December 18, 2014 Robert Woodford

Glassdoor – has it reached the glass ceiling in the UK? 

The vast majority of internet users today rely on peer-review sites before making a purchase. From books to restaurants, hotels and even airplane seats, users happily rely on online services to aid them in making informed choices. Sites such as Amazon, Yelp, TripAdvisor and eBay have made online reviews the norm for savvy consumers everywhere.

Glassdoor has been launched with the banner that it provides a behind the scenes look at a company from a staff member perspective, so that you can make an informed decision before you become an employee.

The big problem I have with Glassdoor is that is lacks credibility.  All reviews are anonymous and therefore it could be argued are worthless.  It’s an outlet for disgruntled ex-employees to vent and for companies to make up positive reviews, often to counter the negative ones.

In fact if you look at many company pages you see that there are a number of poor reviews followed by at least the same number of positives.  This normally is where the previously mentioned disgruntled ex-employees leave negative reviews and then employers go into panic mode and start fabricating comments or demanding employees leave positive reviews.  And Glassdoor turns into a brick wall when you try to contact them to address anything.  They have no incentive to maximise the integrity.  This is why.

Candidates (and it is largely people who have left the company) come onto Glassdoor with the carrot of anonymously sharing (and giving a good kicking) to an ex-employer then look for a job whilst they are there.  The Glassdoor sales people then come in, armed with traffic stats, and try to sell job postings and enhanced profiles to employers.  In a nutshell there is the revenue stream.  Introduce integrity and the whole commercial model weakens.

Another issue I have with this site is that it supposedly gives salary information of the industry/company in which you either work or aspire to work.  But this is only based on people who leave that information, so it lacks any credibility.  The reality is that it is not reliable at all (I have tested this out in many companies I have worked in).  In most companies salaries are not simple black and white issues and basing any decision on unchecked data is not at all wise.

There have been many pieces of analysis done to test the accuracy of Glassdoor.  It has been consistently found that there was virtually no correlation between bonefide, quantitative, rigorous analysis and the overall Glassdoor star rating.

Ultimately separating the credible and not so credible (whether overly positive or negative) is virtually impossible.

The counter argument to all this is that these are the same claims that were put forward as to why TripAdvisor would never work and now it is a respected industry standard, integrated across major tour operator sites.

Other than a different commercial operating model, the problem is that a job or career is a very personal experience.  It goes beyond issues of “was the hotel room clean, was the food nice” etc.  You also know you are going home at some point so you are slightly more laissez faire – with a job it is potentially for years.  Also you often have choice in holidays – go to Barcelona for the weekend and you can literally choose between hundreds of hotels.  If you are looking for a job you don’t have that many bonefide offers open to you to choose between, so the review site is a bit redundant.  Take the job or stay put is often the only option.

And why would you listen to a review on whether to accept a job or not from a faceless individual.  A decision of this magnitude requires research and your own due diligence.   You are not choosing between a Tefal or Morphy Richards deep fat fryer from Currys.

So by all means check Glasdoor out but think twice before making any decisions based on reviews and at least consider the motivations behind these…

Ultimately I believe candidates will become wise to this and employers I speak to are already dismissing the site.  This is despite its success in the USA.   This has ultimately led to speculation that Glassdoor within the UK may have reached the limits of what it can achieve, which continuing with the glazing theme would very much make this the glass ceiling.