What Everyone Gets Wrong About Glassdoor

For recruitment professionals, there are few subjects as fun to debate as the role and impact of Glassdoor. For some, Glassdoor is a breath of fresh air, bringing transparency to an industry that has long been able to hide in the shadows of “proprietary information.” For others, they see Glassdoor as a reputation terrorist, allowing anyone to anonymously impugn your good brand.  

But within this argument is an assumption, one Glassdoor has spent a lot of time and resources encouraging. That assumption is that whatever you think about the company, Glassdoor’s rating is an overall rating of the company. In their mind, a company with a 3.0 score is not as good of a company as one with a 3.8 score.

This assumption has a lot of data points to support that assumption. The most interesting of which is the example of Salesforce, which uses Glassdoor ratings as a kind of Yelp to decide if it should invest.

But under scrutiny, this assumption of “rating is measure of company value” falls apart. Glassdoor has a black box model, so its algorithm is closed to scrutiny, but it will say that the rating comes from employee reviews on a one to five scale. Older reviews are weighted less than more recent reviews to allow companies that change to have a score that reflects its current “state.”

But those reviews come from employees. Let’s consider some simple math. How many directors and VPs does a given company have relative to the number of customer service people or salespeople or developers? The sheer numbers of front-line employees give them the best opportunity to impact your Glassdoor rating. If you have a company where there are five customer service people for every developer, the rating will most likely reflect the experience of the customer service team member over the developer. Yes, there are filters that show what your developers think independent of other roles, but the overall score is based on all scores together.

Also, it isn’t clear if the role of the employee has any impact on weight of rating, meaning the frontline employee with little visibility into the strategy of the company can disapprove of the job the CEO is doing, and that vote counts as much as one from a senior VP who has a far better understanding of what the CEO is actually doing.

To truly understand your Glassdoor rating, identify who will rate you well and who will rate you poorly. Employees who have left (regardless of whether or not they left voluntarily) generally score far lower than current employees. This is human nature: We say nice things about our company because we are a part of it. We say bad things about former companies to justify why we aren’t there anymore.

The difference between current and former employees is fit. Employees who fit, whose values align with those of the company, tend to rate the company higher on Glassdoor. Employees who left didn’t find that fit (for whatever reason) and thus rate the company lower.

Thus, your Glassdoor rating isn’t a company score. It is a score of the recruiters and hiring managers.

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There’s lots of data behind the value of a good Glassdoor score. If you want to change yours, hire people who align to your values, whose motivations are rewarded by your compensation structure, who will appreciate what you’re good at and let other things slide. Remember the root cause of that rating before you launch any projects to change it.

Want more about Glassdoor? Listen to this podcast below. Also, see me do my thing at this year’s ERE conference.

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