Picture this: You’ve found an entry-level candidate who you’re convinced will be a star — a college graduate you can train and shape into one of your next generation of leaders.
You’ve done your homework and been part of an internal team seeking to position your company in a way that appeals to college graduates seeking entry-level roles, and you consider the following checklist:
✔A new mission statement focused on the good your company does for the community
✔Remodeling the office to create a positive working environment (perhaps with the requisite espresso bar)
✔An updated benefits program, including subsidized health insurance, ample personal time off, a generous 401(k) matching program and more
✔On top of all that, you have refined the open position to provide increased responsibility and career growth potential, as well as a competitive base salary.
But to your dismay, the candidate turns down your offer. How could that happen? Your human resources manager debriefs with the candidate and learns they liked everything about the offer, as well as what they saw during their visits to the office. However, they were scared off by your company’s relatively low 2.3-star rating online. Your manager educates you about employee review sites, so you go online and are surprised at what you find.
Here at Avenica, we interview thousands of college graduates each year (we specialize in entry-level hiring), and we conduct a survey as one of the key steps in our process. Among the questions we have recently been asking is, “What are the three most important factors you consider when evaluating a job offer?” The top responses have not been surprising: the opportunity for advancement (65% of respondents included this on this list), base salary (52%), and office work environment (42%).
The next most frequent response was surprising: The company’s online reputation (based on employees’ reviews) was cited by 33% of respondents. Online reputation is rated as more important than the company’s mission, insurance benefits, vacation and personal time off, and retirement savings programs.
A 2017 survey conducted by Glassdoor underscores our findings: “Participants formed a more positive or more negative opinion of a company depending on whether they were shown positive or negative employer reviews.”
The most frustrating part of this is the feeling that, while you can tightly control all the other factors, you might think your company’s online reputation just “happens” to you. But I believe the truth is somewhere in between. The less favorable — as well as positive — reviews are going to happen, but there are best practices companies can use to learn from, and even manage, their online reputations.
These practices can be organized into four steps:
Step 1: Prioritize reviewing sites based on which are most relevant to your company.
Among the sites that provide employee reviews (e.g., Indeed, Yelp, Kununu, Glassdoor, etc.), we personally found that Glassdoor was the go-to source for applicants when they were researching my company’s reputation as a place to work. The key reviewing site(s) for your company may vary based on industry, location, etc. A good way to find which are commonly used in your field is to search online “employee reviews [your company].”
Step 2: Read through your company’s reviews on these sites.
The primary reason to do this is obvious: to learn what current and past employees are saying about your company. This can shed light on blind spots and improvement opportunities (see step No. 3). The other reason to do this is to identify reviews that you believe are illegitimate or inappropriate, which are not common, but are typically harsh when they do occur.
For these reviews, each platform has a defined process to dispute illegitimate or inappropriate reviews, with the potential to pull down the review. Most review platforms have a fairly rigorous internal approval process for identifying illegitimate reviews, but you should still be on the lookout for false claims made by disgruntled past or current employees or even duplicates — an employee making the same review from two separate email accounts.
Step 3: Be open-minded with legitimate reviews.
These reviews can provide valuable input so you know what the company is doing right and what can be improved. This step is often overlooked or bypassed. Combine this input with other employee feedback (e.g., anonymous surveys) to continuously improve the culture and experience for your employees. If you aren’t using direct employee input to improve satisfaction, all other efforts will have been for naught. You’ll likely continue to receive poor reviews, lose out on quality candidates and experience turnover — all things that inhibit growth and overall success.
Step 4: Begin building up your online reputation.
One way to do this is to encourage all your employees to write reviews. I’ve found it is often true that reviewers will not be representative of all employees and can tend to skew negative if they are mostly from those who are struggling or have just left the company. The “silent majority” are typically satisfied workers; employees who have a hand in building their teams and culture are more invested and happier.
Another way to build your reputation is to respond to reviews, both good and bad. This lets the reviewers and potential employees know that leaders within the organization are listening, care about employee concerns and are invested in their people and providing a positive work experience.
In the war for entry-level talent, companies need to configure their culture, work environment and compensation programs to appeal to top talent. But they can’t stop there. The best companies are monitoring their online reputations to instruct that configuration, but also to manage these reputations to reflect a more accurate picture to job seekers.
For more than twenty years, Avenica has been the leading U.S. recruiting firm exclusively focused on placing college graduates into entry-level, career-track positions. Learn more about our process, or find the right entry-level talent for your team here.