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How Negative Reviews Affect Recruiting

These days “gossip around the water cooler” can take place in a very public way: online. Unhappy customers and employees are taking to the Internet in masses to complain, often in the form of online reviews. But how might this phenomenon affect your recruiting efforts?

“Right now, the job market is such that businesses generally have more power than candidates—except when it comes to top talent,” says‘s CEO and Founder Michael Fertik. “Really exceptional people gravitate toward similarly standout companies. If your online reviews reflect similar negative themes, that will be a red flag to a discerning candidate.”

When it comes down to it, online reviews affect reputation. And a company’s reputation plays a significant role in recruiting. A recent study featured by MIT Sloan Management Review, for example, shows that reputation accounts for 16.3 percent of the value of a contract for MBA-level job candidates. While that may not seem like an overwhelming amount, it does indicate reputation could tip the scales against your job offer when other potentially negative factors are at play such as compensation, location or benefits.

So let’s say you notice a mixed bag of corporate reviews coming in from sites like Glassdoor, Yelp!, Google and LinkedIn. How can you tell if these reviews are affecting your recruiting efforts?

“Ask. If your best prospects are consistently walking away, you should reach out and say, ‘We’d love to know if you had any specific hesitations about our company,’” recommends Fertik. “Emphasize you’re interested in hearing their candid thoughts so you can understand how to make improvements.  Be positive, upbeat and sincere.”

If online reviews appear to be a problem, how do you earn more positive reviews? Ask for those, too. Yes it can feel awkward, but know that happy customers and employees are a) more than happy to oblige and b) not likely to do it on their own accord.

“Smart companies are asking their employees—current and past—to review them online because most proactive reviews are typically written by people who are either really angry or really delighted with their experiences,” explains Fertik. “Likewise, leaders take the substance of reviews seriously and try to fix things that appear to be recurring themes or issues.”

When asking for reviews, it’s best to be specific. Without putting words into your reviewers’ mouths, tell them the type of reviews you’re looking for (reviewing your services or specific staff members, for example) and give them a specific link or links to the sites where the reviews should be posted. For example, Glassdoor provides an email template for anonymous employee reviews (click here to view it). Yet sites like will downgrade reviews from users who aren’t otherwise active on their sites. It’s OK to list a few links and recommend the recipient choose a site they are familiar with and are comfortable using.

Finally: Be responsive. Monitor reviews online and address problems appropriately as they surface. Not all negative reviews warrant a response but if you have a communication strategy in place, you can determine which reviews need attention. In the case of specific complains, for instance, offers a quick and easy guide to responding (click here to read it). As the guide points out, “Your company is bound to make a few mistakes here and there. It’s important to apologize publicly to a negative comment and then reach out […] privately to resolve the situation. Be open and honest.”

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