Sometimes, it seems we spend more time researching the best hamburger in the city than we do researching prospective employers. Much like skipping restaurant reviews, however, failing to research a company can come back to burn you later.
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The good news is you no longer need an insider connection to get the scoop on a company. There now exist many websites, including Glassdoor and Indeed, where current and former employees can leave anonymous reviews about their experiences with an organization.
If you read employee reviews, you'll often notice patterns. As with hotel reviews, those who leave reviews of their employers tend to be either very happy or very unhappy. It makes sense: To be motivated enough to leave a review — either for a hotel or an employer — people generally have to feel some extreme emotions.
Recently, Glassdoor conducted a study on this very subject. The organization looked into how balanced online employer reviews really are, given that so many of the reviews seem to be posted by people with very strong feelings.
In order to promote balance, Glassdoor has a "give to get" policy. The site is free, but in order to gain access to the full array of content, users must first provide some kind of feedback of their own about a current or previous employer. The purpose of the policy is to encourage everyone to review their employers. According to Glassdoor's study, the policy does in fact work as intended, encouraging more people to leave more neutral reviews.
"This study gives strong evidence that company reviews on Glassdoor are more balanced because of the way they are collected," Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor's chief economist, said in a press release. "The policy creates incentive for people to contribute to the site who may otherwise opt out. It should help quell misconceptions that employees only provide really positive or really negative opinions about companies on Glassdoor."
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Another great feature of both Glassdoor and Indeed is that the sites don't allow employers to edit employee reviews, nor will the sites remove negative reviews at an employer's request. Companies must instead face negative reviews and correct problems directly with employees — or suffer a major hit to their employer brand.
Why does all this matter to you, the job seeker? Because it means that you can generally trust many of the employee reviews you find online. In order to increase the odds that your next job will be a fulfilling one, don't skip the company reviews. They can give you invaluable insight into what it's really like to work at a particular company.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.