How Employers Can Embrace Transparency with Glassdoor

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg


Did you realise that the employees of your organisation are writing up reviews about their experience online? Some are happy, others are not so happy. What can employers do to embrace this transparency and how can they ensure they are using these reviews as constructive feedback?

To get the scoop, I’ve had a chat with Diarmuid Russell, Head of International at Glassdoor. Listen to the episode below, keep reading for a summary of our conversation and don’t forget to subscribe to The Employer Branding Podcast.

Tell us about Glassdoor, and what do you do there?

At Glassdoor, we really believe that where you work matters. You spend a lot of time at work, and so we’re trying to change the way that people find jobs and employers. What we want to do is put information into the hands of jobseekers, and help them make better decisions about where they go next. In fact, that’s our mission: helping people find a job and a company that they love.

What we do to do this is basically, we get a ton of information from our users about their work experiences, salaries, what are the company cultures like, the interview process, and even little things like the benefits that a company offers. And when you take that altogether, we’ve got about 11 million insights today about life in over half a million companies, across 190 countries.

In terms of my role, it’s driving international expansion. We started in the US in 2008, and now we’re in 12 countries in total. That’s most of the ones across Northern Europe, so UK, Ireland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands are the key ones. And it’s a fantastic place to be right now, because we’re growing really fast in Europe, and more importantly, for me it’s like a do-over. We started with about 30 people four and a half years ago when I joined Glassdoor, and that’s about how many we had at the beginning of this year, covering our European countries. So it’s almost like I get to kind of live through the growth again. And that’s really exciting.

What challenges can Glassdoor help employers tackle?

The first one is that sometimes the company might not be known by the people they’re trying to hire. We see this particularly in the Bay Area in the U.S., where you have so many startups coming along, and I’m sure the same is true here in London. They’re trying to make a name for themselves, and get known as an employer of choice, but nobody has really heard of them. And so a site like Glassdoor can rapidly give people a sense as to what this company is like and showcase them as a really great employer.

Another one I like is where a company has changed a lot, then sometimes there’s a kind of hangover, if you like, of something that might have happened in the past that might have tainted people’s view of the company or their reputation as an employer. And that company has turned a corner, but people are still thinking about what they’ve heard in the past. And so a site like Glassdoor can help people understand what’s going on at the company right now, and then use that to make a better decision. There’s a really good example of this actually, which is HomeServe, up in the Northwest. They had a bit of a mis-selling scandal a few years ago. They sell insurance policies for domestic appliances, boilers, central heating systems, that sort of stuff. And it was all over the newspapers, and it created a little bit of reputation for them.

Since then, the whole senior management has changed, they’ve worked really hard to turn the company around, to build up a new culture, and to make it a great place to work. And that shows through in their reviews on Glassdoor. They’ve got a 4.6 rating, and their CEO was fourth highest rated CEO in the UK on our list last year. And so it really helps companies like that get their message across that things have changed and they’re a great place to work. That’s just a couple of reasons.

Do people apply for jobs on Glassdoor?

Absolutely. Basically what we find is that people who come to Glassdoor are people who want to make better decisions about where they go and work. So they could come at any point in the entire recruitment process, but they’re coming here to do research. They might be coming to learn about the culture, they might be coming to learn about interview process and prep for the interview, but what it means is that candidates who come through a site like Glassdoor, or another review site, they’ve opted into you as a potential employer.

They’ve looked at you, and they’ve sussed you out, and they’ve said, “Yeah, this is a place I actually want to go and work.” Secondly, they’re probably better prepared, and that will show through in a number of ways. We all know that we like to talk to candidates at interviews who’ve done their homework, and who know a bit about the company, and who seem prepared. Our candidates will generally have that quality compared to potentially some other websites, and so they’ll tend to go through the whole interview process better, they’ll more likely get an offer. And if they get an offer, they’re more likely to stick around in the job, as well.

A bad employer will have already have a bad reputation. Doesn’t a site like Glassdoor just amplify their problems?

Well, I think the important thing to think about is the mindset that people have in today’s day and age. So you’re absolutely right that review sites tend to be an amplification for your employer brand. But I think, in today’s day and age, people really turn to reviews on the Internet to help them make decisions.

If you think about choosing a restaurant, or choosing a holiday, or buying a television, almost nobody will do that nowadays without going and checking it out on TripAdvisor, or on a reviews website for the TV to make sure they’re making a good decision. They want the reassurance of what other people have said. And they always trust those third-party voices more than their own experience. And so I think we really help to reinforce that. Also a company might have a great reputation, but looking underneath that, what are the key things that make that up?

What are the key points of difference that make someone a great employer? And through our reviews, people can understand that and find the company that’s right for them, because what’s great for some people isn’t always great for everybody else. And so what we’re trying to do is also match people up to the jobs that are really going to be well-suited for them. And that goes up and down the spectrum as well, even employers that potentially aren’t as well regarded will often have some really good aspects to them. And so we can showcase that, too.

How can you ensure that employee reviews on Glassdoor are genuine?

The integrity of data on a review website is really, really important. And so we have a multi-tier review process that we take very seriously. It involves both technology and a human touch. So when a review comes in, it’s always moderated by technology to make sure that it meets our terms of use, and terms of service, and guidelines. And if there’s any question marks about that, it goes through to a round of review by our team of human moderators who look at the content and determine if it meets our guidelines. It’s interesting – people might not realise this, but we actually reject about 5 to 10% of all the content that’s submitted to Glassdoor so it never makes it onto the website.

What’s the most common reason for not approving reviews?

It will generally be things like, either it will contain profanities, or it might not comply with our terms of service, inasmuch as it might be making ad hominem attacks on middle management, members of the company, which is absolutely something we don’t allow. We don’t feel people have signed up for that sort of commentary on the Internet when they take a job. It can be a wide range of things.

I think the other important thing to bear in mind is that our users will typically look at four to seven reviews before they form an opinion of the company. And people of this day and age, they’re well used to dealing with user-generated content. They recognise that it can can skew between the extremely positive, the extremely negative, and the reviews that are somewhere in the middle.

And people will look at a range of reviews and use that before making a judgement on a company. Just kind of like if I was going out to a restaurant, I might research it on Yelp or TripAdvisor, and I might read three or four reviews. And if they all said, “It’s a lovely place, the food’s fantastic, and especially the fish, but the service isn’t that great,” I’d have a pretty good idea of what it was going to be like. Whereas reading one review might not give me that. But if I read a number of them, the true picture generally comes out. And we certainly find that when we talk to employers, as well.

How can companies embrace transparency and encourage employee reviews?

I think the first thing I would say is if you’re a company and you haven’t claimed your Glassdoor profile, you should absolutely go out and do that. We have a simple free employer account. It’s free (the clue is in the name) and what it does is it allows you to get involved in the conversation. It basically gives you the opportunity to respond to reviews, to edit some of the basic information about your company, change some of the photos, and then most importantly, respond to reviews, because if you’re not responding to reviews, it’s like there’s a conversation going on and you’re not taking part.

In terms of responding to reviews, I’d say, welcome all the feedback that you get, whether it’s positive or negative. Someone told me at a conference last year, the expression they used was that feedback is a gift, employees just taking the time to tell you how they feel about working at your company. And so you should acknowledge that and thank them for that, whether it’s good or it’s a bad, in a way that is respectful and makes sense. It’s great to address specific comments. So if someone makes a comment about something, it’s great to address that specifically and not gloss over it with some sort of PR speak, because if you do that, it just doesn’t really validate the response that you’ve made.

Respond quickly, it’s pretty obvious. Amplify… There are positive points in a review, we always ask for pros and cons, amplify what’s positive. And then that’s a great way to get involved in responding to reviews.

And then, like L’Oréal are doing, request more reviews. There’s a tool that’s actually built into this free employer account that allows you to pick employees from a list and basically email them a sort of template email that says, “We really value transparency. We’d love to know what’s going on at the company. We’d love to hear about your experience. Please consider coming and leaving a review on Glassdoor.”

And I think when people do that, it really shows engagement. In fact, we’ve got a thing called “Engaged Employer,” which is a badge on the site. And that says, “This person cares about transparency. They’re engaged in the Glassdoor community, they’re actively responding to reviews.” That, I think, sends a powerful signal out to people who are looking for you as an employer.

What’s the number one mistake that you see employers doing?

I think the number one mistake is basically being defensive, and essentially not acknowledging that the feedback is valid, and basically leaving a response to a review that says, “You’re just wrong. It’s not like that,” because it comes across as very defensive and very negative, whereas there are better ways to respond to reviews that might not be positive, which is to acknowledge that maybe not everything’s perfect, that you’re working to change things, and to really then emphasise some of the things that are good about the employer.

Should you work on your employer brand internally before looking at Glassdoor?

I’d certainly come to Glassdoor and see what people are saying, because your employer brand is basically what people are saying about you when you’re not in the room. It’s what people say about you when you’re not there. And so we provide a great window to employers onto what might really be going on at their company, what the sentiment of that company might be. And so you should absolutely come and look at it, and then think about whether there are ways that you can work to address that. And that could be if you are working on internal processes, it could be by emphasising some of the things in the positive, and maybe that would be through a paid relationship with Glassdoor, and maybe it would just be working through it on a free basis.

Would you call Glassdoor a social media channel?

We’re social inasmuch as people are talking about what’s going on. And I think what’s really important is that that conversation then amplifies itself away from Glassdoor. So once that information is out there, it gets amplified, it finds its way into the world. In fact, one of the guys who founded Glassdoor was a guy called Rich Barton. He founded Expedia and Zillow as well. Zillow is a bit like Zoopla, but in the U.S. It gives people information on home prices. And in all of these instances, what’s happening is information that was previously hidden away, or not widely known, is becoming much more widely known.

And then once that happens, it gets disseminated as well, because people will share things that are going on. A savvy social employer will take a Glassdoor message about their employment brand, and then they might link to it in their career page, or they might tweet about it or put it on Facebook. And this is going to happen whether or not you, as an employer, get involved. There was a survey that Weber Shandwick did in 2014, and out of 2,300 people they talked to worldwide, 50% said they posted something about their employer on social media, and 39% said they shared something positive.

So what’s really interesting, is that these positive messages about you are getting out into the world through your employees, mainly through Facebook and Twitter, and maybe a little bit through LinkedIn as well, and that makes sense to me. People spend a lot of time at work, they want to feel validated, and they want to feel they’re working in a great place. And so it’s only natural that they’ll share this stuff externally to get external validation from their friends and colleagues.

How do you calculate the ROI for companies using Glassdoor?

I think ROI is important, and it’s important also to recognise the importance of this subject. So amongst millennials, for example, 76% of people say culture and fit is really important when choosing employer, and that’s more than career potential, it’s more than compensation. The other thing that I think is important about employer branding, in general, and at Glassdoor we certainly think we contribute to this, is it basically makes all of your other channels you’re advertising in more effective. If you’ve got a strong employer brand, that people say good things about you, that makes people want to go work there, then when they see an ad for you in whatever channel or medium that might be, they’re going to be more inclined to come and work for you.

So that shows through across the board. In terms of Glassdoor, specifically, there’s a number of things that our clients have told us. We have a number of clients who share some of their information with us, and they’ve told us things like the quality of the applicants that they see through Glassdoor is twice as good as through other channels. So they can interview half as many candidates to get a hire, compared to other channels they work for. We have employer pages, and so do other sites, and ours have about three times more influence compared to other leading channels. We find that, you know, if you look at the number of people who will come to the page for a given company on Glassdoor, compared to the page for that given company given on another site like, say, LinkedIn, employers have told us it’s between 3 and 10 times as many people coming to the Glassdoor page.

And then finally people who have engaged with us and bought our solutions are reporting that they see a 30% lower cost-per-hire on average than on other channels. And the main reason for that is that candidates come to Glassdoor, they do their research, and they effectively proactively screen themselves in or out of whether or not they want to work with you.

What are your thoughts competitors such as Viadeo, Kununu and LoveMondays?

The first thing I think is really interesting is that these companies are popping up or expanding all over the place, and moving into the reviews area more and more. And I think what that shows to me is that there is actually huge appetite for this sort of information from people all across the world. They all do something slightly different. Some of them, there are companies that are carbon copies of Glassdoor right down to the colour palette. Particularly there’s one in China [Kanzhun] that springs to mind when you think about that.

But then there’s companies that do things really differently, as well. And I think the most interesting ones are the ones that are very tailored to their market. For example, in Japan, there’s a company that is very Glassdoor-like [Jobtalk], in that you review your company, but it has a whole bunch of features that we don’t have here in the West. For example, you can rate the potential for office romance, or how attractive the female workers are, or the male workers are within the office, which I just can’t envisage having something like that in the U.S. or the U.K., but I’m guessing this is well tailored to the local market. These companies all do something slightly different, and they’re all quite good at what they do.

What makes Glassdoor unique is that we are the only global player in this space. So we’ve got global scale and we’ve got momentum. We’re actually the fastest growing job site in the U.S. right now. And it’s all we do. So people like Viadeo and XING, who own Kununu, they started off as local LinkedIn competitors in Europe, and they’re moving into the review space. And I can understand why they want to do that. Work-based reviews and interview reviews, and giving people the information they need to make better jobs is the only thing that we do. And so we really focus on that. And I think that makes us different.

And also, if you’re an employer, and you want to manage your brand on a global basis, Glassdoor is the place to come to because we can help you do that, whereas these other solutions, they tend to be local. They may be very good in one or two markets, but they don’t give you a global thing. And if you’re a job seeker, we can tell you what it’s like to work at Google in 41 different countries around the world. That’s kind of neat, I think.

What happens if/when LinkedIn starts offering employer reviews?

Coming back to the point I made before, this is at the heart of what we do. All we do is provide workplace transparency. And we do it very much with the jobseeker in mind. We are in the service of the jobseeker. We’re helping them make better decisions about where they go and work, and find a job in a company they love. So that means that we really want to have a vibrant discussion going on at Glassdoor, that talks about the negatives and talks about the positives, and isn’t compromised by any other relationships that might exist with employers. And we’re uniquely placed to do that because this is our core business. And I’m not sure whether other companies coming into this would be able to be quite as free, in that respect.

What employers inspire you on social media?

I’ll give you a few. They’re not all Glassdoor clients. One that I was really surprised about when I was over in France was Carrefour actually. I was on this panel at this conference I mentioned about employer transparency, or employee transparency, workplace transparency, and Thierry Roger, who leads the leads the recruitment team for Carrefour, was with me, and he basically did my job for me in terms of stealing all my talking points, which is great because his French is much better than mine! And he talked about how they respond to reviews, they tweet them out, that they really don’t worry when they get a negative review because they know that they are a good employer, and the natural instincts of their people will be to come to the company’s defence.

And so they said that they find if someone leaves a negative review, generally about two positive reviews will pop up to rebut it. And that’s exactly what our experience is, which is that two thirds of all reviews left on Glassdoor are positive. And so I thought that was really interesting to hear that going on in a country where we’ve only started recently, and to hear one of the largest employers in that country basically embracing all that we do.

Other ones who are great, AutoTrader in the UK really embraces transparency, and they have a link back to their Glassdoor reviews on their career page to say, “Hey, don’t just take our word for it. See what people are saying on Glassdoor.”

And then we worked quite closely with Harrods. And that’s an interesting one to me because that’s a really old, really established brand. And you might think that they’d be very conservative about this sort of stuff. But instead, they’ve really embraced transparency. They’ve seen it as something they need to embrace if they’re going to get the top talent that they want to be a leading retailer in the 21st century. And that’s really interesting.

What’s the next big thing in the employer transparency space?

I’ll talk about one thing that we just started doing that I think is going to be a big trend in general, which is integrating the job search in user-generated content. We recently launched a feature which we call “Job View,” which basically gives you, as you scroll through the jobs, you see the job description. And alongside the job description, you see all of the key information that’s coming from their Glassdoor review, their star rating, a review snippet, some information about the interview process. And it’s putting everything right there at the hands of the jobseeker, which is making it even easier for them to make decisions quickly about which jobs to apply for and which jobs not to.

I think more broadly, there’s a lot of effort to try to understand what’s going on socially. And I think some of these sentiment analysis tools are quite interesting. It’s more like a daily pulse check or weekly pulse check of employee sentiments, which isn’t something that Glassdoor offers right now. I think that’s an interesting development in terms of, “How are my people feeling on a week-to-week basis, or a month-to-month basis? And how can I push that down to the team level?” Because it just gives managers a real time pulse check on how things are going.

And then if you’re a little bit more geeky and data-minded, we’ve also got a great blog on our website that’s written by our chief economist, Dr. Andrew Chamberlain. And that takes our 11 million pieces of data and tries to use it to provide insights into the workplace in ways that people might not already have done so. So there’s some research on the interview process, for example. Also a piece we did ran in the Evening Standard that talked about how when you take out all of the other factors, women are still paid 5% less than men for the exact same job, even accounting for seniority, and tenure, and all of that stuff. And there’s a whole host of research there, as well, which just provides great insights into what’s going on in the workplace.

Follow Diarmuid on Twitter @diarus and be sure to subscribe to The Employer Branding Podcast.


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