A positive company culture is a hard thing to quantify. Even if a business does all the right things on paper, that doesn’t mean free lunches, Casual Fridays and unlimited time off equate to a positive place to work.
So, if you’re on your job search looking for authentic insight on a prospective employer, where does that leave you?
Although company reviews are great at providing insight, they are not without their flaws.
Keep these 4 tips in mind when looking to company reviews to assess a workplace’s culture:
Have you ever heard the saying, "Don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch"? The same is true of company reviews. The truth is any review on its own is just someone’s opinion. And we all know just because one person says something, doesn’t mean it’s the reality of the situation. Where reviews find their strength and credibility is in their consistency.
When trying to assess company culture, try to look at the reviews as a whole. Are there any common trends or comments among the reviews? Once you have identified a pattern, ask yourself if these are opinions or facts. Do you see comments supported with detail, or has the feedback been qualified with subjective words like “good” and “bad”?
Consistency can also come in the form of a topic’s absence. If you see a review that states a position’s compensation is terrible, but nine other reviews don’t mention pay as a concern at all, is it possible this negative comment came about because an individual's expectations were not met?
Take note of how many people are saying the same thing and if there are any topics where you see conflicting statements or a lack of consistency. Reviews that have specific feedback from their experiences are the ones you want to pay attention to; if other reviews voice a similar experience, that’s a good sign this is the reality of the situation and not the opinion of one person.
2. Who Is the Author?
It is also important to consider the author of a review. Although reviews from current employees can be just as valuable as reviews from former ones, the reality is a former employee who parted ways on less than positive terms is more likely to leave a negative review. That is not to say these reviews should be dismissed entirely, but if someone has a chip on their shoulder, they’re less likely to leave a neutral review filled with facts than they are a review based on their opinion.
The other side of this coin is that current employees are more likely to leave positive reviews out of fear their constructive feedback will be taken poorly by the company.
When you see a review that reads more like a page from a burn book or is unrealistically positive, keep in mind the source as well as how this review came to pass.
If a company is worth their salt, they are looking at their reviews and incorporating that feedback –positive or negative –into their processes to improve their business
3. Check the Date
Businesses are ever-changing; over time businesses will experience inevitable ups and downs that bring with them growing pains as well as times of prosperity. These ebbs and flows can impact reviews. Dates and timeframes (and volume of reviews left over a time frame) are also important to consider when forming your own opinion about a business, at present. If you’re reading reviews from a few years ago, it’s highly likely that it is not the current state of the business today.
If a company is worth their salt, they are looking at their online reviews and incorporating that feedback –positive or negative –into their processes to improve their business.
When you are looking at reviews to assess a business’ work environment, you want to be sure you are forming an opinion about the company and its culture as it is today.
4. Look at Customer Reviews Too!
In addition to employee reviews, customer reviews can also be a good place to look to assess business culture –after all, good customer service starts with your internal customers and radiates outward.
If you find themes in customer reviews that parallel with what you have seen on the employee side, that’s a good indicator that you have hit on a core character attribute about the business and its leadership.
When reading customer reviews, think about the type of impact you want to leave in your day-to-day work and if these reviews align with the type of business you want to be associated with professionally.
Bringing it All Together
Reviews are a powerful tool to research a potential employer’s work environment and culture. However, if not used correctly, these resources can misinform you right out of a decision that is best for you. When evaluating reviews, be sure you hone into what you’re reading, check for consistencies between reviews and consider the source. Dates of reviews and customer feedback can also go a long way in forming a well-rounded and accurate opinion about a business’ internal processes.
Remember nothing can ever really give insight into your opinion about working at a business quite like your own experience, but with these tools, you’ll be able to give context to company reviews to make the best decision for you on your job hunt.