How to Respond to Negative Online Employee Reviews

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Many companies choose to ignore online employee reviews, either because they don’t think it’s necessary to respond to them, or because they dismiss negative reviews as coming from disgruntled former employees (or disgruntled current employees). And that’s the heart of it: Every company has at least one disgruntled employee, some have many, and many employees are disgruntled for a reason. However, whether you want them to or not, prospective candidates will still read your reviews on employer review sites – and each review contributes to your employer brand and reputation.

According to Talent Tech Labs’ trends report on candidate engagement, 80–90% of candidates say that a positive or negative interview experience can change their mind about a role or a company. What's more, over 60% of job seekers read company reviews and ratings before making a decision to apply for a job.

You can’t scrub negative reviews from the internet (though you can dispute reviews making certain accusations through a tedious process on some sites – see How to Remove Inappropriate Content on Glassdoor Reviews). What you can control is how you and your company responds to reviews, both positive and negative, on employer review sites by developing a review response strategy.

Perspectives You Can Take When Responding to Employer Reviews

Here the five most common perspectives companies take on review sites:

1. We don't respond to any reviews.

Some companies choose not to respond to any reviews. Instead, they focus on amplifying the positive via updates, photos, awards, and company content. This strategy works well for a company that has many positive reviews and a few "bad apples" that disagree with the overwhelmingly positive view. Not responding to any reviews is also a common strategy by growing companies with small HR teams, where no one is the dedicated "Glassdoor person." One downside is, how can prospective candidates tell that your company cares about its employees and is actively working to improve your company culture if you don't respond to any grievances they voice? 

2. We only respond to correct misinformation with facts.

Similar to the above strategy, sometimes employers choose to mostly stay silent, but draft a response on things that directly contradict true information about their company. For example, a former employee complains about the lack of PTO, and the company responds highlighting PTO, sick leave, holidays, and floating holidays to paint a more accurate picture. This can be a good way to highlight areas where your company has improved its offerings without dedicating too much time.

3. We only care about the truly egregious.

Another response strategy is to only respond to the very out-there reviews, or ones that took things way beyond professional disagreements. Some employers will request that Glassdoor remove reviews that use profanity, refer to an employee by name, or can be legally upheld as damaging to the business. For many, this could be a "bare minimum" strategy of making sure that no one is getting away with saying truly defamatory things about your company. One thing to note here is that responding to reviews can boost them higher, so it may be a good idea to at least consider balancing this strategy with responses to some positive reviews as well. 

Related: How to Protect Your Recruiting Brand During a Crisis

4. We will respond, but with general templates.

This stance shows that you acknowledge the review, then provides a general HR number or email address if the person wants to elaborate. Although this response type is templated, it is a definite step up from the previous strategies in terms of how genuine your HR team – and thus, company – comes off. Following up with an email address where current or ex- employees can air out their grievances can be a great way to show new candidates how your HR team is working to keep improving your workplace.

5. Our CEO responds.

Having your CEO respond to online shows that our leadership is listening and s/he responds with the level of information deemed appropriate. Of course, this may not mean that a busy CEO is taking huge chunks of time out of their day to peruse Glassdoor and respond at will, but rather, HR selecting a few positive and a few negative reviews to respond to, with general ideas for what they should be highlighting. 

Related: Guide to Building Trust Between TA Leaders and the Executive Suite

Creating a Response Strategy for Candidate & Employee Reviews

When creating a response strategy, you’ll want to consider both positive and negative reviews. Your response can amplify positive messaging on review sites and show candidates that your company is genuinely paying attention to what employees say about working for your company, even if what they have to say is negative.

I never recommend not responding as an option. Why? According to the same TTL report cited above, 69% of job seekers are likely to apply to a job if an employer actively manages its brand (responds to reviews, updates profiles, shares info on culture and work environment).

My recommendation is to roll out a review response strategy in stages. For example, you could begin by developing a response to 4 and 5-star reviews with a “thank you for taking the time to tell us about your experience” and, in some form, “we appreciate you.”

As you move deeper into responding to reviews with 3-stars or fewer, the above phrases are also appropriate, with the addition of information that indicates you and your company hears the feedback and will communicate to the appropriate company leaders. While your recruitment strategy for reviews and comments should include responses and situational scenarios on how recruiters and you, as the employer will respond and engage, they should be customized so you don’t sound like you’re copying from a template.

Your responses will be seen online below the candidate or employee review, and it’s what potential candidates are going to read and make a decision about applying for a role at your company. Your response should reflect your company culture, and show that you listen (as HR and company leaders) to constructive feedback.

While we tend to want to dismiss anonymous reviews, and there are some that may be about not getting a position the candidate applied for, try to evaluate the review as constructive criticism and create a response that addresses it in a positive way. For example, if a candidate review states that they never heard back from a recruiter with your company or had issues with your application technology, the best strategy is to respond quickly and offer a method of contact (email or phone) so you and your team can get more information.

These types of responses show that you care about your candidate experience and (whether the reviewer chooses to get in touch or not) indicates to potential applicants that you’re open to hearing about areas where you can improve. Thank the reviewer, offer a method of communication, and state that you appreciate the time they took to bring the issue to your attention. In short, communicate that your company is listening.

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Response Templates For Responding to Online Employer Reviews

The following templates includes samples of responses to both positive and negative reviews. Make sure those responding understand they should customize their responses and call back to anything specific the reviewer mentioned.

Templates for Responding to Positive/Neutral Reviews

Past employee:

Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review! We are glad you enjoyed your experience at COMPANY and wish you the best success in the future.

Current employee:

Thank you for taking the time to leave us a review! We are glad you are happy with your job and cheers to your future success at COMPANY.

Thank you for your thoughtful review! We appreciate hearing about your personal experience at COMPANY and are glad to learn that you are passionate about serving our customers.

Thank you for taking the time to write a thoughtful review! We appreciate hearing about your experience at COMPANY and are glad to learn that you are passionate about serving our customers and enjoy working with your team members. We appreciate your feedback and will share your comments with our leadership team.

Templates for Responding to Negative/Specific Reviews

Past employee:

Thank you for taking the time to write a review. We strive to provide extensive development opportunities that allow our employees to advance their career and we’re sorry that your experience was unfavorable. We will share your feedback with our leadership team and we wish you well in your future endeavors.

Thank you for your review. We strive to provide competitive compensation plans and extensive development opportunities for our employees so they may deliver a great customer experience. We sincerely appreciate your feedback and will share it with our leadership team.

Thank you for providing feedback on your experience working at COMPANY. We strive to provide competitive salary packages. We will share your comments with our leadership team.

Current employee:

Thank you for sharing your concerns. Please know our management team is focused on ensuring all employees are treated fairly and that their opinions are heard. We understand that training and development opportunities are important, along with competitive salary packages. We would like to get more information on your specific experience in order to improve. Would you mind emailing us at HR@company.com? 

Thank you for sharing your concerns. Your feedback is important to us and we would like to get more information on your specific experience. Would you mind emailing us at HR@company.com?

Other Considerations for Responding to Employer Reviews

It can be helpful to set guidelines for responding to reviews. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before responding:

  1. How often will we monitor reviews? Is someone checking them daily or weekly?

  2. Which types of reviews (positive, negative, neutral, misinformed, defamatory, etc.) should we respond to?

  3. In what time frame should we respond to reviews?

Glassdoor recommends "gather[ing] your leadership team to determine criteria for responding to reviews, how to prioritize responses, how to ensure feedback is delivered to the right teams and who will have ownership of drafting, approving and submitting responses."

Additionally, keep your brand voice present as you respond, and keep your employee value proposition (EVP) in mind at all times to maintain employer brand consistency across platforms. 

Topics: Social Recruiting

Updated November 23, 2021