My Posts

Repeat to Yourself: My Glassdoor Rating isn’t my Employer Brand


No matter what anyone says, your Glassdoor rating isn’t your employer brand.

First of all, Glassdoor has some really smart marketers. They created a summit, which focuses on employer branding, and invested in the right speakers to make it one of the best events for people interested in the concept.

That doesn’t mean Glassdoor is actually a solution to employer brand woes, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

The company, which is winding down the level of financing they can obtain (they are on their Series H, which puts them at 200M raised and an estimated value of just under a billion dollars), needs to find a buyer or go public. In the next 18 months, it seems like a pretty safe bet that they are part of a company or they are going to drop an IPO.

For most organizations, the niche that Glassdoor serves doesn’t have a line item on a budget sheet outside of job postings. And the site thus far has done just that, subsisting on job advertisements and on-site reputation management through premium employer accounts. That’s nice, and the latter is unique, but it doesn’t really make them part of any solution that doesn’t involve solving problems that Glassdoor created (or, at least, illuminated).

But for large organizations, employer branding is a line item on a budget sheet. Granted, we’re probably talking good portion of the top 5,000ish companies but there’s a real need there.

But is Glassdoor an essential (or even a significant part) of most company’s employer brand efforts? With few exceptions, I’d say no. At least, not today. If you have a dedicated employer brand function, you only get an upgraded account if the price is really right.

I think there are two primary problems, both of which will be tough to fix.

1. Glassdoor Isn’t Yelp for employers

I really like Yelp (and TripAdvisor, and Amazon reviews, and any number of rating sites that Glassdoor has alternatively fashioned themselves after). When I travel, I use it to find great restaurants and it rarely steers me wrong.

Why Yelp (and consumer rating sites in general) works is that people eat out a lot. Before we had a kid, we would go out several times a week. Even now, we’ll go out a few times a month. Over a few years, you will start to find norms about the dining experience taking shape. Capture those normalized experiences in aggregate and you’ll know why Yelp works so well, at least as a restaurant rating site.

Compare getting dozens of sample points from different restaurants every year to your career. Now me, I feel like I’ve changed jobs more frequently than most people I know. I’ve had four proper jobs in the last ten years. Four experiences, over a decade? How can I insert any level of context or normalization into that equation? Most of us don’t have enough variety of employment experiences to give an accurate, comparative rating.

The risk factor is huge as well. Changing jobs is a disruptive event. If Yelp steers me wrong, I get a bad meal. Glassdoor? The consequences are on a completely different level.

Those aren’t the only problem.

For companies under a couple hundred people, which make up a vast majority of the employers in the U.S., the sample size is going to be too small to be of any value. Of course, Glassdoor won’t tell you that there’s a serious problem in drawing any conclusion about the employee experience from three reviews of a 100-person company. They hope you’ll look at it the same as you would a Yelp restaurant that only has a handful of reviews.

Well, what about large organizations?

It seems like it would be more reliable and maybe it is. They only have three aggregate measures that a prospective employee can look at: Recommend to a friend, CEO rating, and overall score. So when you read through a company profile like Amazon’s, nobody is going to hit 6,000+ reviews and the filtering capability seems pretty crude at this point. I’m more likely to look at the coverage from Amazon’s feature in The New York Times than anything I’ll get from Glassdoor.

In fact, it would be tough to imagine any case where I would consider a company’s Glassdoor reviews without a massive grain of salt. As a prospective employee, if I sit down and think about all of the shortcomings of anonymous employer reviews, it would be difficult to make the case that it should be any serious part of my consideration.

2. Reputation Management isn’t Enough

So, that just addresses what prospective employees care about. What about employers?

Large organizations that Glassdoor should be targeting are investing money in employer branding. Many of them run them through marketing while others do it as a standalone department in talent acquisition or human resources. Many of these companies invest their resources into branding activities that should be familiar to anyone in marketing — from traditional advertising, events, and in more innovative ways to reach prospects in the digital space.

If we’re using the Yelp example, large, formal dining chains do have internal initiatives to respond and improve their experience based on the reviews. There are people that are paid to respond to one-star reviews, offer comps and discounts, and, in general, be responsive to these types of sites. For most organizations, that falls under the auspices of a customer service department and their budget, at best, is a fraction of their overall marketing spend.

Right now, most — if not all — of the analytics and tools Glassdoor provides is for managing your presence and reputation on their site. That might be enough to bring in clients, but I don’t think that’s an attractive business to acquire or invest in for a long-term play outside of someone like LinkedIn — at least before they were acquired by Microsoft.

There’s an opportunity for Glassdoor to do more. Combining managing reputation with analytics that measure employer sentiment from data sources outside of Glassdoor would be a smart first step. Acquiring or building technology that allows for more granular brand management, especially as it relates to social is another avenue. Bringing in referral tools would be another opportunity, as would taking the approach of the Smashfly’s of the tech world and embracing the marketing role of talent acquisition with tools that are helpful across candidate marketing landscape.

That stuff may be in the cards. I haven’t taken a briefing with Glassdoor since I was with ERE and they hold their cards close when they do talk, especially about future plans.

* * * * *

Beyond the marketing hype and their PR brilliance is the truth: Glassdoor doesn’t have the right platform to address the key challenges facing employer brands. At least, not today. The score that some obsess about is largely irrelevant to a large majority of companies and job seekers.

That’s without mentioning things that always seem to come up in discussions with talent acquisition pros about Glassdoor, like gaming the review system, fake reviews from former employees and competitors, or Glassdoor’s incentive to properly moderate either one of these when review volume is so important to their business. These are all charges that Glassdoor always denies and there seems to be no hard evidence to the contrary. Not yet, at least.

Today, Glassdoor is a dissatisfied, largely former employee resolution solution and an okay job board, looking for a bigger problem to solve. And for once, I’ll say it: It’s not about marketing this time, it’s about product.

Maybe we’ll see the potential of Glassdoor at some point. Maybe they’ll turn into just another recruiting product pivot down the road when they need to actually start making money. I don’t know. But tooling along with what they are today isn’t going to cut it.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s