Decoding Fact from Fiction in Employee Reviews

Decoding Fact from Fiction in Employee Reviews was originally published on Ivy Exec.

company reviews

There are many critical points to consider before making a decision about whether to apply for a role or take a job offer. One of the first places many professionals go to investigate is company reviews. These reviews can offer insight into some key questions: Is this the right company for you?  Will this opportunity bring you closer to your career goals?  Does the new position improve your resume or reputation within your industry? While reviews are an excellent research starting point, not all reviews are created equal and it’s vital to read them with a critical eye. It’s important to learn how to read between the lines when analyzing company reviews and to decipher opinions from reality. Senior professionals with the ability to see trends across multiple reviews, understand the underlying causes of a particular review, and to dig deeper than the surface-level presentation of a review will be the ones that are best equipped to find an ideal position for their next career move. This article will outline some tips for professionals on how to understand the reality behind company reviews.

Consider who is likely to leave a review.

In the history of a company, the vast majority of previous employees are unlikely to leave a company review online. Usually, there are two primary types of people that leave company reviews:

  1.  Employees who had an incredibly positive experience
  2. Employees who had an overwhelmingly negative experience

In most cases, company reviews will reflect one of these two extremes and it’s critical to realize that the reviews may exaggerate the reality of working at an organization in either direction. Professionals who understand this will be able to temper their own expectations when they are confronted with a high degree of either positive or negative reviews. Before making a decision on your perception of a company, it’s important to ask yourself why a person may have left that particular review. This will help you differentiate between reviews and give you a better understanding of what it might really be like to work at that company.

Suss out the truth by looking for trends.

One of the most effective ways to better understand what it’s like to work at a particular organization is to identify trends within the company reviews. If you find only one overly negative review, then you might want to consider if it was left by a disgruntled employee or a petty attempt to cover someone’s own mistakes. Not every job or organization is the right fit for every person, so it should be understood that a bad experience for one individual does not mean that a company is a bad place for you. However, if you find certain complaints appear to arise across multiple reviews that highlight a specific issue over and over, then you may have something to be concerned about. Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  • High turnover rates
  • “Toxic” company culture
  • Unfulfilled promises from leadership
  • Overburdened execution teams
  • Poor management structure

Read with an organizational perspective in mind.

Senior professionals are likely entering a company at a management or higher level and as a result, their day-to-day may be very different from the bulk of the staff. This would indicate that most of the company reviews left may not be from other senior professionals, but rather  from mostly entry-level employees. In order to better understand company reviews, it’s useful to think about them from an organizational perspective and who and why they may be leaving them. For example, enterprise-level corporations, particularly in service-based industries, may have high-stress or high-turnover on entry-level positions, which could lead to an accumulation of negative reviews from past employees. However, these reviews may not accurately reflect a more senior position within the organization and in fact, could be very misleading for the prospective job hunter. High-level professionals should try to understand the mechanics of the organization and put any company reviews into the context of the bigger picture.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

Ultimately, company reviews are simply one person’s opinion and typically a tiny blurb on their  personal experience in their role. They should only be used as indicators by professionals who want to gain a better understanding of an organization before proceeding in their interview or application process. However, if there is enough information to cause concern or doubt, then the best course of action is to find an opportunity to bring it up during the application process. Don’t be afraid to ask a hiring manager about negative or positive reviews about their company. If doubt still persists, see if you can interview a potential co-worker to find out more about their experience on the ground.

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