Anonymous Employer Reviews — Opportunity or Threat?

Exactly three years ago employment-branding expert Dr. John Sullivan published the insightful: “Your Employer Brand is No Longer Owned by Your Firm” and challenged practitioners to recast themselves as influencers, rather than controllers, of employment brands.

No doubt this wisdom extends to brands of all types, but for most people employment is their most frequent “transaction.” Courtesy of new media, brand control is now firmly within the hands of consumers. Current, former, and prospective employees have multiple online means to share opinions and experiences, which combine to form a collective perception about “What it’s really like to work there.” Employer/employee review has been for some time a reciprocal aspect of the recruitment process.

Since Dr. Sullivan’s article, Facebook and Twitter have each cemented their place as the dominant players in the social media and micro-blogging spheres respectively. However it is the rise of websites (in full disclosure, mine is of course one of those sites) providing anonymous and authentic workplace reviews and freely advertised jobs that is the strongest emerging trend.

Pioneered by San Francisco’s Glassdoor in 2008, North America has seen a steady stream of new entrants to this social media space welcomed by active and passive job seekers determined to “look inside,” to research a prospective employer, before making a critical career move.

So does this trend pose an opportunity or a threat to recruiters and employment branding devotees?

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  • Real-time visibility. Conversations about your workplace are already happening — you just can’t hear them. Having visibility to the candidate market’s perception provides powerful feedback to best align your employment brand with the business strategy.
  • Authenticity. Participation in dialogue about your workplace reinforces the fact that you’re prepared to listen and projects your organization’s authentic desire to be a great place to work.
  • Cost of hire. Many participants in this space will be able to run basic job ads for free with premium solutions available for “hard to source” campaigns. Overall cost to hire should be significantly lower.
  • Open platform. Employment/review sites will often link applicants directly to your own career and social media sites to provide your intended brand experience, not the one offered by traditional job boards.
  • Reduced staff turnover. Informed candidates make better decisions and employers get a better fit.


  • Content moderation. Both you and the platform should review content regularly to ensure that it’s neither spurious nor offensive. While you’re unlikely to be able to screen reviews before they’re posted, you should be able to “flag as inappropriate” those that breach the site’s review guidelines and have them removed. Generally strong opinions are OK, but venting is not.
  • Ivory tower mentality. Ignoring negative and even positive reviews risks creating a perception that you’re not prepared to listen and engage.

From a candidate perspective, job search engines with workplace reviews provide an information-rich experience and are a natural extension to well-known sites like Tripadvisor and Eatability, albeit with more at stake than a below par dinner!

For practitioners, opportunities abound to enjoy a greater level of transparency and engagement with stakeholders, while credibly influencing your employment brand and reducing sourcing costs.

Don’t be late. Move with the trend.

Before joining InsideTrak as CEO, Mike Larsen spent five years in director-level roles at Monster with responsibilities including strategy, sales, and global accounts management. He holds a BCom from the University of Western Australia and an MBA from the Australian School of Business, where he won the AC Nielsen Prize for Marketing Strategy and also undertook an international exchange to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He was a member of the American Staffing Association’s technology advisory subcommittee in 2011 & 2012.


6 Comments on “Anonymous Employer Reviews — Opportunity or Threat?

  1. Personally I don’t see these types of sites making much of a difference or impact. Companies with poor and lower than average management and cultures, which is half of them if you consider the bell curve distribution of any such metric you measure, will simply tend to either ignore or sue their way out of bad reviews. I think it would be a great idea if someone could avoid the legal issues that seem almost inevitable, but I don’t think the world at large is ready for that level of transparency into the workplace.

  2. If there were some well-known, unbiased, highly-respected rating organization that will not take employer advertising (like Consumer’s Union) and can’t be “gamed”, then I’d think there would be a major transparency tool for both recruiters and jobseekers. However, with high un(der)employment which is likely to continue for quite awhile whoever gets in Nov. 6, people will be less concerned about getting an ideal job and more about get ANY job…


  3. Whether businesses are ready to admit it or not, there is a looking glass into their workplace. Though the threats you mentioned are true and real, the opportunities outweigh the benefits in my opinion. From a candidate experience perspective, the authenticity and visibility can add value to the hiring process. Take an employee referral program — the job candidate already knows someone within the organization and goes to an interview with a better sense of the work environment and employer brand. Thus, if hired, in most cases, everyone is much happier. The same can be said in the value of anonymous employer reviews.

  4. I would agree overall, Kes. However what many people miss is that there are companies who don’t care about their employee experience, or won’t admit their approach to it sucks. I’ve worked for several companies whose attitude toward their employees was combative in the extreme, and they didn’t think that was wrong, changeable, or worth changing even if it was changeable. These types of employer are at more likely to try and silence negative opinions than admit their methods and management need to change.

  5. @ Richard: Well-said. I worked at a large client with a less-than-favorable reviews, and their was discussion on how to “game” Glassdoor. On the other hand employers-of-choice with terribly dysfunctional hiring practices don’t seem to care if the word gets out- people will still crawl over broken glass to work there….


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