Overcoming Poor Online Reviews

Shawnee Love   •   June 27, 2019

In our blog on building your employment brand, we suggested you check out what people (i.e., candidates and current and past employees) are saying about you online. These reviews along with your website, job postings, and any experiences people have with your organization create your “employment brand”.  Just like your product or service brand, your employment brand is used to make decisions by people in the marketplace.  As it relates to your employment brand, people are making decisions regarding whether they want to be employed by you.

If you have ever looked at online reviews such as those found on Yelp or Trip Advisor, you know that it is generally the extreme views which get airtime.  It makes sense since few bother doing a review if they are neutral or only mildly happy or slightly disappointed with a product or service.  It is the same with reviews about employers- only the people who feel strongly bother to share their views.  That means,  most employers aren’t going to get reviews unless candidates and/or staff have had a really great or really poor experience.

Regrettably, it is not too difficult to create a bad experience for employees or candidates.  Even if you do everything right for the right reasons, you can find yourself on the receiving end of a negative review for:

  • Refusing to hire an unqualified candidate,
  • Letting go of a poor performer, or even
  • Admonishing a late or forgetful employee.

Hire someone, fulfill your promises, and keep them happy and they still are unlikely to go hunting for an employer review site to give you 4 stars.  You have to really exceed expectations before employees or candidates take the time to sing your praises online.

Unfortunately, even though we know online employer reviews are heavily weighted to the negative, and we recognize there is likely another side or two to the story, a bad review still gives people pause when they are considering your organization as a future employer.

So what can you do if you have a bad review?

  1. Soul search.  Did you do something to deserve it? If you did, consider the review a gift and try to fix it.  If you didn’t deserve the criticism, proceed to step 2.
  2.  Respond.  It’s okay to respond to the comment providing your response is rational, calm and constructive.  Never argue because that escalates the issue and provides fuel for online trolls. Just apologize for their experience and articulate what you are doing to correct or move forward in a positive fashion.  Something like:
    1. If a candidate complains about the slow hiring process:  “We are sorry your interview with our organization was not positive. We continue to work to improve our hiring process by streamlining the steps we follow. I hope you will consider us again in the future”.
    2. Similarly, if an ex-employee is complaining about being underpaid or overlooked: “We are sorry you were unhappy working with us.  We strive to ensure our compensation program is fair and will be considering your feedback for how we can improve.”
  3. Encourage positive reviews. In the face of negative reviews, there is no harm in mentioning to your happy employees that a disgruntled ex-colleague or candidate is trash talking the organization online, and you would appreciate a little love in the form of reviews that might counterbalance the complainer.  The worst that will happen is no one will offer their support or they will trash talk too.  If that happens, repeat Step 1.  But they just might go and say some nice things about your organization which will help your brand and will help you learn what your people value about your organization. (Hint: Do more of those things.)

Things you should not do when you get a poor online review:

  • Ignore it.  It is true that if you give it no attention, it will be overwhelmed by additional information and become old news.  However, it will remain on your “record” and could create questions in the future if other reviews don’t overrule it.
  • Criticize it.  It is tempting to go through and point out all the ways the negative review is wrong. But lowering yourself to the reviewer’s level often escalates into a war of words merely ends up reinforcing the bad impression of you in the eyes of anyone reading the exchange.
  • Write fake counter-comments.  I mention this only because it happened in the tourism industry where some organizations who shall remain unnamed were caught writing positive reviews about their own businesses.  Once it was discovered they were falsely reviewing themselves, they were publicly shamed for their behaviour.  They would have been better off just fixing the problems which caused the reviews in the first place, i.e., Step 1, Soul Search and Correct.

If you have been around long enough, chances are at least one of the candidates or ex-employees you have encountered will have something negative to say about you online.  Handling that review effectively impacts how you will be perceived by future candidates, so it is important to get it right.

Also, it bears mentioning that it isn’t easy to get a review or comment removed. Even if you believe it is unfair or untrue, it has to be down right harassing or clearly be a violation of a law before a review site will even consider removing it.  So let’s assume the bad review is up for life and you are going to have to decide what to do about it. We hope you will let our simple 3 steps be your guide.

We’d love to hear how you handle your online reviews, and if you have questions about your employment brand, we’d love to hear from you.