5 examples of why you should always consult Glassdoor before a Software Engineer interview

Definitely yes, if you saw an interesting announcement and you have applied or you have been contacted by a company for an interview, particularly in IT field but not only, you’d better go search on Glassdoor to deeply understand who is it , what you should expect from it and how to get yourself ready for interviews. Most people do not know it yet, so let’s start from what’s Glassdoor? It’s a portal where, anonymously, employees can post reviews about their company, listing pros&cons and assess the company based on several factors, salaries and benefits for a particular position. Also available, again anonymously, several experiences from previous candidates who faced recruitment with the company, giving a lot of details about the kind of interview, various steps and, where possible, submitted questions and even negotiations details in case of a bid.
Up to now, in general, it sounds pretty interesting and, at the same time, it is now that you could show some kind of concerns, often crowned by the big question “but is Glassdoor reliable?”. The answer is yes. (and I assure you I don’t know them, they are not my relatives and I’m not being paid for advertising on it). Yes because anonymity and a feeling of community created by people looking for a better job, generates truthful information and useful feedback. In order to support my thesis on the absolute trustworthiness of Glassdoor, here you are some examples of my experiences during the last years, obviously not telling the names of the involved companies:

1) The company that offers a low-medium salary but great cash bonus
An announcement on LinkedIn made me aware of a kind of reality that seemed to be interesting and, once analyzed the website, the history, mission, etc .. it has been confirmed. The company is small and not international so I tried to look for it on Glassdoor, without much hope of finding it. But finally I found something, not very much, but something. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any reviews or posts on already experienced interviews, but I found a single record in “salaries” section, and it made me curious. The indicated salary was, as a matter of fact, made up of a low-medium base salary for the position plus a cash bonus equivalent to over 20% of the salary.
When I was contacted in response to my application I decided to try to move forward: I placed an initial interview, something in the middle between of a technician and a personal meeting, with a software engineer and an IT director. The first outcome was successful that’s why I have been asked to a second technical interview with a senior software architect. The meeting was once again successful and the IT director called me back saying they were willing to move ahead and submit an offer. I didn’t know what was going to happen, that voice in the “salaries” section of the company on Glassdoor was the only additional information at my disposal to deal with the trading. What has been offered to me was a base salary aligned with what I was already gaining plus what the director called “a substantial bonus”. I rejected the offer, arguing that an increase of RAL (Gross Annual Salary) it was essential in order to get the offer considered and stressing the fact that this bonus was hypothetical, it wasn’t put down in black and white, and then there’s no guarantee on it. Moreover, they didn’t quantify its and it was all about the definition of “substantial” (rather subjective topic), and above all can be very different when stakeholders are company and employee. The Director replied that the bonus so far has always been given, except once, when company faced significant investments. Honestly it sounded believable, but they were just words. Seeing me still hesitant, he opened up and told me that “a substantial bonus” means that, for the discussed position, candidate “could safely arrive at EUR XXXX”. The figure he told me was remarkable, and represented exactly 25% of the base salary. Bingo! Glassdoor was right. On the point about no guarantee of bonuses at the end of the year, there’s nothing you can do if you do not rely on people and, on the other hand, you could also trust on the fact that the salary published on Glassdoor was referred to the last year, when the bonus had been given. For many reasons, however, I declined their offer.

2) The badly organized and snob startup.
I happened to notice an offer of a digital startup and examining in depth I actually found this reality quite interesting. As usual, I rushed directly to Glassdoor to see if I could find something useful relating about this company. What I found was quite daunting: a handful of reviews of employees where the most popular word was “slavery”; I also found descriptions of experienced interviews where the common factors were: total disorganization in recruitment process, candidates awaiting for hours, interviews canceled at the last minute and so on. The message showed through was “stay away from this company.” But I was still interested on this company and, trying to see the disorganization of HR department and long work hours as physiological symptoms of a growing start-up, I decided to challenge all of those bad feedback and apply for the open position.
I have been contacted by phone and I fixed an interview. I reached the headquarter by train and introduced myself, of course, on time. As soon as I got there, they told me that the first part of the interview consisted of logical test, there’s another guy who was attending the interview with me and that they wanted to wait for him before starting. They just put me into a meeting room to wait and in that moment I recalled all the bad feedback I read on Glassdoor. When the wait overcame 30 minutes, my one and only thought became “Here you are, you brought this on yourself, you knew it”. The other guy finally came and, as me, he was put with me waiting in the conference room; we introduced ourselves and exchanged a few words on how we arrived there, on previous experiences, etc .. After a few more minutes of waiting a guy came with two questionnaires and two pens, he told us that we had 30 minutes and he left. We both completed our survey and when the time was over, the guy was back, he collected the papers and he asked us to wait a little bit more because the people we were supposed to meet respectively were busy. My patience level for this uncaring and unprofessional attitude was already a bit beyond the limit, and so when the guy came back and told me that I had to be more patient, I said that I had a train to catch and I couldn’t wait forever, as they were asking me. Finally came another guy who, nervously, asked me about my past experiences, why I applied for that position and other absolutely generic topics, nothing technical or inherent with what they did there. He asked me if I had any questions for him, and actually I was interested to know something more about their product, but at that moment I just wanted to get out of that place as fast as I could, being aware that I would never have came back, so we agreed on the fact that I would have sent my question by email. So I did, but I never received any answer neither any feedback on the interview. In this case, if I had trusted on Glassdoor and on already experienced interviews, I would have definitely avoided a big waste of time.

3) The technical assessment on a case study
This time I found the job advert directly on Glassdoor. Again a startup, but with a great reputation: most of the reviews were in favour of the company and they were describing that reality as interesting, challenging, collaborative and published salaries were very competitive. In addition, the section “interviews” of the company was full of previous experiences where the candidates unanimously described the recruitment process as consisting of one or more telephone conversations followed by, in case of success, a technical assessment on a case study to analyze and then model in UML first, then with the tools produced by the company. Everything’s very clear, I tried to submit my application. Again I have been contacted by a woman working in HR department. She told me that they were interested in my profile and would like to schedule e first telephone interview. With excellent punctuality the senior software engineer of the company called me. He, whose English I could understand very clearly, started showing up and introducing me the company before moving forward to my jobs experiences and then asking more technical questions. The atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly, always making me feel at ease. Before concluding he told me next steps of the process, in case of successful results: a second phone interview and then, eventually, a technical assessment on a case study. I thought to myself: “Well, I knew it already.”
I got a positive feedback, we agreed day and time for the new appointment. Again the party was very friendly and the whole interview was comfortable. A new positive feedback came through an email of human resources along with the proposal to proceed with the next step: the technical assessment. We scheduled the meeting and they gave me the necessary instructions about the mode of implementation, the platform to use and other useful information. On the scheduled day I logged and I carried out the exercise; the exercise in itself was not very complicated and I managed to become familiar with the platform of their product quickly enough. I was satisfied with my execution but unfortunately, thanks to the shaking of the case, because of a misunderstanding I went wrong for when and how to delivery. My interlocutor was quite demanding (after all he is Swiss) and said he was sorry but he could not accept the late delivery, and then evaluate the exercise. In this case I excluded myself because of a simple mistake that had nothing to do with the technical interview in itself, however Glassdoor had adequately prepared me to deal with the recruitment process. I still regret what happened since the positive reviews of this company are continuing.

4) The consulting company that offers a great salary but forgets the people once hired
One day I got a call from somebody working for company X. He told me he had found my resume on Monster and found it interesting, that’s why he would like to present me some opportunity in France. I did not say no a priori and I asked to send me more details via email. What came out, once again, drew a quite indicative profile of this reality: 1.9 out of 5 as average score of reviews, further aggravated by the percentages of the other two indicators that Glassdoor collects, “Recommend to a friend” and “Approve of CEO”, which were respectively 13% and 17%. Ok, the overall situation was clear. However I have better analyzed the positive and negative reviews that essentially were respectively: “very high salary”, “disorganization and no support by the company once placed by the customer.” Used to the world of consulting, I had an idea of what the employees meant with such complaints and I could recognize in them the attitude of most of reality of that kind, especially multinational companies. In any case, it seemed that they behaved as typical consulting company interested in anything other than immediate profit but still corresponding salaries above the average. I decided to give it a chance and I agreed to schedule the first telephone conversation. The human resources woman sent me an e-mail to schedule an interview with their Technical Manager and offered me a single slot, day x at time Y. No choice at all. Unfortunately at that time I wasn’t available and I asked politely if she could at least give me another option to reschedule it. The answer was no, “our technician’s agenda is full and he has just one slot available”. Ok. I said that at that time I just could not be available. A few days later another person of human resources wrote me, on behalf of his colleague, and proposed a new date. The new date was ok for me and I accepted. The next day I was contacted, this time by phone, by a third woman, wondering if the new proposed date for the telephone conversation could be suitable for me and I confirmed again. The fact that I have been contacted by three people and could not refer to a single person worried me and I was afraid that they might get confused or would not be able to communicate with each other. In fact, my concern turned founded. The day we organized the interview I set up on time, I was ready and waiting for the call. Nothing happened. Half an hour passed and still nothing. I sent an email asking for explanations and whether there were problems; no answer. After two weeks (yes, two weeks) the person who contacted me by phone wrote an email asking me when I would have been available to begin the recruitment process and to fix the first interview. I said, politely, that, in theory, the process of recruitment had already started that day I expected a call that never came and, for that reason, I was no longer interested. As expected, she did not know about and expected the colleague to cancel the meeting because the Technician was busy. She tried to repair the damage through a sincere and valuable email of apology and a phone call the following day, but it was too late. I reiterated my desire not to go ahead with them. Basically, also in this case I should have trusted the experiences related on Glassdoor and decline from the beginning.

5) The Nordic honest and professional consulting company
Again through Monster, I have been contacted by a business manager of a consulting company based in the Netherlands. He said he had found my CV interesting and that he had an opportunity to propose. We talked nicely and we agreed that he would send me an email with a description of the company, an overview of the professional vacancy and a presentation about the customer. The email arrived and…straight on Glassdoor to look for information on both companies. Finally some good news: the consulting company had an average rating of 3.6 out of 5 (although only a few reviews) while the customer 3.8 on over 100 reviews.
These data, in addition to the fact that the customer company actually seemed very good and innovative, I convinced myself to respond positively and to proceed with the selection. We arranged an additional phone call with the Business Manager and we talked nicely once again, deepening the type of position, and exchanged views on some technical aspects and also talked about living and working in the Netherlands. My impression was more and more positive so we proceeded to the next step and it was a video conference on Skype with the Project Manager and another person of the customer, the business manager and a person of human resources from the consulting company. Despite the crowded situation, the conference was fluent, the people of the client have asked many questions, both technical and attitudinal, and tried to investigate aspects of my knowledge of Java, going straight to the point with the well known Nordic pragmatism.
At the end of the conference the business manager called me on skype and we made a debriefing on the meeting just ended. Honestly my impression was not very positive, but he told me that I would be contacted once the customer would have given his feedback. A couple of weeks later I received a communication with a positive outcome and that the client appreciated me, so they wanted to proceed with the next step: an interview on site at the customer’s place, in the Netherlands. The business manager provided me with all the details and asked me to organize myself according to my needs. Unfortunately, then, for reasons that I would skip, I had to decline the offer, but it definitely might be a good opportunity, just as it seemed from the beginning revisions found on Glassdoor.

Here we are, these are my experiences and the reasons why the website Glassdoor has become my fixed point of reference to consider any job ad or offer.
And you, have you already heard about it? Have you got any similar experience where you found useful information in evaluating an offer or during an interview? If so, I’d be curious to hear them.

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