Employer rating sites: why are they important to HR?

According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder.co.uk, more than 50% of employers research candidates on social networking sites. So it should come as little surprise that candidates are increasingly turning the tables and using the web to research employers.

And with sites such as Glassdoor.com and EmployerInformation.co.uk allowing users to anonymously rate their company, there’s no need for jobseekers to rely purely on the positive case studies provided on a company’s recruitment pages. But just how important are these sites in attracting the best talent into your organisation?

“They are becoming increasingly important,” says Jon Ingham, social media expert and executive consultant at consultancy Strategic HCM. “In particular the younger generation, who are more internet savvy, are used to using sites like TripAdvisor for personal things and they are increasingly using employer rating sites before they apply for a new opportunity or before they accept an offer.”

It is this younger generation that Jamie Frith, founder of Gradjobsuncovered.com, had in mind when he launched the site in early May. “Getting a graduate job is the single greatest point of transition in the job market. By definition graduates don’t have any experience, so the need for that information is stronger than in other areas,” he says. “You hear the employer’s side of the story a lot, and we felt there wasn’t really anywhere you could go for information that is more balanced.”

Gradjobsuncovered.com also gives employers the right of reply, should they wish to respond to a posting. But should organisations take up the opportunity to put across their side of the story if they are portrayed negatively?

According to Paul Harrison, managing partner at corporate social media specialists Carve Consulting, they should. “People respect organisations better if they do respond and engage with criticism,” he says.

However, Vanessa Robinson, head of HR practice development at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, says it won’t always be appropriate for organisations to respond online, but that they can still make use of criticism internally. “Employers could build on these things in the same way as engagement surveys. If people come back and say they are not engaged, in some ways that is great because it gives you an opportunity to build on it and gives you good feedback. The social networking sites are a more immediate way and a more public way of getting that.”

It’s that public part that some organisations are likely to take issue with. But with the rise of online reviews, Twitter and blogs, it’s inevitable companies will get some bad press, says Sammie Stapleton, recruitment media senior consultant at professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The firm, which is one of the UK’s largest graduate recruiters, has attracted a number of reviews on Gradjobsuncovered.com, and while much of the content is positive, several posters made negative remarks about long working hours and a lack of work-life balance.

Stapleton says while this type of commentary would be noted and passed on internally, it’s unlikely PwC would comment openly. “We haven’t taken the stance to make an official comment from PwC because the very nature of these websites is that it is about people sharing their personal circumstances and their personal experiences,” she says. “If we see anything that is factually incorrect then we do sometimes ask that it is changed – if someone was saying you only need to have 280 Ucas points to apply to PwC when you actually need 300, for example.”

She adds that reviews are not the only source of information for jobseekers. “People generally will look at an awful lot of different channels to get an understanding and a feel for a company. I would hope that people would not just take one opinion that is out there.”

Although a bad review may seem disheartening, it’s worth remembering that employees have always shared their opinions by word of mouth – at least if they’re doing it online, organisations are better able to access criticism and take action on it, and that is usually a good thing.

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