life balance, management style, pay, benefits and chances for advancement. The importance of online reviews stems from the source of those reviews: people who have worked or are still working at your target company.

Are Job Review Sites Reliable?

On today’s internet, everything gets reviewed: restaurants, stores, hospitals, car dealerships, Uber drivers and more. So, it’s no surprise that companies are reviewed too. But just how reliable are these reviews? In an era of fake news, Russian bots, and Facebook use or misuse of personal data, it’s a fair question.

Company reviews on many job review sites skew negative, a result of the tendency that people are more likely to complain than to compliment. Those negative reviews may have come from a disgruntled employee with an ax to grind, possibly someone recently fired. On the other hand, some companies encourage (or compel) employees to write positive reviews. And some companies are suspected of manipulating reviews to get more favorable overall ratings.

Can online business reviews be useful in your job search? Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on how you use them.

How to Integrate Company Reviews into Your Job Search

When reading company reviews, look at both positive and negative reviews with an eye toward how it applies to you. Is the reviewer in a position similar to the one you are applying for? Are the complaints about a specific situation, company culture or something else? Are those issues important to you? What were the reviewer’s expectations when joining the company? Keep in mind that different people have different experiences at the same company. Put the overall rating of a company in the context of competitors in the same industry. And be aware of your own biases (e.g., confirmation bias or recency bias).

During the interview process, organizations are not always transparent on key issues such as hours, work/life balance, morale, etc. The company reviews you’ve read offer insights into those issues, giving you an opportunity to ask about them. Be willing to ask the company about a bad review. Ask in a non-critical, “just asking,” manner. Don’t be afraid to mention the job review site where you read the review; it shows you’ve done your due diligence. Use that good or bad review to start a conversation with the interviewer to learn more about the company. If you get the sense that answers are evasive, that’s a red flag that perhaps you should look elsewhere.The more you learn about a company, the better. Online company reviews, when used carefully, can arm you with information and insights that will lead you to the right job at the right firm.


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