July 8, 2010
Do we really need anonymous peer reviews of workers online?
[Image by RubensLP]
Think LinkedIn meets Yelp. Only unlike LinkedIn, Unvarnished -- which is still in private beta testing -- won't require reviewers to use their real name, which means as with Yelp, Amazon, and, well, the reader comments on your favorite news site, anyone with an axe to grind can let 'er rip, accuracy be damned. And unlike LinkedIn, Unvarnished doesn't let the professional being reviewed (or trashed) delete the review.
This is how Unvarnished's About page describes the process:
"To help reviewers be honest and candid in their reviews, Unvarnished obscures the identity of review authors. This lets reviewers share their true, nuanced opinions without fear of repercussions.
At the same time, to ensure that reviews are of the highest quality, and maintain a helpful, business-focused approach, Unvarnished provides a suite of tools to allow the community to rate and moderate reviews.
And while reviewer identities are hidden from reviews, the quality of an individual reviewer's submissions, as rated by other Unvarnished users, contributes to a Reviewer Authority score, a badge for which is attached to each review by a given reviewer."
A recent Los Angeles Times article elaborated on this:
"You access the site through Facebook, a measure designed to verify identity and keep out people who want to set up fake accounts to grind axes or settle scores. You have to be invited by a current user. You can only register when you have written a review of that person."
I'm with the bloggers on sites like TechCrunch, Valleywag, and BNET who called Unvarnished "scary," "evil," and a "brain fart": the idea of "a Yelp for people" makes me shudder, and not just because it gives the wingnuts of the web the power to mar your reputation for sport, but because if this sucker takes off, it will be one more blasted "personal branding" site to waste my time on.
I may not care how many people use Unvarnish to out the fact that I can't claim to have never missed a deadline or that I'm rude to publicists who try to pitch me story ideas by phone instead of email. But if my BFF calls in tears because some joker who doesn't even know her gave her a bad review on this site and now she's worried it will affect her future job prospects, I'm going to feel compelled to (a) spend 20 to 30 minutes talking her down, and (b) register for this stupid site just so I can see what the offending reviewer wrote about my friend, review his review, and post a more favorable review of my friend's work ethic to help drive up her ranking.
But who cares what I think. What's more important is what those in the hiring seat think.
"What I think is that I don't have time to look someone up on another @$%^*& website," said one recruiter I know.
"Personally, I dislike that it would make me register if I wanted to look someone up," said another. "Plus," she continued, "I wouldn't use it because I feel like it's an invasion of my candidate's privacy since they have no control over what people write there. What's to stop someone's bitter ex from trying to destroy someone's career by posting a bad "review"? May as well ask Craigslist what they think of someone -- the reviews would be just as reliable there."
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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