A common taboo at most workplaces is asking co-workers how much they earn. That's not to say that some folks don't do it, but now it's easier than ever with Glassdoor, a Web site that does it for you.
It's getting a huge amount of buzz in the blogosphere, and for good reason. Its ostensible purpose is to help tech industry employees glean all of the information they'd ever need to make informed decisions during a job hunt and to help employers get an unvarnished view of their strengths and weaknesses and the strengths and weaknesses of their competition.
Site users are invited to submit salaries and company reviews, which are then posted anonymously for all members to view. The full info is only available for members who register, but anyone can see samples from some of the most prominent Silicon Valley companies out there, including Google, Microsoft and Cisco. Google appears to pay its software engineers more than Microsoft, Yahoo or Cisco, for example, an average of $99,918 (based on 16 submissions) with a range from $61,000 to $150,000.
According to TechCrunch, Glassdoor's revenue model revolves around advertisements for job seekers, premium services and aggregated compensation it intends to sell to human resources professionals.
TechCrunch also notes some of the more interesting public reviews already submitted, including a particularly scathing one titled "Google: An Elitist's Playground." It hits on some of the most common criticisms of Google, including its inability to produce successful products other than AdWords, an "uncanny ability to clot information within the hierarchy" and a culture that "discriminates against creative and diverse applicants" by putting undue emphasis on academic credentials from prestigious universities. An excerpt:
If you enjoy your individuality and time alone, Google is not the place for you (keep in mind I'm not an engineer). Google pushes a highly "googley" atmosphere, which is something akin to what the Brady Bunch would be like if they lived in communist Russia. ... People are encouraged to have googley attitudes, wear plastic smiles, and not to question the infallible nature of the executive management group. Marathon hours are the standard because, after all, employees are practically encouraged to bring a cot and sleep there ... If you like feeling awkward during forced group activity, Google is your haven. It isn't exactly "forced" (no guns), but if you don't participate you become labeled as "ungoogley." Once deemed "ungoogley," you're practically viewed as a rotten apple that threatens to spoil the bunch.
To be fair, positive reviews outweigh the negative. But several others mention less-than-desirable aspects of Google's culture, most of which I've written about before. These include a large and bureaucratic middle manager level, scarce opportunities for career advancement and senior management roles assigned to inexperienced and unprepared employees.
Also, as TechCrunch points out, there is no way to know for sure (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) whether any of the information on the site is true. But then, that's a question that dogs many popular Internet communities, Wikipedia among them.