Are employer reviews worth something? – Career Weekly vol. 29

Do you know a company whose average score has risen sharply after layoffs? This is not an uncommon case, but in fact a target set for HR teams, which is being met in many different ways. In addition to the controversy around employer ratings, I’ll also mention an interesting job offer leak and the stabilising situation of employees in startups.

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1. Gergely investigates opinions about companies

Leading IT recruitment and labour market expert Gergely Orosz has done some great work at the intersection of investigative journalism and analytics. His attention was drawn to the well-known Glassdoor website.

After the wave of layoffs, the average rating of many companies dropped significantly – this, of course, surprises no one. What is surprising, is that shortly after these painful events, some companies received a solid portion of positive comments and significantly raised their ratings. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Gergely has heard from several companies that raising the rating on Glassdoor is one of the officially accepted goals. And while Glassdoor argues that it does not delete any reviews, it may in fact delete comments reported by users as defamatory, libellous, fraudulent or knowingly misleading. Alternatively, those published by people who are impersonating someone else. This gives quite a wide scope for interpretation.

The range of options in the context of positive comments is equally wide. Here we have both the less controversial options, involving replies to negative reviews or encouraging employees to publish positive reviews, and the more controversial ones, on which Orosz stops a little longer and cites some interesting stories from his readers.

At a company event, team members of a startup were told to bring their laptops with them. When they arrived, the founder instructed them on how to create an account on Glassdoor and leave a positive comment. Of course, he kept strolling around to check what they were writing. Another company asked employees for ‘honest’ feedback, but instead of posting it on the portals, the text had to be sent to the HR inbox, who presumably helped ‘edit’ it. Yet another organisation has introduced leaving feedback on Glassdoor into its onboarding. It’s well known, the sooner the 5 stars appear on the profile, the better. There were also companies that banned the publication of negative comments in the document signed at termination or the contract itself.

Gergely analysed one case in which, in two years, the average rating rose from 3.3 to 4.4 and the ‘Recommend to a friend’ rate increased from 50% to 87%. This happened despite laying off 10-20% of the team. It appeared that the ratios began to rise when a new Chief People Officer arrived at the company, who was much more willing to respond to negative comments. That’s not all, however, as the company has received more than six times as many 5-star reviews in the last 12 months as it did in the previous year. Orosz also discovered that 12 out of the last 25 reviews were identical, meaning almost 50% “positive” spam. The company itself reported that it “is not aware of any fake or duplicate reviews on its Glassdoor page”.

Some people say that the end justifies the means. It is only a pity that this causes a decline in trust in companies and portals for publishing employer reviews.


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2. A job offer as… source of leakage?

Teaser campaigns for new electronic devices come in many guises, but to reveal your plans in a job offer? That doesn’t happen often, especially to companies like Nintendo.

Somehow I didn’t notice that an April job offer from NERD, which is the French subsidiary of Nintendo, had turned into an avalanche of speculation. The advert was for people willing to take on the position of ‘Game Technologies R&D Engineer/Scientist’. The candidate had to “strive for and go beyond the cutting edge of technology related to cross-platform game development, targeting the current and next generation of Nintendo hardware”.

These heavily mysterious and vague words have sparked discussion about the new Nintendo Switch, support for legacy consoles, and more.

All this speculation must have reached the ears of Nintendo’s PR people, because two weeks after the ‘leak’, articles have finally appeared announcing the Nintendo Switch 2, which is to replace the already rather lukewarm six-year-old console. Journalists have been digging into the subject and successively extracting snippets of information about the next launch.

All because of one job offer!


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3. What’s happening in startups?

Last time I promised not to flood you with information on redundancies, so just a small mention at the end from an interesting summary.

Carta has published its Q1 2023 report, which summarises the health of startups based on information gathered through its platform for founders and investors (covering more than 36,000 companies). The data shows that the number of layoffs is still quite high when looking at the last five years, but clearly the peak is behind us.

It turns out that there were more quits than redundancies in March, returning to the historical norm. It should be added here that the number of employees of companies registered with Carta has increased significantly over the last five years, so necessarily the number of quits must have gone up.

Are these the first signs of stabilisation? I hope so. For details, I refer you to the report itself, which is also extremely interesting from a financial point of view.