How Employers Should Respond to Negative Online Reviews

Topic(s): recruiting
Publication: Journal of Selection and Assessment
Article: How to deal with negative online employer reviews: An application of image repair theory
Authors: R. Kollitz, S. Ruhle, A. Wilhelmy
Reviewed by: Tyler Cowley

For years, an organization’s reputation and image have been crucial in attracting top talent. However, the rise of employer review sites like Glassdoor, Kununu, and Google have introduced a new challenge: negative online reviews. These reviews can significantly impact recruitment efforts, making it essential for organizations to develop effective strategies for repairing their image in the face of such criticism.


The authors of this study (Kollitz et al., 2022) investigated how organizational responses to negative reviews influence applicant perceptions. The authors manipulated both the nature of the negative information presented to applicants and the organization’s response to the negative reviews. Findings indicated that merely responding to negative reviews did not automatically enhance organizational attractiveness compared to remaining silent. Instead, the effectiveness of responses hinged on the content of the responses. Notably, organizations that responded by refuting allegations of being a bad employer experienced applicant attraction. Similarly, responses that incorporated positive information about the organization also improved perceptions.


The authors recommend that organizations should refute negative comments, however, they should do so with caution. While denying false accusations can be beneficial, denying true claims is unethical and is likely to backfire. Moreover, refuting comments is only advisable if the majority of reviews about the organization are positive. When negative comments dominate, denial becomes counterproductive.

The authors also recommend that organizations counter negative comments with positive responses that highlight strengths in the areas that were subjected to criticism. This approach proved particularly effective when dealing with negative reviews related to intangible aspects of the company, such as competence, sincerity, or prestige.

Overall, responding to negative employer reviews can have positive outcomes for organizations, provided they carefully consider the nature of their responses.


Kollitz, R., Ruhle, S., & Wilhelmy, A. (2022). How to deal with negative online employer reviews: An application of image repair theory. International Journal of Selection and Assessment30(4), 526–544.

Image credit: istockphoto/Tetiana Lazunova