Company review platform Glassdoor has definitely changed the game for jobseekers in Singapore. Previously, all you could find out about a company that you wanted to join through its website, word-of-mouth reputation and the job interview itself.
With Glassdoor, past and present employees can leave ratings and provide constructive feedback for employers. Like its name suggests, Glassdoor creates a more transparent job-hunting process so potential employees can gain insight beyond curated social media channels to see if a company would be the right fit for them.
However, a tool which depends on employee ratings is not without its shortcomings. In this article, I will address common criticisms of Glassdoor and advise how you can use it to make an informed decision if you’re considering a job opportunity.
Criticism #1: Only angry employees are motivated to leave reviews
I’ll start with the most common refrain that only angry employees will have a tendency to leave reviews, resulting in very negatively biased ratings. Although humans have a negative slant to act out of anger and being upset, I can quickly put this criticism to rest.
If this is the case, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any company with a four-star rating and above. To gain a four-star rating requires a company to collect a substantial amount of four and five star ratings, which easily disproves the criticism.
In fact, there are plenty of highly-rated employers on Glassdoor which are not limited to FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google).
Here’s my previous company as an example:
It is a local company, not a sexy FAANG, with fixed work hours. We have a buffet lunch on special holidays like Christmas or National Day, but not on the daily.
As an avid water point conversationalist, I’d say the company performed better in its rating than the ‘intelligence’ I’d gathered from other departments.
From my own experience, I would also rate the company highly so I believe the rating is accurate and if misleading, errs on the positive side of things.
Perhaps, people like to vent their frustrations outside of work contexts but when they’re writing a Glassdoor review, they become more evenly keeled. It’s also worth noting that Glassdoor forces reviewers to list the pros and cons to ensure a more balanced review.
Criticism #2: Nothing stops bosses and the HR department to write fake positive reviews
The above criticism is true and I often see strangely positive reviews that are detached from reality. Here’s the thing: the fake reviews are rather obvious. You’ll be surprised at how difficult it is to tell a lie well in writing.
To illustrate, I’ll use a review from an ex-company I worked with.
The overall rating for the above company is 2.7, with 13 reviews. The above five-star review sticks out like a sore thumb, most notably because the con described has nothing to do with the company or management.
I compare this with my own experience and other reviews and it becomes pretty obvious. The contrast between point 2, that the management is caring and listens to you, differs too starkly from other reviews quoted below:
“The boss is dictatorial and behaves in a childish manner… Rich person who thinks that just because she is paying your paycheque, you are her slave.”
“Emo boss who messages and talks in a demoralizing manner. Micro atomic management.”
“The setup is good but the culture is horrible. Rude management, overly proud, stingy and not respect for employees.”
To sum it up, fake reviews can be easily spotted and discounted.
Criticism #3: Reviews are very subjective
I concur with the above sentiment, hence I advise to use Glassdoor as a qualitative assessment of a company rather than a quantitative one. A complex experience like employment cannot be easily summed up in ‘x’ stars out of five.
Let me use another ex-company as an example. This is a good case study because I know many who are happy working there and have stayed on for a long time, while I had an awful experience. The company scores an average of 2.8 stars out of 10 reviews.
The above two reviews are worthy of note because they represent polarising viewpoints. The second one was cropped for the sake of brevity because it’s an 800-word essay refuting the negative reviews on the company’s Glassdoor page.
Through this discourse, a potential employee is able to gain valuable insight about what ticked some off at the company, while other aspects of the work culture earned praise from other employees.
It’s not hard to imagine that a company’s culture can be nurturing for certain individuals and feel toxic for others.
Glassdoor is subjective because an individual’s employment differs based on multiple factors like who your superior is, the role designed for you, your KPIs and so forth.
How to leverage on Glassdoor’s strengths to suss out potential employers in Singapore
All in all, Glassdoor creates tremendous value if you’re comparing two similar offers. It allows you an insider’s look at a company beyond what it proclaims on its polished website and social media channels.
Take the reviews with a pinch of salt, but if various accounts tell a similar story, you can pretty much take them to the bank.
People are honest more often than not, unless they have a vested interest. Any review with well-expressed and reasonable pros and cons should paint a realistic view of what working at the company is like.
However, companies will often try to game the system and create accounts to jack up their Glassdoor score, but when I examine the slew of companies I’ve worked for in my 12-year career, I’d say the truth usually prevails.
Any company with above 3.8 rating is probably pleasant and has good structure to maintain equanimity. Any company with a rating under 3 should raise some red flags, but don’t strike them out unless you have better offers on hand.
By keeping an objective mind and aggregating diverse opinions, you can decide if the culture is something you’d thrive in. Running a company is not a popularity contest but gone are the days when employers held all the power in the employer-employee dynamic.
Glassdoor is definitely a step forward in advancing workplace culture but should not be the only tool to decide whether you’ll fit in well with the company. Use it in tandem with personal accounts from friends, and your own interview process.
No company is perfect because it is an ecosystem of imperfect human beings. It is important to have a positive mindset, believe the best in people but at the same time, don’t be naive, as a wrong career choice can be a costly decision in the long run.
We hope this article was helpful in guiding you to mitigate the flaws of Glassdoor and leverage on its strengths. That said, we wish you all the best in your career search!
Featured Image Credit: Glassdoor