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It is not merely rude but evil that anyone accepts a status quo of ignoring the unhired.


I have not often been in the job market, but every time I have, I've been stunned by this practice: Run an ad, get a bunch of resumes, ignore many of them.

#1 Get this, all prospective employers: If you have time to run an ad, YOU HAVE TIME TO ACKNOWLEDGE EVERY RESPONSE. The typical response I usually get: "But we got so many resumes, we didn't have time to acknowledge all of them." WRONG. Acknowledging resumes is your job. Just like doing x, y, and z is my job. Your do your job. Period.

#2 Get this, all prospective employers: You may give your employees money but they give you something far more valuable: their time. You can always make more money, but they will never get those 8 hours of their life back. They could have spent that priceless non-recoverable part of their life doing many other things, but they gave it up to you. So show a little respect.

Bottom line: Employment (and the process of establishing it) is a two way street. So treat it that way.

Hate to play devil's advocate here, but shaming nonresponsive would-be employers has been tried and has failed many times before.

If an employer has time to run an ad, that means they're short-staffed and pressed for time. Sending heartfelt thank-you's, even at five seconds apiece, will not fix problems on the employer's end. It is not their job to make rejected applicants feel better.

Employee money and employee time are worth the same, by definition.

I agree the system is majorly due for disruption, and as a proud occupant of the tm;dr circular file for many of the targeted resumes and cover letters I've sent out, it does get extremely frustrating. I'd love to get an enthusiastic job offer from those who have snubbed me and treat them the same way, but that's just not how it would work for most people. Workers are plentiful and positions are scarce, even if salaries are high.

The parity in the system is maintained with the tendency for these lazy offerors to dissuade the best applicants from applying for their jobs. (Isn't it funny that the snubs that are the absolute worst are the ones that took you an hour of dedicated busywork to apply for, even though logic would dictate that a company with a more reasonable application process would average out to be a better job?)

If you're young and bright enough to be able to do that job; disrupting the hiring system for the better, rather than complaining about how unfair the world is, can't be any less worthwhile, even if it has long odds. The world will beat a path to your door and consider you a hero if you can find a way to fix this broken system.

How exactly would you disrupt that hiring system? I was thinking about collecting job seekers feedback "Did you get reply from recruiter?".

But that may disappoint recruiters, and they are paying customers, not the job seekers.

That's the billion dollar question.

Despite the heartache, most job seekers could care less about getting a dear john, especially weeks or months following.

HR's problems as an industry run far deeper. Employers spending too much time and money for too little long-term result; applicants spending too much time (and money!) for too little long-term result. Find a way to fix that wicket and this other little problem becomes that much less important.

I found when hiring that I could process 30-40 applications per hour. If I liked the application, I would respond with, "Name, thanks for applying. Are you free for a 15-minute phone interview on Date?" If I didn't like the application, I would reply with, "Name, thanks for applying. We received many applications and are going to hire someone else, but we will keep your information on file." The responses were appreciated by most people and, again, didn't take much time. I agree replying should be expected of employers.

I love 37Signals - their products and their content, but this is the biggest issue I have with them - ignoring applicants.

I've never shared the story of my efforts in applying to 37Signals, but this seems like a great time :)

About 6 months ago, 37Signals advertised for a dedicated Conversion guy/gal:


This was very exciting for me. I'd been a long-time 37Signals customer and over the last couple years had been studying and practicing with optimizing the customer life-cycle (conversion, onboarding, retention, etc) with my various contracting clients.

I've been more of a backend and devops engineer for much of my career, but I always loved when I'd get to simplify or add enhancements to a site and see the traffic and engagement go up. It had become my side-passion and I devoured all the books and articles I could find on the subject.

So I spent several days looking over the 37Signals product marketing and coming up with a strong pitch. The Basecamp landing page was full of classic mistakes and seemed like the lowest hanging fruit to address, so that's what I picked to overhaul.

Here's my initial pitch: http://yconvert.com/

I kept thinking about the problem and I realized that the mockup I sent of a new Basecamp landing page was still pretty weak, so I spent some more time revamping it and sent this 2 days later:


I still kept thinking about how it could be improved, so I also addressed the Basecamp funnel flow and sent this another 2 days later:

http://yconvert.com/basecamp_funnel.html via this link-baity tweet: https://twitter.com/nanobeep/status/212543236374409216

During this process, I watched my logs carefully and geo-located every IP that hit my application. Sure enough, the guys I wanted to see it had seen it. They also saw every update. They also tried some of my suggestions on the Basecamp landing page. And they also ended an online discussion with a puppy pic (if you reviewed my pitches, you'll know why that is significant).

Now, I'm not bitter about being ignored and I don't necessarily think it's evil or anything. I totally understand that folks get busy and things fall through the cracks - but companies should realize that it's often your customers and fans that apply for your jobs.

When I'm hiring for something, I'll admit that if I get an application where the person obviously cut-and-pasted a generic cover letter with no thought for the actual job, I may ignore the applicant unless they follow-up. However, if someone puts obvious significant effort into applying personally to my job - I would never ignore them. It's just really bad form.

I'm still a 37Signals fan, and I realize that as only one data point, I could just be that one guy they forgot to reply to. But if it's a more common problem, I do hope they change their hiring process to treat their applicants with more kindness and respect.


P.S. I also have to mention that during this process I emailed Patrick McKenzie for advice and he responded immediately with some great and timely counsel. He encouraged me to be persistent and be as engaging as possible, and I applied that the best I could. He's a scholar and a gentleman.

I apologize for not getting back to you. That's not cool in general and triple uncool when you've out this much effort into it. I will make sure we write back to all applicants in the future to let them know when we've made a decision (this does some time take a while though, we've taken 4-6 weeks in the past to make a decision, but it will be done).

Thanks David. No worries - I figured it was probably just an oversight and moved on. Still a fan - thanks for the reply.

While it may take four to six weeks to find out if somebody is right, it rarely takes more than a minute to know somebody is wrong. Hirers could certainly let the vast majority of applicants know that they shouldn't bother spending more time.

That's really not cool, they should have contacted you out of respect for your efforts.

You spent a lot of time and effort into this company that you don't even work for. It's sad to see that job searching has come to this: doing the work for free to prove you can do the work.

Have you done this for other companies as well? How have they responded?

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