How to use company reviews to fine-tune your job search

Which employers should you really be targeting? The answer becomes much clearer with a little insider info from those already in the know.

How to use company reviews to fine-tune your job search

Job reviews give you an insider's point of view.

Reading job reviews is a must for all job seekers. No matter how expertly crafted a job description is, there are bound to be some very important details left out. What are the hours like? (No, seriously.) What would your annual pay increase be? (No, seriously.) What’s the work-life balance like? (You get the idea.)

I can tell you from my 15-plus years as a recruiter that a big gripe among job seekers is the lack of transparent information about companies and jobs they are considering applying to. So it’s no surprise to learn that job seekers seriously struggle with misleading information, according to a survey published by kununu, a global leader in employer transparency. Nearly one in four respondents have been intentionally misled during a job interview, and three in 10 said it’s difficult to receive honest, here’s-what-it’s-like-on-the-job facts. Worse, nearly one in five made a decision to accept a job they later regretted.

How can you avoid this kind of misfortune? Go to the source—employees who have been there, done that. In the age of consumer-review sites, including Monster's Company Profile page, it’s no surprise to discover that over half of potential hires said they would trust a company’s current employees for an accurate and honest review of the company itself. That’s higher than the number of people who would trust either the company’s HR team or website. 

If you use consumer-review sites to help you decide on what restaurant to try next or what movie is worth the ticket price, you should be doing the same with potential employers. After all, these are the people you’ll spend the majority of your waking hours with.

Want to know how to make the most out of the rich, useful information available for free? Read on!

Start with the big number

The first number you see on a job-rating site is likely to be the company’s overall rating. To figure out what it means, you’ll need to put it into context by comparing its rating with those of its competitors. How’s the one you’re considering doing in relation to its peers? This nugget of information can be helpful in your decision-making process, and may help you discover other potential employers. As you evaluate various profiles, have a look at their job openings, as well as jobs that the site recommends to you—you might discover some interesting opportunities to pursue.

Dig deeper into the insider info

The main rating is important, but it is just the tip of the company-rating iceberg.

You really get to be a fly on the wall at a prospective company by reading individual job reviews, which include the comments of current and former employees. There are basic numerical ratings for things like compensation and benefits, but the juiciest (and potentially most valuable) details are in the sections where reviewers sound off on what they like and dislike about a company, as well as suggestions for improvement.

Some reviewers share exactly what they think, no holds barred. Here’s an example: “Pathetic management! NO consideration for top performers! Just a ‘good ole boy network’…” And another: “A great environment and people to work with.” Home in on what is said about a company’s stance on leadership, culture, equality, career development, and social awareness, as well as the working conditions, as these are the critical characteristics that will help you determine whether or not a job will align with what works for you.

Go as deep as you can into profiles—if the company you’re searching has more than one location, click on the location you’re pursuing. Look at the employees’ titles—someone in a leadership position will likely have a different perspective than someone who’s in another role. Identify more closely with the titles you’re pursuing.

Use job reviews as interview fodder

As you interview, start asking questions and making comments about things you noticed on company-review sites. Be specific. It not only shows you did your due diligence, it also demonstrates you’re truly curious about the company. State something like, “I noticed on kununu there was a low rating for leadership. With all due respect, I was just curious how that’s being addressed?”

If a company you’re pursuing is truly transparent with its current employees, they should be as honest as possible with prospective ones, too. And if the interviewer doesn’t respond positively to your question and disregards the feedback of the company’s employees, this is a huge red flag indicating you should look elsewhere. Plus, interviewers should already be aware of what’s being said online, even anonymously. And if they’re not, that also says something about devaluing their employees’ voices.

You can also make comments during the interview to let the interviewer know you’ve done your homework and have your eyes on them—a strategy I have always highly recommended, as this proves to employers that you are on top of your game. You could say, “I noticed that your company’s compensation and benefits was very highly ranked on Monster. Sounds like everyone’s pleased with that!” Think of it as name-dropping, only with employer insight instead.

Look at it this way—employers are doing their diligence on you. They’re perusing your social media profiles and calling references. They don’t want to make a bad hiring decision because that costs them a lot of money, time and effort.

You absolutely must do the same on your end. Do as much groundwork as you can to be well-informed about your next potential employer. Base your questions on information you gleaned from the company’s reviews and take it from there to probe further. Ultimately, your goal is to make stronger, better-informed decisions of which employers to not only pursue but also work for.

And hey, don’t forget to pay it forward and rate your current and recent past companies. Your experiences may help someone else make a critical decision—and you can influence who does or doesn’t end up joining you at the next department happy hour.

Choosing a company is one of the biggest decisions you'll face, so you want to be as informed as possible. Could you use some more help beyond job reviews? Join Monster for free todayAs a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get career advice and job search tips sent directly to you inbox to keep you on the cutting edge. 

Monster’s career expert Vicki Salemi has more than 15 years of experience in corporate recruiting and HR and is the author of Big Career in the Big City. Follow her on Twitter at @vickisalemi