Staffing Management

Robert Hohman: Looking Through the Glassdoor

By Frank Kalman

Jan. 20, 2016

Seldom does a job search begin these days without a quick visit to Glassdoor.

On the website, job seekers can find what consumers of night life, restaurants and electronics have grown accustomed to on the Internet: user-generated reviews of what it’s like to work for a given company, what its pay and benefits are like compared to competitors, and if users give its CEO a positive approval rating.

Since starting in 2007, Glassdoor Inc. has nudged its way into a special place in today’s talent economy, with more than 10 million company reviews, salary reports, interview and benefit reviews available on its website. The data deluge has enabled the company to provide employers and job seekers with invaluable insights into the state of the labor market — which, in turn, helps job seekers find their ideal company, and employers recruit better-fit talent.  

Talent Management, Workforce's sister publication, spoke to Robert Hohman, Glassdoor’s co-founder and CEO, about the state of the talent economy, Glassdoor’s relationships with employers and more. Edited excerpts follow.     

Since you started Glassdoor, what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about the market for human capital?


Robert Hohman, founder and CEO, Glassdoor

I think we’re in a pretty exceptional time for jobs and human capital. There’s a macro thing happening and there’s stuff happening right now in this decade that’s making it really go fast.

The macro thing happening right now is the U.S. economy and a bunch of other economies around the world are shifting from labor economies to talent economies. It used to be to make stuff you needed labor, and labor was very hard to differentiate one from the other. And so the power in that environment rested largely with the employer because labor was largely interchangeable. This person doesn’t like their job, swap this person in that does want a paycheck.

We’ve shifted to a knowledge economy. In a knowledge economy, talent can stand out. In fact, talent can enable things that are completely impossible by people who are not as talented. It isn’t a linear function anymore where you had two workers and one can do 1.7 times the work. It’s like you had one talented person and you could do things you just couldn’t do at all before. That’s why talent in a knowledge economy is so absolutely important and the war for talent is so critical.

That’s the backdrop, and this has been happening for 75 years, unions gaining less power, a lot of those jobs going oversees, and we shift to a knowledge economy and the labor market becomes more educated and enabled to differentiate.

Then I would say in our life, since we’re fighting so hard for this talent; how are you going to attract them? How much visibility are you having in the actual hiring transaction? Me going to work for you is a transaction, and how much visibility do we have into that? That’s where the Internet and mobile have played a tremendous role in terms of aggregating information that we could never possibly aggregate before to allow us to shine light on this transaction. And it’s uncomfortable, mostly for employers, because they’re used to having a great deal of control in that transaction. It feels great for job seekers who have information that they’ve never had before.

Robert Hohman, founder and CEO, Glassdoor

  • Bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University
  • Co-founded Glassdoor in 2007
  • Former senior vice president at
  • Started career as a development manager at Microsoft Corp.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers fan

Glassdoor’s growth has come amid an economic expansion. How does Glassdoor change when the economy changes?

Well I can tell you what happened to us back then [in 2008]. When you think about it just because the economy slows and because unemployment is rising you have more people than ever moving in the economy. There’s more movement and churn in the economy, and when they’re looking for jobs they need to know what a reasonable salary is. I think 2008 and 2009 we had people who were very vulnerable. That is also the sort of the power of what we’ve built is if you think about it in Glassdoor what we’ve done is built a platform where people help other people with their most vulnerable time, when they’re looking for a job, they’re out of work, they’re trying to figure out what’s fair pay. You know it’s someone else’s story that they’re giving you, or someone else’s information that they’re giving you is what’s helpful.

‘A lot of people are surprised to see how many people are researching their company on Glassdoor.’

—Robert Hohman, Glassdoor 

What’s the evolution of Glassdoor’s relationships with employers been like?

I had been president of at least two companies prior to starting Glassdoor, so I had visibility in being a senior leader with a big organization, and I knew what the price of transparency was. I was one of the early folks at Expedia, and we always tried to run Expedia in a way that if someone ever got the spreadsheet that had every person’s salary and stock options, you could look them in the eye and explain why it is what it is.

So when we started Glassdoor, we carefully thought about building a community where we could do all of this but it could be fair and safe for employers to participate. I always felt that if we built Glassdoor and it wasn’t a place where employers could engage, then we will have failed. And yeah, there were a lot of companies early on that were uncomfortable. I would say it ranged from dismissiveness to discomfort to there was a handful that were genuinely supportive, and I think they very rapidly saw that they had great cultures, they paid really well and they needed to stand out and they were small. The company that really needs it is the company that’s living in, say, Facebook’s shadow that no one knows but that has a great culture and pays really well and needs to be able to stand out from them.

How can talent managers better interact with Glassdoor to get more out of it?

They absolutely should get a free employer account — that’s absolutely the No. 1 thing that they should do immediately. We validate that you have the right to speak on the behavior of the employer. You get base analytics. A lot of people are surprised to see how many people are researching their company on Glassdoor.

Even when we were small, five years ago, we could still go to a company and go, ‘There are 1,000 people that researched you last month,’ and now at any company of any size there are tens of thousands of people researching you. It’s like the better part of your recruiting funnel is flowing through our doors. They [HR leaders] should form a strategy for responding to reviews; that’s really super important. I think as consumers we’ve all experienced this, like if you’ve used Yelp. There’s just a totally different feeling that you get when someone on the other side is engaged. I highly encourage employers to thank a reviewer for taking the time to write it. If they highlighted something great you do, you can amplify that and give a little more detail; if they pointed out something that needs to be improved, and maybe you’ve changed it, you can talk about that, or at least thank them even if you don’t agree with what they said because they took the time to review.

That level of base level of interaction we hear again and again like companies hiring where half the hiring class will say ‘I’m here because I can’t believe your CEO took the time to review. That’s the kind of company that I want to work for, where senior leadership is listening enough.’ That’s really powerful.

This story originally appeared in Workforce's sister publication, Talent Management.


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