Why Vetting Companies Requires More Than Just Looking at Ratings

Peter Giacalone explains how to properly vet companies when looking at online reviews, as well as how to ensure your employees leave positive ones.

There’s an adage, “The best companies have the happiest employees,” which has become a mantra for some companies. Although some interpret this differently and arguably even take this to an extreme, it doesn’t detract from the cold, hard fact that a company with employees who are pleased with their employer and environment, do a better job.

As someone who built and managed for many years the largest third-party monitoring company in the U.S., I can attest to that from firsthand experience and will always remember the effort and expense it took to recruit and hire staff on an ongoing basis.

Then once you had them employed, you needed to provide in-depth training and make sure you worked hard to retain the new hires to avoid the difficult and expensive challenge of employee turnover.

Wealth of Information to Dissect Beyond the Rating

My consulting efforts require me to travel frequently. During one of my flights I read an article in Forbes about job search websites, which have opened up employer’s and work environments as a fishbowl. After the flight I summoned an Uber and after the ride I was compelled to offer a rating.

Many business owners already know and live and die by online reviews. We are all familiar with Yelp, Angie’s List, CNET, Amazon, etc., where reviews last forever and most companies are working toward a high average score. The obvious places to read and dissect reviews are important and will always remain so.

However, the not-so-obvious place to look involves the investigation and research available to glean the perspectives of potential, current and past employees of a company you may be considering as a vendor or monitoring partner.

Online job search services such as Indeed and Glassdoor provide an amazing visual and feel for anyone who is knowledgeable in understanding and processing the information these sites provide.

Some of the information that is made public includes reviews of the company by candidates, current employees and past employees; data, charts and comments relating to interviews, salaries, benefits, job openings; a count of reviews (that usually gives you an idea on size); average pay; employee treatment; rules and regulations, and more.

This is priceless for anyone seeking employment, of course, but equally valuable to someone seeking to conduct business with the company. It really is a trove of information to absorb and is essential that it is not taken simply at face value.

For example, if a company has very few reviews (good or bad), it’s really not fair to make a total assessment based on three or four reviews. Few reviews usually indicates that the company is small or doesn’t hire often.

Some may say that could mean low turnover; although this could be true it almost always means that the company is in fact small, hires only locally, does not utilize the technologies of today or really doesn’t have much growth and may be stagnant with little opportunity.

It’s important to read the reviews and weigh possible interpretations. Although you will be compelled to migrate toward the average stars rating as the sole influencer in your decision making, you must also consider everything else that is available.

The rating is of course meaningful, but you should strongly consider the content behind the stars to better understand what the reviewers are stating. I’ve examined some company listings where a few low-rated reviews — focusing on the company having too much structure, a dress code or shifts — bring down the overall score, whereas the balance of the reviews have high ratings and call out the great work environment, benefits, compensation, and all-around treatment by the ownership and management.

Take Into Consideration Telling Traits of the Reviewer

If you are skeptical of reviews, sometimes it’s easy to identify the “planted” ones when they don’t balance with the rest. I think you will be very surprised by what you can take away and learn about a company after poring over reviews.

Reading a written review by an individual that is well thought out and structured properly may carry more weight than a review written in gibberish complaining about getting a reprimand for not shaving.

Even if you go into the process without any preconceived thoughts, when you read through 20 or 30 comments you will have a great idea if you wish to conduct business with that particular company, whether it be a vendor, monitoring provider, distributor, etc.

You want to figure out whether employees are treated and paid fairly. These online “tools” allow you to see the requirements for each position and get a feel on the type and quality of candidates they are considering (or not considering) based on their ability to write the review — anything from grammar to content.

Reading a written review by an individual that is well thought out and structured properly may carry more weight than a review written in gibberish complaining about getting a reprimand for not shaving. At the same time, a company may get five stars because the employee likes the coffee.

You have a load of information openly available to make a good assessment. Don’t take shortcuts, consider it all and you will make a sound decision.

Maintaining good ratings is essential. Start with fair pay and by treating your employees properly. You will earn their respect, loyalty and high marks. Express appreciation for the employee taking time to write the review; if it’s negative, take the opportunity to discuss the issues.

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About the Author


Peter Giacalone is President of Giacalone Associates, an independent security consulting firm.

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