How Glassdoor became the No. 2 jobs site in the US

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

Glassdoor didn’t start as a jobs site, but after a decade of serving up tens of millions of anonymous employee reviews, salaries and employer approval ratings, that’s precisely what it’s become — and all that momentum could be paving the way for an IPO.

With 50 million unique users and growing, Glassdoor is now the second-most popular jobs listing site in the U.S, after Indeed.com. And although the Mill Valley, Calif.-based company doesn’t disclose exact numbers, it saw a 53% increase year-over-year of people applying to jobs on Glassdoor over the past 12 months alone. Glassdoor said more than 50% of all job seekers in North America visit its site to apply for a specific job at a particular company.

That’s a far cry from 2007, when Zillow Executive Chairman Rich Barton and Glassdoor CEO Robert Hohman concocted Glassdoor. The jobs site category then largely belonged to heavyweights like Monster, as well as several upstarts, that collected digital job listings on sites that resembled dense information databases instead of the user-friendly experiences on-hand today.

Glassdoor CEO and co-founder Robert Hohman.

Hohman and Barton, however, sought out a different approach. They encouraged visitors of Glassdoor’s site to anonymously post detailed reviews about their employers — listing the pros and cons — as well as information about their salaries and CEO. To virtually anyone out of college, knowing how much the average engineer banks at a top tech company — and what makes that tech company tick — makes for pretty compelling chatter around the watercooler. For job seekers looking for a leg up, Glassdoor became an important go-to online resource.

“Rather than directly attack the recruitment and employment space, we felt like we should use transparency to back into the employment category,” Hohman told Yahoo Finance. “It will be what differentiates us, and we can combine it with jobs and become a force in recruiting and that’s more or less what’s happened over the years.”

Glassdoor’s reviews have also proven crucial for holding companies more accountable for their behavior. After all, no business wants prospective hires to spy negative reviews that could scare them away. To that end, Hohman tells Yahoo Finance that thousands of employers including Facebook (FB) and Uber get alerted to content on their pages, that include employee reviews.  When Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) pored through feedback from job applicants, for instance, they realized many applicants were upset because they never heard back from the company after sending in their applications. Because of that, the pharmaceutical company rolled out new technologies to make the application process much more transparent.

“They [Johnson & Johnson] realized that recruiting is really in the business of saying ‘no,’ as in they say ‘no’ to most people that apply there, which makes sense,” Hohman explained, adding that the people that get rejected for a job are also most likely customers who buy J&J products.

From reviews to revenues

As Glassdoor grew, so did the site’s ambitions. In addition to posting millions of jobs from a wide range of employers now, it releases lists like its annual Best Places to Work — a list that ranks the best employers in the U.S based off of employee reviews. (Despite a slew of headlines over the past 12 months, Facebook ranked No. 1. for employee satisfaction, followed by management consultant group Bain & Company and Boston Consulting Group, respectively.)

In June 2010, Glassdoor also started generating revenue by charging employers to advertise their jobs on the site, as well as what Glassdoor calls “employer branding”: marketing services that let an employer engage with visitors through original video and text.

Up next for Glassdoor? Possibly an IPO. The company has reportedly begun interviewing banks for an IPO this year. Although Glassdoor does not disclose its financials, the site is reportedly worth an estimated $1 billion following a $40 million round of funding raised in 2016. It also announced last week a slew of promotions and a significant new hire in Jim Cox, the company’s first chief financial officer. With previous experience managing the financials of Advent Software, a publicly-traded company eventually acquired in 2015, Cox’s hiring could be key in getting Glassdoor in good shape for a public offering.

Hohman, for his part, declined to comment on whether a Glassdoor IPO is imminent, however he expressed excitement over Cox’s addition to Glassdoor management.

“He was the CFO of Advent for six years, and they were public the entire time that he was their CFO,” added Hohman, who also described Cox as incredibly analytical.

Could those analytical chops come in handy for Glassdoor’s public offering? Time, perhaps, will tell.

JP Mangalindan is the Chief Tech Correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Email story tips and musings to jpm@oath.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

More from JP:

Follow Yahoo Finance on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn