Company Reviews: Perception vs Reality: Online Reputation and Recruitment

I recently came across the below image shared by James Tiew, Executive Chef at Hilton Worldwide.

Firstly, it is a fantastic advertising image that put a smile on my face by using a subjectively negative experience of an individual to potentially create new business. After pondering on the statement, it also hit a nerve about a recent trend we see in employment around online company reviews and the effect that technology can have on attracting top-tier talent.



The Experience

Recently, we engaged with a fantastic individual who we supported though the recruitment process with a large, well-known financial planning firm.  After a month with all parties managing the due process, the candidate was made a verbal offer. The bell was rung at the office – the process undertaken was sound, the offer compelling and the client and new employee were very happy with the outcome. Having then issued the formal offer, a couple of days passed without any contact from the candidate to either ourselves or our client, so an outbound call was made.

To our surprise, the candidate had decided to decline the offer.  After respectfully digging further, they advised that they’d found a number of poor online company reviews on one website and believed it wasn’t the right move for their career to go to “such a company”. After investigation of the online reviews, most were 5 star, with three representing 1 star reviews (all the same theme). After internal debate, we decided this matter should be discussed with our client.  The main purpose was to let them know exactly why they had missed out on a fantastic candidate and the implications this could have on their business profile and further recruitment efforts.

Having discussed this with one of the directors, it was concluded that after an extensive performance development process with a particular employee, there was a lack of improvement and the employee was exited from the firm.  This employee felt the exit was both unfair and unwarranted. What followed was three consecutive 1 star reviews with similar themes, presumably from the one disgruntled employee. The director of the firm was already aware of these reviews and had contacted the online company to discuss their validity, only to be told that because the reviews offered both ‘pros and cons’, that they were considered legitimate and would not be removed.

Interestingly, the pros on each of the poor reviews were “good coffee, nice building” and other extraneous comments, offering no insight into the positive aspects of the business. This website allows reviewers to remain anonymous and, as we know, anonymity on digital media allows some individuals to be bravely malicious without accountability.

Our Investigation

So I did my own investigation and found the control mechanisms around the postings of reviews to be very loose.  I actually jumped on to the particular website and was able to provide a company review from an ‘anonymous’ source, with no limit on the number of reviews I could post or a control around who was posting them.

On the other hand, sites such as SEEK and Google have a company review portal with tighter control around posts.  It includes the need to have that position and company linked to your profile, ensuring that if individuals care to genuinely offer constructive feedback, there is accountability and greater possibility of truth in the feedback.


While online reviews can be a fantastic tool to give a prospective employee a more balanced insight into a firm, making an assessment of a future employer on hearsay alone could mean you’ll miss a potential great career opportunity.

I would suggest anyone should do their homework beyond simple reviews.  Don’t rely solely on a couple of poor company reviews and critically engage with the source of your information.  Be open and honest during the recruitment process and ask the question of an employer if you have any doubts or concerns.

“Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided
if people would simply take the time to ask,
“What else could this mean?”
― Shannon L. Alder

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