Is Glassdoor Only for the Extremes?

Robert Hohman is co-founder and CEO of Glassdoor, an online community where employees and job-seekers post anonymous information on salaries, company reviews, interview questions, and more, providing a valuable insider's glimpse of what it's like to work at a company. Hohman was on Expedia's original team, and helped take it public in 1999. He most recently served as president of Expedia's discount division, Hotwire.

Some companies are disgruntled by poor reviews from former employees, but Hohman thinks today's users are savvy enough to look at the data and take outliers in stride. In this video segment he also explains how Glassdoor works to get data from a representative cross-section of employees, not just those with extreme opinions -- whether positive or negative.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Tom Gardner: A few CEOs that I've talked to about Glassdoor have said, "It feels to me like there's some ax-grinding going on. There are some employees that are out there that didn't work out and they're upset, and they're taking it out a little bit on us."

I said, "But that does reflect something about your company. It reflects that you made a recruiting mistake, up front, or it reflects that you made a mistake on the way out."

The ideal scenario for somebody who didn't work out at the company would be that they would sit down and give the company a 5.0 and say, "I had an incredible learning experience. It wasn't the right place for me. I've moved on, and I've learned a lot from it." I know that may seem very idealistic and almost impossible -- but there you are -- the example of Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) , that actually gets through tough times with a lot of people and people end up favorably reviewing the company even though it had to make difficult decisions.

Robert Hohman: I think that's right. A company of a certain size, it's not going to be able to please absolutely everyone, obviously. There will always be people who have bad experiences. But the important thing, and our position on this, is that's their story and their story is important to be told, and is a valid experience that should be a part of the community. We want that to be just one voice of the many voices telling their experience of the company.

Users have been trained how to use social media and services like ours through years of using TripAdvisor  (NASDAQ: TRIP  ) , Yelp  (NYSE: YELP  ) , Amazon  (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) Book Reviews. They look for patterns. They expect to see one person that's unhappy to every nine that's happy, and things like that.

In fact, we have data that shows that the data actually becomes more believable when there's at least a couple of data points that are outside the norm, because otherwise the data set just looks too cohesive. Embracing all of those voices is very important, I think.

Gardner: One of our members, Dave, asks, "Who is engaging, on the employee side? Do you have any read on whether it's the extremes? You're getting the most positive and the most negative? Is there anything to suggest that you're getting a sample that covers all, or is it a blend of extremes?"

Hohman: We architected the site and the collection mechanisms to try and get as flat a curve and distribution of collection as we could. We call this, in the industry, the "bimodality" problem. The problem is you have people who either love their job or hate their job contributing, theoretically. If you didn't do anything about it, that's the fear; that you'd have this bimodal distribution.

We've taken various steps to flatten that and get a nice, even distribution of data. Basically the way we've done it is we require people who use the service -- after a couple of page views or minutes using the service -- we say "It looks like you're getting value from the service. Please tell your story."

That applies to people who are satisfied, unsatisfied. They might just be browsing the site looking at salaries, trying to negotiate their raise, and they're thrilled with their company. The result is that we get a nice, even distribution.

We know this because it turns out about 69% of companies on the site are rated neutral or higher -- so, if anything, we skew slightly above average in terms of rating -- and the average CEO approval rating on the site is 69% so, again, we skew relatively high on those numbers.

Gardner: What is the average company rating?

Hohman: The average company rating is 3.2.

Gardner: 3.2, OK, got it.


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