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.
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).
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.