Should You Apply to a Company With Bad Online Reviews?

Bad reviews will generally raise a red flag. But that doesn't mean you should run from every company with negative feedback attached to it.

Maurie Backman
Maurie Backman
Aug 8, 2018 at 10:39AM
Investment Planning

One of the best ways to determine whether you'll be happy working at a given company is to hear what its current employees have to say about it. After all, it's easy enough for a company representative to talk up an employer during an interview, but it's another thing to get firsthand accounts from the people who deal with the daily highs and lows.

Of course, getting that inside take can be easier said than done when you don't have friends or associates employed by the company you're thinking of working for. Thankfully, there are several sites out there, like Glassdoor, that allow you to access company reviews and get that inside scoop.

Man at laptop with concerned expression.

Image source: Getty Images.

But what happens if you research a company and find that its reviews are overwhelmingly negative? Should you automatically rule it out, or give it a chance nonetheless?

Take those reviews with a grain of salt

At first glance, a string of bad company reviews might read like a warning signal to run the other way. But remember this: Those employees who are the most disgruntled might also be the most likely to air their grievances. It's human nature to vocalize our dissatisfaction more so than our gratitude, so if all you're seeing are negative reviews for a company you're thinking of working for, it could be that you're only getting one side of the story.

Furthermore, it pays to dig into why the company in question has such bad reviews. Are folks complaining about salary? The work schedule? Or the general attitude the company has toward its employees?

Some of the things you'll hear folks griping about may not be deal-breakers. For example, if you see people complaining that their company's benefits are terrible but you have a spouse whose great benefits you can utilize, a lousy health plan may not matter to you. Similarly, if you're used to working long hours, the fact that the company demands a lot may not be a reason to stay away.

Another thing it pays to do is see which areas of the company those bad reviews are stemming from. For example, maybe the IT managers are impossible to please, and so much of the tech team is unhappy. But if you're applying for a role on the marketing team, you might skirt that issue altogether.

Get the whole story

Before you write off a company completely because of its bad reviews, try attending an interview and seeing what vibe you pick up. You should also feel free to ask questions about the bad reviews you've seen to get to the bottom of the story.

For example, if the company has a reputation for insisting that workers consistently burn the midnight oil, ask the person interviewing you to outline that firm's expectations. Maybe employees are asked to work long hours during busier periods, but are given more leeway the rest of the year. Or, maybe the company has grown aware of the fact that its employees are overworked and overwhelmed, and is actively taking steps to hire more people to better divvy up the load. The point is that you generally have nothing to lose by going in and hearing the company's side of the story, and if you ask the right questions, you'll probably get to the bottom of things.

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In a day and age when it's so easy to bash employers anonymously, there's a danger in believing every bad review you read. On the other hand, sometimes that negative feedback exists for a reason, and the best thing you can do as a job candidate is take the time to thoroughly research every company you apply to before moving forward.