To research a potential new employer, job candidates could previously search through the company literature, browse news reports, or dig out a few past and present employees to chat to. But now websites such as Glassdoor, Rate My Employer and The Job Crowd take that one step further, providing online reviews of a company/firm, interview process, salary and even the boss.

The popularity of Glassdoor has surged in the US, where it is in the top 600 most visited websites. And it is set to grow in the UK. A recent article in HR Magazine warned businesses not to ignore Glassdoor after research found that respondents believed the website to be more trustworthy than traditional forms of information such as company collateral or career guidance professionals. No fewer than 68% of respondents stated that they considered Glassdoor to be either entirely or somewhat trustworthy. That’s despite the fact that they also seem aware of the limitations such as negative bias of reviewers.

The site aims to be fair and transparent: contributors remain anonymous and employers have the right to respond to comments. Technology filters and moderators are also in place to ensure content is genuine. Each review features ‘pros’ and ‘cons’, advice to management and a star rating – and covers areas such as company culture, whether international opportunities are on offer, how well a business develops its people and what the offices and perks are like.

The big law firms are on there but the number of reviews vary – some have reached over 90, others less than 10. When you filter by location, the number decreases significantly for the UK office, therefore it may be difficult to build any kind of true picture. And while there are reviews that make constructive ‘negative’ comments, there are clearly people with an axe to grind.

For good or ill, however, the fact is that the use of these sites is only going to grow in the legal industry and beyond. Rather than fear the development of such sites, businesses could actually use them to their benefit, reckons Tom Lakin, director of Career Design Coaching, who conducted the research into Glassdoor.

He advises businesses to engage with the tool to avoid losing potential new talent. They should listen to, and act upon, feedback. Although negative reviews are out there in the public domain, they should not see it as a threat – participants in the survey were relaxed about poor individual reviews, particularly if they were extreme. It was the overall picture that was of significance to them.

As for candidates, such websites can be a useful tool in a job hunt. But it’s worth remembering that by their nature they are limited and should only be used in conjunction with a wide variety of other sources.

These sites have been compared to TripAdvisor for the job market. But when booking your dream holiday you wouldn’t rely on a single website alone – and that’s for a two-week break. A job is a far more important life-decision. You need to do your own research to build up as full a picture as possible:

  1. Speak to both past and present employees of the firm you want to work for. LinkedIn can be useful for making connections.
  2. The Sunday Times ‘best companies to work for’ is a handy resource for finding out which businesses are leading the way in how well they treat and develop their employees.
  3. Search online to see what your firm writes about – and gather views on its culture from a wide variety of sources, including the trade press and social media. This may help you to form a better view of the company’s overall culture and attitudes.
  4. Talk to your recruiter about the firms behind the roles on offer. Yes, we may want to fill roles but our success also depends on us making the right matches. We will happily share our honest insights to ensure we can support the right placement.
  5. Ask questions at the interview. It’s as much about finding out if the company will be the right fit for you as the employer working out if you are right for them.

Most of all, don’t let an online review (good or bad) decide your job prospects. Websites like Glassdoor are just one tool of many that can help you unlock the right door to the right job for you.

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