Why you shouldn't ignore Glassdoor

Widespread access to the internet, particularly via smartphones, has resulted in an increased dependence upon online sources of information before making decisions.

Whether it is books or hotels, televisions or restaurants, consumers often seek the opinions of others before committing to purchase. Recent research suggests that job applicants display similar behavioural traits; also relying on online channels such as Glassdoor for trusted information to make employment decisions. Glassdoor allows employees and former employees to anonymously review companies and their management as well as detail salary and interview information.

My recent study is the first significant academic research in to Glassdoor in the UK and suggests that the site is regarded by users as more trustworthy than traditional information sources such as employer-produced collateral or career guidance professionals.

The research clearly shows that Glassdoor is considered trustworthy – 68% of respondents stated that they considered Glassdoor to be either entirely or somewhat trustworthy, second only to word of mouth information from family, friends, and colleagues/ex-colleagues. That this relatively new information source is considered more trustworthy than traditional information sources is of importance to HR professionals, who need to understand the significance of this when shaping their employer brand. 

Users appear to be aware of Glassdoor’s potential weaknesses. Respondents overwhelmingly listed two pitfalls: the perceived negative bias of the reviewers and the perceived lack of verification of reviews. Common traits affecting trust, such as ability, benevolence and integrity, were viewed as absent from Glassdoor but this did not impact participants’ trust in the site. In short, users are aware of the site’s limitations but trust and value the reviews anyway. 

The research also suggests that individuals believe that Glassdoor can be trusted for aggregated overall trend information but can't be trusted for verbatim, individual feedback. This contextual trust did not appear to concern participants, who overwhelmingly reported using user-generated content sites such as TripAdvisor to aid their decision-making. Many described taking the same approach to Glassdoor as with TripAdvisor – utilising it as an overall guide, ideally combined with other sources of information. 

What does this mean for employers and HR professionals?

  • Participants appear to find Glassdoor of most use at the early stages of recruitment. Therefore to avoid potentially losing talent employers should engage with Glassdoor to take advantage of its employer branding potential.
  • Accurate or not the comments are in the public domain and job applicants broadly trust Glassdoor as a platform, so listen to the feedback. Glassdoor has the potential to reduce candidate uncertainty.
  • Not all reviews are going to be positive and this is not necessarily something to be concerned about. Participants appeared relaxed about poor individual reviews (particularly if they were extreme) – it was the overall picture that was of significance to them.
  • Don’t fake reviews. Encouraging employees to post positive reviews was regarded negatively by the focus group participants. Many claimed that it was “obvious” when companies encouraged this practice.
  • Don’t ignore Glassdoor. While few users claim to rely on Glassdoor as their sole source of information the majority anticipate using the site in the future.  

Time will tell whether UK job hunters engage with the site to the same extent as in the US, where it is in the top 600 most visited websites. However, commentators suggest that the value of user-generated content is likely to rise rather than decline in 2015.

Tom Lakin is director of Career Design Coaching