4 Signs a Company’s Reviews Are Reliable (And You Should Trust Them)

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Fairygodboss
May 22, 2024 at 5:58AM UTC

Company reviews are a great way to get insight into how employees feel about working at a company — without having to do the extra work of networking. You can get real opinions on and reactions to the inner workings of a company, especially ones that someone might not feel comfortable sharing publicly. 

Yet not all company reviews are reliable, trustworthy or even accurate. Some employees might leave a review based on a specific manager, coworker or situation that won’t ever apply to a future candidate. Others might be outdated and share information that’s not even relevant to the way the company currently operates.

How do you know when a review is a great personal insight into how a company works, or when someone’s just retaliating over a specific, unique experience? Here are four signs a company’s reviews are reliable — and that you should trust them when making a decision.

1. They’re constructive.

It’s easy to leave a review that’s wholly good or bad, without much detail or nuance. That’s why you want to look for constructive reviews: ones that offer context along with their praise or criticism. These reviews are more likely to give you a holistic view of that employee’s experience rather than simply an emotional reaction to their time there. This doesn’t mean the review should be multiple paragraphs — it just means it should give you enough detail and nuance to get a good, realistic picture of what this employee’s experience was like.

2. You see certain trends or patterns.

One bad review about a company’s work-life balance among a string of high praise for a company’s culture shouldn’t sound the alarm bells. Instead, it should show you that there are many employees who have positive feelings about the company’s culture. 

It’s easy to overweigh reviews depending on how we feel about the company; for example, if we’re excited about this job prospect, we may put more weight on the positive reviews and ignore the negative ones. To stay more objective, try to parse any patterns or trends among the reviews. If there’s something that multiple people agree on or talk about, it’s likely that the trend is reliable.

3. They’re recent.

Companies change! Over time, so much about a company can change, from its management to vacation policies. If you’re only looking at reviews from years ago, you might not be getting the best picture about what it’s like to work at this company right now. It’s best to do your research when it comes to old reviews and statements about management, benefits and salaries, rather than taking what someone said about maternity leave policies five years ago at face value.

4. They’re relevant to the department or position you’re applying for.

An employee’s experience is heavily dependent on what department and role they’re in, especially at a larger company with so many different opportunities. When looking at reviews, make sure that they’re relevant to what you’re actually applying for. While larger patterns and trends can help you identify the company culture as a whole, a marketing manager’s day-to-day experience might vary greatly from a software engineer’s experience. Look for any department, position or title cues that can help you identify exactly where this person worked.

Company reviews — when they’re reliable — can be an informative tool for a job seeker who wants to learn what it’s really like to work at a company. Yet they should be one tool in a larger toolbox when it comes to deciding whether you want to jump on board. 

An anonymous Fairygodboss member said it best: “While it’s easy to get caught up in online reviews, your overall opinion of the company should come from a much wider array of sources. For one, go offline, and see if you can get more personal information from a current or former employee. And beyond research, the things you observe within the company (are employees smiling? Is everyone hiding in their cubicle?), your interaction with the hiring manager, and your enthusiasm for the company’s core purpose should all influence your ultimate decision. Don’t be afraid to trust your (well-informed) gut. It’s usually right!”

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

What’s your no. 1 way to tell if a company review is reliable? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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