How can you find out about an animation studio’s work environment and salary range before working there?

The most reliable way is obviously word-of-mouth from colleagues and friends who have worked at a company. But there’s a whole lot of reasons why that option isn’t always available. Perhaps you’re fresh out of school, or you’re moving to a new city where you don’t have contacts, or you simply don’t know a lot of people working at a particular studio.

In those cases, the best solution I’ve found for learning about a studio is Glassdoor, a site that allows employees and former employees to anonymously review companies and their management teams.

Glassdoor is well established in the tech and business world, but deserves more exposure in the animation sphere. Over the last couple years, I’ve watched it grow as a valuable tool for our community, and the more animators who join, the more useful it becomes. I was reminded of this today when I was writing up the piece about Insomniac Games and wanted to get a sense of how sincere the CEO was being when he condemned Trump’s immigration ban. According to the Glassdoor reviews, he is indeed an upstanding boss and employees have had generally positive experiences working at Insomniac.

A caveat about Glassdoor. The site only works for mid-to-large-size studios where enough employees have contributed reviews to generate a fair sample size of workers. Many studios in the U.S. and Canada still don’t have accurate rankings simply because enough people haven’t contributed reviews. European studios are also non-starters for the most part; for example, Aardman has just seven reviews, and Illumination Macguff has only four, neither enough to form an accurate portrait of those studios. There are exceptions, like London’s Framestore, which has over 75 reviews.

The good news is that for studios where a significant number of employees have contributed reviews, the group consensus almost always matches up to the anecdotal stories and reviews that I personally hear from people who have worked at those studios. In other words, the site works and it can save you a lot of the hassle and grief that comes from choosing the wrong place to work.

On Glassdoor’s five-star rating scale, many studios tend to rate average or above-average. Dreamworks Animation is 4.2 Disney Animation Studios is 4.1, Pixar and Framestore are both 3.9, Blue Sky Studios is 3.8, Sony Imageworks is 3.4, and Lucasfilm is 3.3.

But employees are also not afraid to share stories (sometimes long ones) about studios where they feel they were not treated well. Nitrogen, the studio that made Sausage Party, doesn’t rank too highly (2.9), yet it still has higher employee satisfaction than Kubo and the Two Strings studio Laika (2.6) or Bob’s Burger maker Bento Box (2.2).

Glassdoor isn’t perfect, but it has proven itself as a valuable tool for animation jobseekers. If you’re searching for work in the industry, use it along with Cartoon Brew’s curated job feed Cartoon Brew Jobs.