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Location is the Netherlands, if that's relevant.

I am searching for jobs as a junior software developer currently, about 2 or so months into the job search. This is going to be my first job as a software dev, my previous work has all been completely unrelated to this field.

I had recently gotten a very enthusiastic response from one of the companies I applied to, went through all the interview steps and am at the stage of choosing between several companies.

The company, at the surface and in the public eye, seems excellent. I decided to check out this company on Glassdoor, and the reviews are astonishingly bad. An overflow of 1 and 2 star reviews with the occasional 5-star review (which read like damage control more than being genuine). Some of the things the reviews claim are sort of hard to believe, but the general impression I got from the reviews is that they hunt for Junior devs who probably don't know any better and are treated horribly for a year before they accumulate some sort of experience and move on to greener (saner) pastures. I had an in-office interview, and nothing seemed too wildly out of place or unusual.

Is my instinct right in this being too good to be true? They offered quite a bit more than other companies (around 10k EUR more than the others), and the entire interviewing process went very well. I'm self-taught with only a few freelance projects under my belt, so I did get quite excited about this company in particular as it's been a bit of a slog with the interviews, but now I'm not so sure about it.

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    I guess that people with a bad experience are far more likely to leave a review on Glassdoor, than people with a positive experience. – Mark Rotteveel Feb 10 at 13:01
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    In an interview, you can always ask "why does this position happen to be open right now?" It should lead to a conversation about company culture and plans. Expanding? Replacing? Always on the lookout for good people? – O. Jones Feb 10 at 14:16
  • Another thing to watch out for is the rating history of companies with 3 or more stars. See what their rating trends were at the end of different years. I worked for one horrible company which had mostly 1 or 2 star reviews. In a company wide meeting one day, they encouraged people to write reviews IF they had something positive to say. I saw many 4 and 5 star reviews after that. The 4 star ones had silly complaints to make them appear authentic. – Erran Morad Feb 11 at 2:48
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    Try to find any problems with the company from the 1 and 2 star reviews. Ask the interviewers about those problems subtly without referring to the reviews. For example, if the reviews say that you generally have to work on weekends. Then, ask the interviewers about the work culture and if there is any weekend work involved. – Erran Morad Feb 11 at 2:52
  • @MarkRotteveel indeed, which is why I don't put much value in such online reviews. It's bad enough on e.g. Steam that bad reviews are often a reason to assume it's a good product... – jwenting Feb 11 at 10:24
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Some companies pay a salary, some pay compensation for suffering. (It's funny cause it's true)

Paying more than any others is one sign towards that. Could there be another reason they pay better? This could be the case if they operate in a different sector.

Apart from that: Having lots of bad reviews is definitely a sign. And if the good ones seem suspicious, doubly so! Sometimes, reviews vary widely between department. Sometimes, the whole company is good/bad. If a company is large enough, there are bound to be some bad parts. Though funnily, in really bad companies, I didnt see any good parts.

Did you meet your team? Can you arrange for that before signing? Because if everybody in the team is junior, you have your proof. Also, normal people are usually less trained in only saying the good sounding truths. So it's easier to get the vibes from the time than from the boss, who maybe several layers apart anyway.

As junior, your number 1 priority should be a learning environment. With people better/more experienced than you! So if you have a bad feeling about this, definitely consider your other options.

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    Not sure about the Netherlands, but in many locations, your next salary will be affected by your current salary. #1 priority is certainly a good learning environment, but 10k EUR salary difference could carry over to the next position as well. Sacrificing a year for a lifetime 10k salary bonus that carries over for your entire career can be a pretty tiny sacrifice – Mars Feb 10 at 4:38
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    I am in germany. Employers dont know what you earned before. The reason salary tends to carry is because it influences your own expectations and negotiation goals. If you simply state that 10k more, chances are you will find a company to get it. I made a 20% jump within (!) my 2nd company if I combine the raises of the first two years. It's rare but possible. so imo, learning more gives you a better negotiation base in the future. dunno for the netherlands though – Benjamin Feb 10 at 6:11
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    Yup. There are multiple contributing factors such as growth, expectations and whether or not the salary is known--which is why a 10k salary difference shouldn't be ignored too lightly – Mars Feb 10 at 6:17
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    I personally value a good work environment over raw salary. I could earn more, but I am happy with what I earn because the package is great. (No overtime, no work on weekend, no oncall, great coworkers, everybody is supportive, etc...). This of course reflects in my answer. Would you care to formulate your own answer, formulated more from a money focused view? – Benjamin Feb 10 at 10:29
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    @Mars very common in the Netherlands. Most companies will want to start you at your current salary plus a percentage, or at the next grade up from where your current salary would put you. – jwenting Feb 11 at 10:25
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Take the job.

First, your own experience has been positive. Second, the pay is pretty good. Third: You are an aspiring software dev who is still a little low on experience and education. I think you should consider this:

  • Finding a good job is easier when you are employed then when you are not.
  • Your last earned salary tends to be the starting point for negotiating your next salary in the Netherlands, whether in the same company or somewhere else.
  • Experience is mostly counted in years, not quality (fair or not)
  • You can learn a lot from a badly run shop. How not to do stuff for starters.

So reasoning from your position this job could be: A. Not as bad as Glassdoor suggests, you now have a good job that pays well. B. As bad (or worse) as Glassdoor indicates, you are now in a better position to hunt for a new job.

This is a classic win/win.

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Online reviews are a difficult thing. There is little incentive for people leaving on good terms to write reviews but a lot of people leaving on bad terms are writing bad reviews. For example, we as a company have quite the same pattern on online platforms but still I consider this a reasonable place to work and most of my colleagues seem to as well (Judging by the time people have been here). On the other hand, I can trace back the reviews to single persons quite well by their wording and the issues they bring up. And I do not agree with everybody.

As an outsider you do not have this luxury. Instead I would try to judge the reviews

  • How many reviews are there compared to company size? 5 bad reviews per year are a lot for a 20 person company but not so much for a 1000 person company
  • How detailed are the reviews? A review that consists only of star-ratings is quite useless. Read the free text entries carefully, they contain the real information.
  • Is there a temporal pattern? A bad manager may be poisoning the company culture. At a small company this can change as easily in the other direction

If you already have some questions, address them with the company. If it seems that the company is relying on inexperienced junior devs ask them about how long people have been here. As how the daily work is organized, how quality control works, etc.
A company that exhibits good structures is less likely to treat people badly

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Don't take the reviews lightly. Your phycological health is more important than 10 grand. But it depends on what they say. If you have other options and since you are a junior(therefore not much experience in handling difficult situations) maybe it would be a good idea to not prioritize this "opportunity".

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The 10K Euro difference is a LOT, unless it's a position paying several hundred thousand Euros a year which is extremely unlikely given your seniority level and the fact that it's a software development job.

It's roughly the difference between a medior and a senior developer in the Netherlands, if not more than that, and as a beginner in the field you'd likely be entering at a junior level.

That fact would raise more red flags with me than the poor reviews on some site that's mostly a place for people to spill their ire about getting laid off. You never know both sides of a story from such reviews, but as stated in other answers you can count on the majority of them to be negative and usually poorly argumented.

For the Netherlands, there's a site that every year polls people across the country and publishes salary expectations. https://www.intermediair.nl/salariskompas (in Dutch) can help a lot finding out whether the offered salaries at different companies are in line with national averages. Big deviations either way can be suspicious, and/or ground for further negotiation.

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I'm going to agree with others in saying that the numeric score is not important, but the content is what is important. For example, one time I was interviewing with a company which had a 3.x score on Glassdoor, but most of the complaints were "there are not enough women or POC in management". Personally speaking, I don't care about this issue, as I am a white male (neither a woman nor POC) and also I have no aspirations of management (I like just being an engineer), and as long as my paycheque doesn't bounce I don't really care how much melanin is in the skin of my CEO or what sort of genitalia they have. So I decided to ignore those reviews and interview with the company anyway. Conversely, I have had similar experiences with companies with similar scores which have reviews saying things like "no work-life balance" or "cliquey management" or "no room for growth" or "lots of layoffs", and those are big put-offs for me. It really is about the content.

Another thing to note is that Glassdoor is more likely to get bad reviews than good ones, because people with complaints are more likely to air them. To account for this, you should check the dates of the reviews and weight them accordingly. If the company has a 2-star rating but all their negative reviews are from 5 years ago, well, probably things have changed in 5 years. If all their negative reviews are from 2 weeks ago, then probably you're walking into a minefield, and you should act accordingly.

The fact that they are paying more is a bit of a red flag. Of course, higher pay is good, but higher pay combined with low Glassdoor score looks like they're trying to scam you; they know their company sucks, but rather than trying to make the company better they're trying to fleece new recruits to join with promise of $$$ and then treat them like garbage. Whether this is enticing to you, is up to you. It's possible it's worth it to work there for a short time, learn a bit, get treated like garbage a bit, make some extra cash, and then move on. But that's a choice that's up to you.

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If for a moment you ignore the glassdoor reviews, if your instincts based on your direct interaction is positive, I think you should take this offer. These are the points you need to consider:

  1. Glassdoor reviews in some cases can be misleading because as someone said in the comment, negative ones come out faster. It could be also one disgruntled employee posting reviews from multiple accounts. In my experience, anything "astonishing", good or bad, is more likely than not, not true and mostly exaggeration.

  2. Again a point raised in comments, 10K EUR is significantly more and in some locations, your next salary DOES depend on your previous salary. So even if you have to quit like others did in the review after a year, you have made good money and experience and hopefully would have more options.

  3. You are excited about it and your direct experience with them was positive. That is THE most important thing how your experience would be in the company. Do not let online strangers change that for you since you can never be sure. (Not saying online reviews are useless but basing ONLY on that may not be a best idea)

At the end, it may be turn still turn out bad as the reviews, but so can any other job with positive or neutral reviews. Either ways you have experienced it yourself. Career journey is all about that.

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    3: Some of the most narcissistic, aggressive bosses I've had in my life were also super friendly and made an amazing first impression. In one case, it was my boss' boss. When I joined the company I found him simply amazing, always laughing, cracking jokes, being positive. Simply an incredible guy! Just after several days I witnessed him denigrating and shouting at my direct boss. It was in a meeting with all my direct boss' direct reports. And it was sad to watch. The first impression is frequently a wrong one, people with narcissistic tendencies e.g. are known to be charming if they want to. – BigMadAndy Feb 11 at 10:10
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It is definitely a bad sign of course but I would consider several things:

  • What the most important complaints are. It's a difference for example if most comments claim they don't like their boss or if they claim they are expected to do unpaid overtime. The former is more subjective, the latter a statement of facts. Please note however that many platforms encourage people to formulate their criticism as subjective (by e.g. using "in my opinion", "I think") in order to avoid legal problems.
  • How important the issues raised are for me personally. To give you an example, I am not a huge fan of spending my free time with colleagues so the information that there's a culture of working together but not being overly friendly wouldn't bother me.
  • How big the company is. If it's a huge company there can be different cultures in different departments/ teams.

To summarize, I would treat the comments as an opportunity to do more research on the company. Visit internet fora, ask your friends about their opinion, etc.

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