How trustworthy is Glassdoor?

Fake reviews mean that Amazon's star-ratings aren't trustworthy. With the market for false reviews growing, will Glassdoor survive?
6 June 2023

• Glassdoor is losing credibility because of fake reviews.
• Companies are using unscrupulous methods to boost their ratins.
• It’s easier to fake a good review than to remove a negative one.

Fake reviews on Amazon are known to be common. The competition between third-party sellers on the site means that some sellers resort to unscrupulous methods to boost user reviews: gift cards or free products are on offer for good reviews, with some going as far as to pay for five-star reviews.

In fact, there’s quite the market for fake reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. There are online marketplaces where reviews are bought and sold, and multiple studies have shown the relative ease with which the “side hustle” can be set up.

According to Which?, fake reviews make consumers more than twice as likely to choose poor quality products.

As annoying as it can be, buying a lightning cable that arrives the next day and stops working the day after that isn’t life and death. Further, it should be fairly easy to spot fake reviews on Amazon; there are multiple tools, like Fakespot, that can help identify them. But what about when the stakes get higher?

Fake reviews aren’t only on Amazon

Glassdoor, the platform that allows employees to anonymously review their experiences with a company, is fast losing credibility due to dubious review trends. A software engineer from an unnamed company that laid off 30% of its employees in December 2022 told the Pragmatic Engineer that:

“My company is removing Glassdoor reviews because their rating has gotten so low. The company’s score went to 2.3 and they started doing this. I don’t think my company is alone in this practice to protect themselves from bad press, but lots of my colleagues have had their reviews deleted. Effectively, we’ve been silenced.”

A member of the company’s HR team did confirm an in-house goal to improve its Glassdoor rating, with the target of getting the score above 3.0.

Now, how to go about this? Unsurprisingly, the first course of action isn’t improving employee experience.

There are two key ways that a business could improve its score on Glassdoor: getting more positive reviews, or getting rid of negative ones. Trusted as an unbiased source, when using Glassdoor the disclaimer is ever-present:


However, this really isn’t the case. The site does remove some reviews that violate the community guidelines or terms of use – which is not unreasonable. The site is also effective at removing, or at least reducing, spam. There’s no way to pressure Glassdoor to remove a specific review, however the “success rate” for getting a review removed is one in three.

According to an HR professional who’s been tasked with removing as many negative reviews as possible, the most effective way to do so is by flagging a review for one or both of two reasons: impersonation or defamatory; or libellous, fraudulent or knowingly misleading content. The genius of this method is that it would be difficult to verify this type of report, meaning more often than not the review will be deleted – just in case.

On the flipside, there’s the inherent incentive to get employees to write positive reviews while still employed by a company. For example, new starters are often hassled to leave a review for their new employer early on in their time at the business, during the honeymoon phase. Less organic but arguably not a violation is organizing “Glassdoor review events,” gently forcing employees to rate their time at the company.

Without overt pressure to make the review positive, these methods are technicallly valid – after all, these aren’t fake reviews like on Amazon, right? Cases of more questionable approaches include:

  • A startup organized a social event at work, and asked employees to show up on time with their laptops. As everyone arrived, the founder instructed people to go to Glassdoor, and leave a positive review. The founder and other executives walked around, checking what people were writing.
  • One company asked employees to write a “honest” review and email it to HR. Naturally, this meant the review was not anonymous anymore.
  • A company, as part of their onboarding checklists, instructs new joiners to submit a positive Glassdoor review during their first week at the company. Such reviews can often be spotted, as the descriptions will often mention how the reviewer has barely started at the company.
  • A video platform startup company explicitly banned terminated employees from posting a negative review of the company on Glassdoor, or any other review site for one year, as part of their severance package agreement. A software engineer who was given this severance agreement contacted Glassdoor to complain about their employer, but never heard back. The engineer didn’t post a negative review for a year to protect their severance.
  • Another company disallowed employees posting any Glassdoor reviews, in the employment contract itself: doing so would go against this contract. This company added this clause after a long and constant inflow of negative reviews.

These practices can’t really be blamed on Glassdoor, though. Honesty and an eagerness to help others should be enough to keep review platforms as unbiased and informative as possible. Moderation can’t be expected to account for bitter ex-employees.

It can be bought, though. Paying customers of Glassdoor seem to have their concerns prioritised – one report said that only once a business opened a paid account were concerns about fake reviews acted on.

The case of Trustwave is evidence that perhaps the regulators at Glassdoor aren’t as scrupulous as they could be. A year ago, the company’s rating on Glassdoor was 3.5, and that’s jumped up to 4.4 in one year – thanks to duplicated five-star reviews.

So, the score on Glassdoor becomes little more than evidence of a company’s tech savvy – or budget for freelancers who work to get reviews removed, or for Online Reputation Management services (ORMs).

Now, if a person were to base their employment prospects entirely on Glassdoor scores, we might wonder about their critical reasoning. Besides fake reviews, it’s important to remember that a disgruntled employee is far more likely to leave a (negative) review than a happy one.

The thing is, it’s much easier to fake a review than it is remove a negative one. How trustworthy really is Glassdoor? Is it destined to go the way of Amazon, where fake reviews render the feature useless?

Read the full report by the Pragmatic Engineer here.