Online Reviews Sway Job Seekers’ Opinions of Potential Employers

Employers should monitor and respond to reviews, experts say

By Roy Maurer Feb 10, 2017
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Confirming what talent acquisition professionals already know, research finds job seekers are swayed by current and former employees' online company reviews.

Researchers Jacques Bulchand-Gidumal and Santiago Melián-González, from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Las Palmas, Spain, asked 238 participants to read randomly selected positive, neutral or negative employer reviews on Glassdoor, one of the world's largest jobs, recruiting and employee review sites. Afterward, they were asked about their perception of the company, their willingness to apply for a job there, and the salary they would accept for a relevant job.

Not surprisingly, participants who had viewed a positive review formed a better opinion of the employer, were more eager to apply and to recommend it, and said they would accept a smaller salary than participants who saw a negative or neutral review.

"Based on previous research, we expected participants in our study to take employer reviews seriously because they value information that comes from people like them—that is, from other workers," the authors wrote.

And they were right. The research showed that companies with positive online reviews held an advantage with job seekers compared to companies with neutral or negative reviews.

Notably, the study also found that job seekers gave more importance to online reviews than "best places to work"-type recognitions and awards given to employers.

"Although there are many available sources of information about potential employers, our research suggests that workers do seem to give more importance to online reviews—what we refer to in our study as 'worker electronic word of mouth'—than to awards or prizes for human resource practices," the authors wrote. "This is a signal that companies may find it worthwhile to direct their efforts toward tracking online reviews and responding constructively."

[SHRM members-only Q&A: How can we develop an employment branding strategy?]

Take Part in the Conversation

If people are talking about your company on an online review site, employers should jump into the conversation and make the most of the opportunity.

"Employers should proactively own their Glassdoor presence," said Celinda Appleby, global digital and social media manager for Nike. "More job seekers are consulting Glassdoor, and I believe employers should own the narrative by being able to create and share their stories."

Owning the narrative means crafting a strategy and curating the employer's page on the site, said Jessica Steinberg, director of global talent brand and recruitment marketing for CDK Global, a software firm based in Hoffman Estates, Ill. "The most important first step is to at least respond to reviews in an authentic way that's true to the brand—it's as much for the people reading the reviews as it is letting employees know they're being heard."

Use the reach and breadth of Glassdoor to share information about why people should consider working for your company. "I find that posting status updates is a unique way to advertise a strategic hiring initiative or a special perk," Appleby said. "I also love that you can share your benefits so transparently. This makes it much easier as a candidate to see the company responses while cross-checking with reviews left by others."

Steinberg recommended sharing social responsibility initiatives, workplace photos and realistic job previews.

Finally, use both positive and negative reviews to improve HR and recruiting practices.

"Often people may complain about things that happened in an interview that are lessons that you can take back to your recruiting partners," Appleby said. "The goal here is to read the reviews and understand what is being said and share it with as many people internally that can make the changes necessary."

This is the most honest feedback you're going to get, so use it to your advantage, Steinberg said.

Review Sites Have Effect on Reputation, Salary

Study participants who saw a positive review said that they would recommend the company to other people as a good place to work, while participants who saw a negative review reported being less willing to recommend the company to others.

The study also found that reviews have salary implications. Participants in the study who viewed positive reviews required the smallest pay raises to work at those employers, as opposed to those who saw neutral or negative reviews. Those who read positive reviews said they would ask for an average increase of between 35 percent to 40 percent for a job similar to the one they currently held. Those who read a neutral review wanted a 45 percent to 50 percent pay raise, while those who viewed negative employee reviews required 55 percent to 60 percent higher pay.

"This is consistent with economic theory, which predicts that people will accept lower salaries in exchange for a good workplace environment or other positive features of a job," the authors wrote.

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