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Ask HN: Does this kind of arrogance get job applications?
46 points by redguava on Dec 13, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments
I just saw this job ad posted on Hacker News:


It comes across very arrogant to me, including this statement "VC funded yadayada". Working at a company is a big commitment for a person, it's where they are going to spend the majority of their waking life. Doesn't this deserve a bit more respect from employers? I don't care how fast the growth or how cool they believe themselves to be, it's an attitude that turns me off immediately. I am sure it's not doing them any favors. Does this job ad entice you to apply?

I think most would view this as some kind of joke or scam. Knowing that anyone can create a line graph and a gmail account I would have no reason at all to think this is a real company.

Anyone growing that fast shouldn't be afraid to post a real email address, just doesn't add up for me.

If this is some kind of style or joke I think it is better served to save that for when your having coffee. As laid back as our industry is, most would like to consider themselves professionals. This job posting doesn't seem very professional on any level.

Considering that the only companies allowed to post job ads here are YC alumni, you can trust that they are a real company. If I saw an ad like that posted anywhere else, however, I'd have the same reaction.

Doubts of their existence aside, I still agree with the OP; ads like this make me think that I'd hate working for the founder posting them. If he wants me to try to prove my worth as a candidate, I want to know that its even worth my time to send him a portfolio/resume/cover letter.

I didn't know that only YC Alumni can post jobs and I'm guessing I'm not the only one, thanks for pointing that out.

I think we both agree this job posting is not very appealing especially considering the amount of positions currently available for developers. Most good developers I know do just as much if not more screening than the companies hiring them. I know a number of companies in need of good developers that have great working environments. I think its important for people hiring to be respectful and kind if they are serious about attracting good talent.

Indeed. I myself only put faith in the personality of a company if I know and trust somebody who works there (or in the case of larger ones, in the department of interest.)

I don't think he was doubting their existence, but was just doubting whether or not the traffic graph was real -- it might have been a joke.

no reason at all to think this is a real company

That said, I definitely have no faith that the graphs are real or even loosely based on reality.

I wouldn't be so quick to assume that. It's yc funded, and they say music-related. It could be earbits, which I read is doing something like 12,000,000 users a month.

It could easily be somebody else as well. 4,000,000 uniques isn't a ton of users if you're somebody like Grooveshark, Spotify, Rdio, etc.

I acknowledge that they could indeed be that successful, but I still maintain that I have no reason to believe their claims until they provide me with something more solid than that ad.

So you think that a YC-funded company posting a job posting on news.ycombinator.com is... _lying_?

Perhaps I have more faith in PG's judgement than I ought, but that strikes me as excessively cynical.

I'm guessing you didn't like the post (note, it's not really an 'ad' as you stated) for some reason and are coloring the entirety of their claims with the same brush.

I'm guessing that, bravado aside (and I didn't personally find anything particularly braggadocious in the post to take offense to,) I would wager real money that their claims were at least truthful.

So you think that a YC-funded company posting a job posting on news.ycombinator.com is... _lying_?

No. Rather, I have no information that I trust to convince me one way or the other as to their honesty, so I choose to ignore that data.

I had not, however, considered that they have already been vetted by PG and YC. Perhaps I have a small reason to trust their claims. Even so, I'd give it the same weight in decision making as known hyperbole, at best. I'll only completely trust the claim if I have verifiable sources.

Right, I think the issue at hand is the pendulum has swung too far the other way. People are going so far out of the way to display that they are not just another corp gig that the message can come off as unprofessional, amateur and even suspect of deceit.

I look at these post as the rock-star and ninja posts that used to have flooding the boards a few years ago. Me personally, if I was going to post an ad, I would post one explaining why we love the technology we use and some highlights about how team members where empowered to do great things. Something along the line of "Jim joined us and built out an entire REST facade in Node", "We like Node because it is event driven", "if you know Node we would love to talk to you". Give people a personal connection with the company and the people they will be involved with, most else comes off as corporate, gimmicky, or worst yet arrogant.

only actual YC participants can post these job postings.

It's essential that startup teams have great chemistry.

If you don't appreciate their sense of humor (or vice versa), it's probably not a good fit. That's fine.

It's better to establish these things sooner versus later in the interview process, so you're not wasting each other's time.

To this end, I think it's productive when startups post job listings like this that genuinely reflect their culture and personality. It can serve as the first of several mutual filters to weed out potential candidates who wouldn't work well with the team.

I agree with your sentiment, but I just don't see how this particular ad would make anyone say "Yes! That's the company culture for me".

I guess that's what I am asking here though... does it inspire you to apply (or would it if you were looking)?

the post didn't bother me at all so I guess it's just a personal taste kinda thing.

To me I like that they got straight to the point. They are basically saying "we are worth betting your time on because ..." they are growing really fast and what not. I think it's refreshing actually.

Now on the the other hand I am extremely annoyed by posts that use marketing speak and overly-memetic prose. It's like they are trying really really really really hard to be hip, cool, and funny all at the same time.

This post comes off as straight to the point. The yadada thing is not big deal to me because I take it like: "we will cover all that stuff later... if you are interested"

Maybe its an 'East Coast' delivery but I appreciate the candor, particularly if its an up and coming high profile company. The only lasting sentiment is that they're in it to win it and may take the highest close out offer sooner rather than later. Not a bad deal for a Ruby Genius, really.

I don't see the arrogance, and I'm very sensitive to douchespeak.

Here I read a posting by a person who's confident in their company's direction, knows what they're looking for, and assumes the potential hire knows the drill after reading a bunch of these job ads after awhile. They're also pretty clear on what the product is and why a given engineer might enjoy working on it.

This was nice, too, as flexibility is anything but arrogant: "Preferably NYC, but we’re flexible."

Arrogance would be "we're in NYC. If you're not, don't bother writing." Or some such.

Dunno, man, with the clarity of language and the refreshing brevity, this is one of the better specimens, to my mind.

I don't think what they are saying is arrogant but it is not very professional.

They offer no name and a graph that you are supposed to take on good faith. In return they expect you to write them (what most would) a cover letter, including probably a resume, and a project you've built in rails that you are proud of.

This is a tremendous amount of information and a effort to expect when they have given very little. By contrast they cannot provide a company name, a legitimate email address, or information on who is running the company.

Granted the graph may be impressive but what about the company culture, location, work space, size, etc? Those seem like more important things to talk about for someone planning to commit the next year or two of their lives to a job.

Maybe they're in stealth. That limits how much of the kimono they're willing to open. Or maybe they're in the open but they want to brag about the traffic graph without having to spoil some press they're saving for later. (Though anyone who pays even a little attention around here would probably find it easy to suss out who these guys are. I have a good hunch.)

I don't think it would be out of line to offer an equally pithy summary of one's work experience, along with a resume, and let the conversation go from there. They're signaling that they're not stuffy suits – I don't think the expectation is for an applicant to respond to the ad like they would a job at IBM.

As to professionalism, eh, screw it. I'm exhausted with corporate bullshit and I know I hate when scrappy companies try to emulate it. They're "keeping it real," as the kids say, and that's a lot more pleasant to me than the stiff, stuffy, dull alternatives.

Actually I don't know if they are keeping it real, you don't know unless you meet them. I'm not a fan of stuffy corporate bs either, I've never met anyone who loves that.

I think being thoughtful, informative, and respectful doesn't have anything to do with corporate bs. I've worked at many companies with great cultures that don't need to write questionable job postings to keep it real.

Being professional and being stuffy are two very different things. I know a whole industry of professionals I'd love to work with or have a beer with anytime.

Yeah, seriously. You don't have to use cool-speak to keep it real. It doesn't matter how big or small you are, sincerity always shines through.

As to the original comment, I think this may swing either way. This could either be the real deal, hot tech startup or it could be some assholes who are totally overcompensating with all the secrecy and trying to play it super hipster. I see where you might get arrogance from it. I didn't think of that first though. Considering we're on HN here and since the site has an outstanding reputation for keeping most riff raff out, I just assumed it was a hot-next-big-thing startup looking for employees.

It'd be interesting to respond to the ad with an entirely anonymous resume and portfolio from some one-off email address. See if you get a response/request for more information.

I don't see the problem with that. Any job seeker should have an updated CV at hand, and he'd better have some Rail project to show off if he is a Rail developper, so dropping a standard "Hi, please find my cv enclosed, here is something I built..." is not a great deal for someone looking for a job.

It's pretty common not to identify the company, companies don't want to reveal their funding or their growth until they're ready to use it for PR.

No, it doesn't entice me to apply. Intentional or otherwise, I think that's a good thing for both parties.

The ad is a window into the soul of their company, unfortunate perhaps, but hardly arrogant.

I find this very profound.

Not sure why I was downvoted. I meant to say I found GP's post to be profound:

    The ad is a window into the soul of their company, unfortunate perhaps, but hardly arrogant.

I didn't find it that arrogant, but I think it's possible to get a glimpse of a company's culture through their job ad. If you felt their approach was a turn-off, it's likely you'd feel the same way about their culture & team as well.

So for better or worse (they could argue better, you could argue worse), their job ad is filtering for people that would fit them.

From the numerous hints in the ad, I'm betting this was posted by Rap Genius.


It comes across very arrogant to me, including this statement "VC funded yadayada".

Given that other people here are saying that only YC funded companies can post a job ad here, maybe it's a "yeah, you knew that already, let's not waste any more time on that stuff" type sentiment. Of course, there are other people saying they didn't know that, so perhaps the main sin they are committing is assuming that the audience is as "in the know" as they are -- ie they are assuming everyone on HN is as aware as they are of how all this ties back to YC, only that's not an accurate assumption.

It's often really tough to figure out how to make sure you are including enough information to inform your audience without including so much as to insult their intelligence. This becomes more complicated as audience size and diversity grows and HN is quite heavily trafficked these days. Perhaps it is better for this company to write the ad so as to not insult the intelligence of the more in-the-know types who realize the ads here are only from YC funded companies than to over-explain. It may be better to offend and alienate the relatively "clueless" than to insult the intelligence of the types of people they hope will actually apply. I mean if someone not in the know concludes they are arrogant pricks and "I wouldn't want to work there", hey, probably no loss. It might even be saving them wasted time (by reducing the number of applications from clueless people). But talking to the highly qualified like they are uninformed 5 year olds who need everything explained, well, there goes your best potential candidates. Good luck filling it now.

I think it would be naive to assume "person that knows all about hacker news" = "great candidate". It could be argued spending too much time on hacker news is not what you want in your employees.

Back to the main point, the real issue I have is they are too busy to write an informative job post actually encouraging people to apply, to me that isn't respectful of your audience. They wan't someone to join and be a part of their team, do they really want to start the conversation like this.

It could be argued spending too much time on hacker news is not what you want in your employees.

That doesn't really make sense to me, personally. Check the leader board. Almost everyone on it appears to be an extremely competent hacker. (Though I think at least one is an extremely competent lawyer.)

I personally generally hate job listings. I think they all make little sense. I work for a large company and I find the job postings there completely unfathomable. It's one of the reasons I am still stuck in an entry level job: The job board at the company I actually work for is almost completely illegible to me. The last job I applied for I only applied because a senior manager clued me it was a job on her team and encouraged me to apply. I didn't get it but I at least had some fucking clue where it was, who it was with and what it entailed, information I cannot ferret out from the official postings. (Note: I still didn't know what it paid, information I would have liked to have.)

I think most job postings completely suck. Is this worse suckitude? I don't really know. I just don't think there is any reason to conclude that it sucks "because they are arrogant".

Regardless of how "In the know" you are, I doubt your going to feel awesome sending your cover, full resume, and project to HugeMeme@gmail.com

I'm not saying they got it right. Just that there may be another explanation for the specific line that was being criticized as "arrogant". That struck a chord with me because of how often I get accused of arrogance. I don't think I am arrogant. If you really are dramatically better at something than other people, owning that fact is a socially uncomfortable but somewhat unavoidable part of life. (If you try to say "no, no, I'm nothing special" when you really are that much better, that gets called "false modesty" and people heap flack on you for that as well. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.)

Yah, I appreciated your explanation there were definitely some good points and you probably hit the nail on the head of what they were trying to achieve. They didn't come across to me as arrogant either, just unprofessional. Doesn't make them horrible in any way just makes the job posting not the most appealing in my eyes.

They didn't come across to me as arrogant either, just unprofessional.

I left out additional thoughts that they sounded "young" to me, which fits with your assessment (of "unprofessional"). So they're a tad green. They're a startup aren't they? <shrug>


These jobs ads are probably written by co/founders who are still in 'pitch mode'. They've internalized introducing their company in terms of line charts and hyperbole. Give them a break :)

I'll agree that most job postings make me puke a little bit and are typically very poorly done across the industry. This certainly isn't all that great but it gets much much worse. One of my favorites was a job posting that started off bragging about what kind of cars everyone drives on the team. It literally had a long paragraph listing the types of cars everyone on the team drove (BMW, etc., etc.) before any of the job requirements. I personally would be more enticed by an ad that says everyone is required to roller blade to work.

Clickable link to job post in question http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3346308

Other job postings for the same company:

~160 days ago: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2736780

~130 days ago: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2863043

My gut keeps telling me it's turntable.fm

The traffic graph is several orders of magnitude off for turntable. I think it's Rap Genius. Goes with the "Rails Genius" title, traffic graph matches better, describes their app (from what I can tell), and I think that's their dropbox ID.

turntable isn't a ycombinator company

Timothee has an interesting theory about that: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3346641

Not a "Rails Genius". If I was interested in such a job I would send "something you’ve built in Rails and any other work you’re proud of", but not spend a lot of time on it.

What company is this? I cant seem to find it.

That seems to be the point. I'm guessing they're trying to be "stealth."

But if they're that big and growing that much, they can't be that stealth…

Unless the "stealth" part is the fact that they're a YC company. By that I mean that it could be a company/product that is well known but it's unknown that the company joined YC last summer. Though I'm not sure if a secret like that could be kept easily… (e.g. TurnTable.fm could fit the bill of some of the details: NY, music-based, Facebook API, game dynamics, crowdsourced content, VC-funded… but they're not part of YC AFAICT)

Another example is COLOURLovers which was big long before joining YCombinator. (so much so that I was very surprised that they did)

NB: if it turns out, I'm right about TurnTable.fm, remember that you've read it here first :)

But if they're that big and growing that much, they can't be that stealth…

Hence the ironic-quotes.

You do have an interesting theory though. Not that I totally understand why somebody would want to hide the fact that they're a YC alumni...

I'm 99% sure it's Rap Genius now. That same dropbox ID appears on an old Facebook post by their account. They're YC S11.

I know the Rap Genius guys... They are "confident" in a very frat-house east coast way, so I concur :)

It could be, I don't really know RapGenius. And I agree with your other comment: the growth graph doesn't match what I'd imagine for TurnTable.fm. I'd see a huge spike around May-June and a cliff after that.

Hacking challenge: can somebody use google correlate and find the company unambiguously?

I think we should have comment threads enabled on job posts on HN!

Sounds like it was written by someone in a hurry. Or maybe by someone who had made the observation that the time invested in crafting a thorough job posting does not correlate significantly with the quality of applicants to said ad? In any case, I didn't strike me as that arrogant.

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