Traits of Top-Rated Glassdoor Employers
IndustryView | 2014

For many job seekers, Glassdoor is the go-to resource when determining where to apply and whether to accept an offer of employment. The site, which hosts employee-written reviews of companies, is thus an important consideration for businesses in competitive industries that are seeking to build their employment brand in order to recruit the best and brightest.

Software Advice recently conducted an analysis of the top-rated employers on Glassdoor. At the time of data collection, only 37 companies (out of a total of 147,071 on the site) had achieved a five-star rating—the highest possible. We combed through these companies’ reviews to determine what their most praised aspects were, as well as what employees thought could be improved. Here’s what we found:

Key Findings:

  1. Nearly three-quarters of the top-rated companies were founded in the past 10 years, while 90 percent employed 149 employees or less.
  3. A feeling of camaraderie among employees was the most-cited positive aspect of working at these top-rated companies.
  5. Because many of these businesses were new and growing, top pain points cited by reviewers included long working hours and high-pressured environments.

Share This:

Twitter LinkedIn Google Plus Facebook

Top-Rated Companies Are Small and New

Every year, media outlets compile lists of the top places to work in the U.S. Perhaps the most well-known of these is Fortune’s top 100 places to work. However, criteria for inclusion on Fortune’s list include that companies must be at least five years old and have more than 1,000 U.S. employees.

While making Fortune’s list is definitely not an achievement to be scoffed at, the inclusion criteria excludes smaller employers that may be equally amazing places to work. In fact, none of the companies with five-star Glassdoor ratings would have fit the criteria for Fortune’s list—47 percent were less than five years old, and none had more than 500 employees.

  • Founding Year of Five-Star Companies

    Founding Year of Five-Star Companies
  • Number of Employees at Five-Star Companies

    Number of Employees at Five-Star Companies

This bias toward small, lesser-known and recently founded companies could prove especially useful for employers seeking to hire younger workers. Recent research has shown that 47 percent of Gen Y or “millennial” workers choose to be employed at small companies. And looking at analyses of Web traffic to the site, almost half of all visitors to Glassdoor (47 percent, again) are millennials; i.e. in the 18-34 age range. As such, Glassdoor is an excellent opportunity for fledgling companies to recruit emerging young talent.

Perhaps unsurpringly, most reviewers represented companies in the business services (42 percent) and information technology industries (39 percent). These fields have been experiencing rapid growth this year, and though information technology (IT) is rebounding from a flat growth year in 2013, it's long been known as the domain of small startups with hip office cultures that aim to make work a more enjoyable place to be.

Industries of Five-Star Companies

Industries of Five-Star Companies Also unsurprising is the fact that the majority of the top-rated companies were in California (16 companies). The state's Silicon Valley region is well-known as the hub of global tech-startup action, where such IT behemoths as Apple and Facebook were born. Trailing behind was New York (five companies), arguably the economic center of the country, and Washington state (three companies), home to tech giant Microsoft.

Location of Five-Star Companies

Location of Five-Star Companies

Most Reviewers Are New to Their Business

When reviewing the tenure of reviewers, most were in the early stages of their careers with their current employer. Forty-three percent of reviewers had been with their employer for less than a year, while another 25 percent specified that their tenure with their current company was only slightly more than one year.

Reviewer’s Tenure at Current Company

Reviewer’s Tenure at Current Company

Camaraderie Tops Positive Attributes of Five-Star Companies

On Glassdoor’s site, reviewers are invited to outline the pros and cons of working at their current place of employment, as well as to offer advice to management. After analyzing a random sample of the reviews of these top-rated companies, a pattern began to emerge. It became apparent that while some businesses may attempt to attract talent by offering great benefits and over-the-top perks, these were not what kept reviewers excited about their work. Instead, it was the camaraderie and support of their colleagues.

Indeed, 38 percent of reviewers brought up the importance of their team in some form. And though benefits such as unlimited vacation and 401(k)s or such perks as free food and social events were mentioned occasionally, these attributes were often listed as afterthoughts.

For instance, one reviewer of Elite SEM notes, “This culture has [led] to a tight-knit group of happy, motivated, dedicated and driven employees and I truly love coming to work each day. ... Elite SEM gives all employees free meals before and after normal hours to ensure our number-one asset thrives.”

Top-Listed Attributes of Five-Star Companies

Top-Listed Attributes of Five-Star Companies

After camaraderie with co-workers, the ability to develop professionally and advance in their careers was the next most common pro listed by reviewers. In third place: meaningful and fulfilling work. Clearly, employees valued the non-material aspects of working for a company more than the perks and freebies.

Indeed, in recent research, Software Advice surveyed 1,355 Gen Y job applicants to determine what would drive these workers to apply at specific companies—and had similar findings. Among these applicants’ most-desired company attributes? A “positive” and “friendly” environment, meaningful and fulfilling work and opportunities for growth and development.

Growing Pains Is Top Difficulty for Five-Star Companies

While most reviewers could list no cons about their current employer—these are, after all, the top-rated companies for a reason—the most common difficulty employees noted was that the company was experiencing “growing pains.” This term encompassed the need to hire more employees, as well as the need to more clearly define future business strategies. As most of these companies were founded in the past five years, this is not particularly surprising.

Top-Listed Pain Points of Five-Star Companies

Top-Listed Pain Points of Five-Star Companies

Interestingly, while one of the top 10 most common positive attributes reviewers provided was “hard work,” many also considered the side effects of this attribute a downside. The next most common pain points: long hours and a high-pressured working environment.

Maintaining Company Culture, Thoughtful Hiring Tops Advice for Employers

Finally, when reviewers were invited to provide advice to the management at their companies, most simply encouraged their leaders to keep up the good work. Thirty-three percent of reviewers offered this counsel, which made staying the course by far the most common advice.

While continuing on the current path is not surprising advice for companies that have received an overall five-star rating from employees, the next most common advice—maintaining the company culture—is yet another indication of the rising importance of such intangibles as culture in the workplace.

And to maintain that culture, many reviewers noted the need for management to be extremely careful and thoughtful when recruiting new hires. After all, company culture is created by employees; in order to ensure that this culture was preserved, many reviewers mentioned that management should ensure new recruits shared the same values as the rest of the team.

Employees’ Advice to Management at Five-Star Companies

Employees’ Advice to Management at Five-Star Companies


Achieving a five-star rating on Glassdoor is a feat that very few companies have been able to accomplish. But by analyzing the most-praised attributes of those that have, other companies can learn from their success. So what should employers strive for?

Fostering a culture of teamwork and collaboration and offering professional development opportunities can not only help you find talented new hires—it can also make your company a better place to work. If you already have these elements in place, encourage employees to express their views of the company on review sites such as Glassdoor. As a result, you may see a spike not only in the quantity of applicants, but also the quality—especially if you’re seeking to attract millennial workers.


In October 2014, Software Advice collected data and reviews for all employers on Glassdoor with a five-star employee rating. A total of 637 reviews were collected, from which a random sample of 240 reviews were selected in order to maintain a 95 percent confidence level and a confidence interval of five.

If you have comments or would like to obtain access to any of the charts above, please contact

Share This:

Twitter LinkedIn Google Plus Facebook