How Negative Employee Reviews Can Hurt Your Recruitment Efforts

Woman's hands with coffee cup, typing review feedback on laptop

How Negative Employee Reviews Can Hurt Your Recruitment Effort

Ratings and reviews are the insignias of our age: we all love to tell the world about the places we like to go, the things we like to do, the music we love, the sentiments we approve of. More importantly, we love to talk about what we don’t like about these things, whether it’s about how our meal tasted, what our sandwich looked like or how we were treated.

Nothing is exempt, it seems. Restaurants, medical clinics, mechanics — they’re all fair game. We may feel good about supporting the businesses we love, but we seem to enjoy giving them a dressing down even more. Posting a bad review allows us to prove that we have skin in the game. We flex our consumer-muscle and show the rest of the world (and the unsuspecting business) that our voice matters — because it does.

In fact, a recent study found that 97 percent of consumers read online reviews, and 85 percent of them trust these reviews more than a recommendation from a friend. Positive reviews help build trust in a company and a whopping 49 percent of customers say that they look for a minimum of 4-star review averages before they purchase.

Unfortunately, professional organizations are not exempt from this trend, nor are employers in any industry. Job seekers today are actively using Glassdoor as part of their search to help them develop opinions about companies, to research salaries, and to find out about what it’s like to work there. Once they are on the other side of the fence, they also want to share their experiences so that others may be better informed.

In 2014, it was estimated that about half of all job seekers used Glassdoor. Now, the number is closer to 90 percent. Somewhere between one third and one-half of all candidates that use the service report that they won’t even consider an employer if they have less than a three-star rating, so it’s easy to see how these black marks can tank your chances of landing quality talent during the recruitment process.

And Glassdoor is not the only platform you have to worry about. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Indeed — just about anywhere on the web that you can post can be a forum for poor experiences, each one a veritable hotbed of heated discussion with the potential to tank your good name. While the reviews aren’t always bad, occasionally, a particularly dreadful one will go viral and bring a barrage of negativity raining down so badly that it will affect a company’s profitability as well as their reputation.

It would seem that a person scorned is ready and willing to do as much damage as they can. Once the word is out, the domino effect of bad press could make an already challenging recruiting landscape even more difficult. If attracting top talent is a priority — and in the highly competitive landscape of life sciences, talent is arguably everything — it is more important than ever that you do everything you can to protect your brand and your reputation.

This means taking a page from some of the most successful brands in the consumer marketplace: make sure negative reviews don’t get a chance to happen.

How Negative Reviews Affect Your Recruitment Process

Here are some recent statistics for you to consider:

  • 61 percent of job seekers will visit a company’s online properties (social media, websites, reviews sites) before they apply for a job
  • 55 percent say that if they read a negative review it would prevent them from applying
  • Job seekers will give more credence to the opinions of other job seekers than they do the company

It would seem that if there appears to be a trend of negative feedback, a candidate will move on to the next company.

While most review sites allow you to respond to comments, in some situations there likely isn’t a whole lot you can say to position yourself as the hero. For instance, if you get eviscerated in a review by a former employee who was terminated for cause, it would probably not look great for you to clarify the situation too much, even if it was true. By law, personnel files are confidential, and you could get your company into a world of trouble by responding to their scathing review by saying “Mr. Brown was let go because he was lazy and never finished his work,” you might be setting yourself up for a libel suit or worse.

It’s a double-standard for sure, but even though they’ve done their best to make you look bad, there’s not a lot you can say in rebuttal. That said, deciding not to respond can have consequences as well. You must choose your responses carefully and consider the letter of the law as well as any privacy issues.

Is It Legal? Or Is It Libel?

On some social platforms, such as Facebook, for instance, negative reviews can be removed because you control the page and its content. However, sites like Glassdoor can be more difficult to change as the comments are largely anonymous. If the comments are damaging and untrue, you do have recourse, but sometimes the process can take months and by then, the damage may be done.

On the other hand, people have the legal right to complain about working conditions and rights violations and if they choose to do so in a public forum or on the web, they are free to do so. If, however, these points are at issue, you have a much bigger problem than just a rogue employee.


Being Proactive About Online Reviews

Policies around online posting are far easier to enforce when the person is still in your employ. Once they are gone, you lose that control so the best thing you can do is to stop bad situations from happening in the first place. An ounce of prevention could stop a bad situation from becoming worse for everybody.

Paying attention to negative posts is a good start but trying to make sure that they don’t happen in the first place is really the best policy.

Some things you can do include:

  • Carefully monitor all of your web properties, including social sites, recruiting sites, and review sites
  • Make sure identifying negative employee posts are top of mind for your HR team
  • If you can attribute the post to a current employee, ask them nicely to take the post down while you make an effort to address their concerns through the proper channels
  • Don’t argue the veracity of the post
  • Try to resolve the issue by appealing to their sense of fairness
  • Be sure that they know their comments are damaging them, and if they no longer work for the company, their former colleagues
  • If this doesn’t make a difference, appeal to their former co-workers to speak to them directly. They may not have a sense of how they are causing damage unless they can put a face to it. There aren’t many people who are OK with causing their friends any grief
  • Don’t shy away from legal action if the post is damaging. Consult with an attorney first, but a cease-and-desist is usually the first course of action
  • If a damaging post gains traction or becomes viral, consider releasing a statement that refutes and addresses the issues raised but does not state any personal details

Establish a Company Policy

Protecting your brand begins with the establishment of a company policy around brand protection. You should set forth clear guidelines that prevent employees from posting negative remarks or comments that are contrary to your values and culture.

Here is an example of how you might word this policy:

“As a matter of courtesy and respect for your fellow colleagues, all employees are expected to voice any concerns about their jobs, job description, working conditions, other employees, and management to their direct supervisor, manager or human resources department. Posting grievances that relate to the company or your job anywhere on the internet, including social media channels or review sites, is not a productive activity as it does not adequately address or remedy these concerns. Posting about such matters in a public forum while employed by this company may result in disciplinary action or termination depending on how severe the situation is deemed to be. We recognize that all employees have a right to free speech, we will review all comments on an individual basis and will address each situation as needed. Employees who have been terminated will be invited to discuss any such issues during the exit interview process so that they can be dealt with appropriately. Complaints posted online, either during the course of employment or after termination, will be subjected to the reference check process, meaning that such behavior will be included in references given to future employers.”

Though you do want to avoid getting into an online war with a former employee, giving them fair warning that there will be consequences may give them pause. In this case, you would not be violating their privacy because the posts would be widely available online and so not private.

In conclusion

Most of your employees will understand that negative statements online don’t just make the company look bad, they make them look bad too.

A good example of this would be an individual who took to the web to complain about her salary as well as the company she was working for. She was fired the same day the post went live and even though she may have had a very good point about her salary’s disparity, it came off as petty, immature, and whiny.

Had she addressed the situation through the proper channels, she may have had a different response. She certainly wouldn’t have had to endure the public shaming that ensued or the embarrassment of losing her job because she was unable to get her message across to the people who could have instigated the much-needed change.

On the HR side of the discussion, most hiring managers agree that a candidate that bad-mouths their former companies or employees comes off as immature, discriminatory, and shows a lack of judgment. If these traits are visible from the start, it is only likely to get worse over time.

In the case of being asked for a reference to support a former employee who was known to engage in negative discussions about your company, don’t hesitate to reveal that the individual was involved in such activities. You are under no obligation divulge the nature of the comments and can leave it up to the new employer to do the research and find out for themselves, but it is your responsibility to protect your company’s reputation.

As for the employee, you should always make sure that they have access to the outlets they need to discuss any pressing concerns before they get out of control. If they don’t take you up on it, be sure you have the right safeguards in place to help you maintain your position in case of an unfortunate incident.

How to Negotiate Salary Without Asking About Salary Expectations

Employee signing a contract

How to Negotiate Salary Without Asking About Salary Expectations

Asking about salary history during the hiring process is actually illegal in some states. Not astonishingly, this means that when it comes time to make an offer, there might be some surprises.

The need to get in line with the rules has, however, fueled some interesting and progressive initiatives from some of the world’s biggest companies.

Amazon, for instance, is planning to hire in excess of 100K new employees this year to power up new locations in the United States. Hiring managers will not be asking for a previous salary, no matter what state regulations might apply. Meant to level the playing field, there are some that feel this will be harmful to some groups — especially women.

Is the Salary Disclosure Law Limiting Us?

Without the ability to negotiate or push back when a disparity is identified, candidates might be at a disadvantage. When it comes time to finalize the offer, this approach might derail the entire process, wasting a great deal of time and effort and causing a ripple effect of frustration from HR right up to the C-Suite.

If we can all agree that there’s got to be a better way, let’s look at what we know:

  1. As a hiring manager, you can’t talk about salary history.
  2. If you don’t talk about salary, everybody will be surprised at the end of the recruiting process.

How to Negotiate Without Asking About a Potential Candidate’s Salary

At the offer stage, many companies will make a standard offer based either on what the job pays or on the current marketplace. This removes the negotiation process, which at times must be competitive if you are to win the talent you need.

Here’s a way of gauging how your candidate might respond to your offer without asking for specifics: frame a salary range into a hypothetical situation to gauge their amenability. You might say something like “If we were to decide that we wanted to bring you on board, the offer might be in the range of 80K to 100K. In your opinion, is this a range that you might consider?”

You have put the question to them in a hypothetical manner and have not asked about their salary history. It’s a simple yes-or-no question that they are not required to elaborate on. You can then listen to their response and observe their physical reactions to get a sense of which way they are leaning.

By employing this technique, you have put your cards on the table and you have left some room to negotiate. Using this method, you have discovered much about where you and your candidate stand. You have neither broken any rules nor put anybody in an uncomfortable position. It is a flexible yet quantitative method that simply requires a slightly different technique than you might be used to.

In the end, you are still responsible for ensuring equal pay for women, minorities, and other protected groups. That doesn’t mean, however, that each candidate should have access to the same pay regardless of their experience and skill level. This method allows you to work within the parameters of the law while accomplishing your hiring goals.

Know What You Want Before You Start Recruiting

professional business people working on business project in office

Before beginning any important task or endeavor, preparation is essential. This stands true for pretty much everything, from professional sports to a presentation for your sales team and everything in between. Knowing what your objectives are before diving in is the key to success.

The alternative–not knowing or being able to articulate exactly what you need to accomplish–will only lengthen the process and may require continual adjustment along the way. Since your time is valuable, it’s in your best interests to do some of the legwork prior to setting out, that way, not a moment will be wasted.

This philosophy holds true for executive recruiting as much as it does for a press conference. If you are just beginning the recruitment process, ask yourself: do you know what it is you are trying to accomplish? What does your ideal candidate look like and what is the role he or she will need to fulfill relative to other employees and departments?

Articulating this role may necessarily involve bringing others into the conversation. Discussions need to be had with regard to skills, experience, culture, budget, and salaries prior to launching a recruiting initiative. You will need to include others from the team into which you are hiring and ensure that their needs are going to be met.

All this should take place before you speak to a recruiter. It’s a time-consuming and costly process, but the right preparation on your part will drastically narrow the scope of your search and allow you to focus solely on the candidates who are a good fit.

“I will know the right person when I meet them” and other self-defeating statements

If what it boils down to is the “I’ll know it when I see it” mentality, you’re already off on the wrong foot. If you’re counting on a hunch to guide your decisions, you may be unduly lengthening the process and wasting a lot of your own and others’ time and effort. The truth is, your recruiter can’t climb inside your head to understand what this ideal looks and sounds like, so you will need to make an effort to help them. Giving them some kind of basis from which to base their search always helps.

Arguably, one of the biggest issues in managing the recruitment process is that many employers first seek to replace like with like. When one employee leaves, you make an effort to replace them with somebody of the same or similar ilk. But, have you considered exactly what that person was doing? Were they taking on tasks outside of their “official” job description? Has the position evolved during their tenure, and is that job description still valid?

Soft skills, unseen attributes

Quite often, a high-level management or executive position requires a skill set beyond the actual job description. Depending on the individual, they may have evolved their job description considerably during the time they were in it.

Over time, you may have come to depend on their insight on specific tasks though it may not have been part of the scope of the job they were originally hired for. Being able to identify these details in advance will allow you to think outside the box when recruiting – and will give your recruiter something to run with. After all, a recruiter only knows what you tell them. The more you can share, the more efficient the process will be.

Actionable steps to a successful recruitment process

If we can now agree that preparation is the key to recruitment success, let’s look at some steps you can take to get that process off to a good start.

1. Seek the input of all stakeholders

Especially if you are filling a position that has already been vacated, you may not be aware of everything that person was doing. Speak to management and other high-level colleagues and find out what the real value proposition consists of. Are there others that are functioning in that role already? What are the gaps you are trying to fill?

2. What kind of person are you seeking?

Beyond experience and skills, you must understand the culture you are recruiting into. Culture often may include micro-cultures within the greater culture. Your new hire must mesh with the established culture, so the personality fit is going to be crucial. Who are they going to report to? Who is going to report to them? What are the issues or barriers, as you see them?

3. How will we evaluate each candidate?

Having a well-defined set of standards and criteria will help your recruiter more easily benchmark a candidate’s skills. It makes for a more streamlined process if everybody is using the same standards during the evaluation process.

4. What are we willing to offer to the right candidate?

The job market is very competitive in life sciences. Beyond salaries, you should have an idea of what you are willing to offer your ideal candidate. Are there areas in which you are willing to be flexible, or are there perks you can offer that would make your proposal even more attractive? Find out what your top competitors offer and see if you can compete.

Walk through these steps thoughtfully and you will be well on your way to a successful recruiting process. Your results will be more consistent and you will reach the finish line with a minimum of stress and wasted time.

If you have any questions or comments, call to speak to one of our recruiters today.