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Radhika Panjwani is a former journalist from Toronto and a blogger

Early this month, U.S.-based Pluckers Wing Bar, a chicken wings chain, found itself in hot water when word got out that the chief executive officer had sent a companywide e-mail urging employees to leave favourable reviews on Glassdoor and Indeed as a tactic to attract strong candidates.

An anonymous user, who claimed to be an employee of Pluckers, posted a screen shot of the e-mail on Reddit’s Antiwork forum, where the thread blew up. The CEO’s e-mail also urged employees to leave multiple (positive) reviews. Indeed and Glassdoor strictly prohibit this practice.

Pluckers’ disgruntled employees – current and former – instead left scathing reviews about the company’s toxic culture on Glassdoor.

“Lying management instructs staff to write fake reviews,” commented an employee who gave the company a one-star review.

With more and more Canadians quitting their jobs in search of better work-life balance, it’s a time of “great realization” for job seekers looking for more fulfilling work, said Madalina Secareanu, corporate communications lead at Indeed Canada.

“Employer reviews are more important than ever, especially in the tight labour market we’re currently seeing,” Ms. Secareanu said in an e-mail. “Job seekers are turning to employer reviews to get the full picture and to better understand the employee experience at a company versus what a company promotes in their job posting.”

In Canada, there are more than 12.9 million company ratings and reviews on Indeed. In 2021, job seekers viewed an Indeed company page to research a company more than 96 million times, Ms. Secareanu said. Job seekers who visit an employer’s company page are, on average, 2.1 times more likely to apply to an employer’s jobs, she added.

How reviews shatter reputation

Dennis Campbell, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and Ruidi Shang, an assistant professor at the Tilburg School of Economics and Management in Netherlands, analyzed employee reviews of 4,000 publicly traded organizations in Glassdoor.

The scholars focused on finding “upstream indicators” of toxic cultures by scraping employee reviews on Glassdoor using machine learning to analyze text. They found employee reviews online can offer early indicators of corporate dysfunction, which if left unchecked, can threaten a reputation irrevocably.

In an article published on Harvard Business School’s website, Prof. Campbell notes business improprieties unfold over a period before a culture of bad behaviour becomes pervasive – for example, several people in the organization looking the other way as misconduct is taking place.

Companies can use the employee reviews to address concerns before they become full-fledged crises, he said.

“It [employee reviews] could help you understand pockets in your organization where these cultural issues are popping up so you can get a handle on them,” Prof. Campbell notes.

A Glassdoor study on employee reviews found job seekers considered reviews by employees and former employees as a more reliable source of information than awards or accolades the company had received for excellent human resource practices.

When employee reviews give you lemons

Ms. Secareanu says many companies are taking note of the need to nurture a corporate brand, and as a result are responding to online reviews because they recognize employees are their biggest brand advocates.

Take the case of British Columbia’s Jeff Sinclair, CEO and co-founder of Eventbase, an award-winning event app. Mr. Sinclair responds to each and every Glassdoor review authentically, according to a blog post by Perked, a Vancouver-based IT consulting firm. When a CEO responds to reviews, it shows the company listens to its employees as culture percolates from the top.

Perked has some other tips: Organizations must be specific when responding to the points raised in reviews and should avoid standard cut-and-paste answers, companies should demonstrate a willingness to improve and, to that end, must create regular opportunities and spaces for employees to give feedback.

“Of the 32 million monthly users using Glassdoor to look for a job and research potential employers, 61 per cent report that they check out company reviews before deciding whether or not to apply for a job,” the blog notes. “What’s more, 69 per cent of job seekers are more likely to apply if the employer responds to reviews. In other words, proactively managing your employer brand on Glassdoor by responding to reviews is critical to your company’s success in attracting talent.”

What I’m reading around the web

  • Need help prepping for a job interview? Google’s artificial intelligence and machine learning tool can help. According to this story, Warmup, originally designed to help Google Career Certificate learners prepare for the job market, is now available to everyone. Once you select your chosen career and complete a practice interview run of five random questions, you will be set. Your responses are transcribed in real time and you will learn patterns (both good and bad), including how often you repeat words and whether you covered the talking points.
  • An estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021 in the U.S., which is a 10.5-per-cent increase from 2020 and the highest rate since 2005, according to federal data. So, how is it that more people are dying on the roads while driving cars that are safer? This story in CNBC says weight and horsepower of vehicles – estimated to be at historic highs – are two of many factors. “The higher ride height in general gives you a longer view down the road, but one of the trade-offs, especially in a big vehicle, is the fact that there is a portion of the road immediately in front of your vehicle which is blind to you,” said David Zuby, chief research officer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
  • Snap chief executive officer Evan Spiegel warned that macroeconomic headwinds from cutbacks in digital ad spending because of rising inflation, supply chain challenges and the war in Ukraine will all likely affect social media companies. According to this story, Snap, which had previously projected second-quarter growth of 20-25 per cent, lost an astounding 43.1 per cent of its market cap on Monday. Other social media platforms were not immune to the decline: Pinterest plunged 23.6 per cent, Facebook parent Meta dropped 7.6 per cent, Google lost 5 per cent and Twitter sank 5.6 per cent.

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