Don’t Let Bad Reviews Drain Your Hiring Pool

In the study “Rules of Attraction: Job Seekers Use Negative News to Filter Initial Search,” Cornell University found that job seekers often use negative news and online reviews to filter their initial job search. This information has short- and long-term effects on whether or not a candidate will consider applying for a company’s open position, which can have serious consequences on your company’s hiring and recruitment efforts.

Companies of any size may experience the insecurity of being on the wrong end of anonymous online reviews. The last thing you want prospective hires to do before contacting you is to worry about whether or not a disgruntled employee’s anonymous review is true. As more companies begin to understand the far-reaching effects of employer branding, the next step is to put a plan in place to improve it.

Part of the challenge of mitigating bad online reviews is that there’s no standard rulebook for how to address them. That’s why you should make your own. To prevent recruitment damage from such reviews, pull in key stakeholders to discuss the following steps and establish your own recovery process.

1. Establish an awareness baseline

“It is critical for companies and practitioners to be aware of the sources and variety of information available to job seekers—and to use that awareness to head off or turn around potential problems,” said the Cornell researchers. This is why your review recovery plan should start with a baseline awareness of how your brand is received online.

Many HR managers already have a handle on their word-of-mouth reputation from years of face-to-face networking, but it’s important to bring the digital aspect into play because that’s what your recruitment candidates will see. Perform a simple web search using your company name and analyze the search return the way a prospective hire would. If you have the budget, it may be worth working with a digital marketing firm to understand your options in pushing positive listings and branded pages to rank higher than anonymous online review sites.

2. Consider your response to candidates

Are you prepared to discuss your company’s online reviews in a candidate interview? And could you provide a well-framed response if you received an inquiring phone call from a prospective hire about the issues addressed in the review? Once your HR team and other major stakeholders understand the lay of the digital landscape, pull together an official response to employees and prospective hires. Provide a context for this story by creating a narrative that makes sense and addresses any concerns a candidate might have about the company or the position.


3. Put a maintenance plan into place

When your team has a firm grasp on the situation, make a multi-faceted plan that you can use for existing bad reviews and preventative company culture maintenance. This plan should give you a way to stay in the know about your company, such as setting up a Google alert and monitoring review sites for new reviews and mentions. It should also include instructions for quickly reacting to online and in-person reviews in a sincere and transparent way.

For preventative maintenance, take a close look at your exit interview strategy. Provide employees with an opportunity to vent their grievances in person rather than taking their negative feelings with them when they go. An atmosphere of constant feedback and conversation between HR, new employees and existing employees will create a company culture that’s harder to complain about.

4. Educate and communicate with your team about the plan

The most effective plan (and the happiest work environment) is one with buy-in, so the final step in mitigating bad online reviews is educating and communicating with your team. Your team needs to know what to do when employees hear or see something that might affect the company’s employer brand. If employees feel educated and empowered to communicate with HR on daily issues, they will be less likely to bottle up their complaints for a negative online review when they leave the company.

One bad review doesn’t have to ruin your entire employer brand reputation. If you act quickly and proactively to mitigate the outcome, you can control the effect your digital reputation has on your recruiting efforts.