About a month ago I was asked by the CEO of a company I work with to find a front end developer. That is someone who specializes in making a website beautiful and delightful… not necessarily on optimizing database stuff or some of the behind-the-scenes work. This type of person is in demand…. which is important to this whole story.
Disclaimer: I am not a trained or full-time recruiter. I’m not speaking for recruiters, I’m just sharing my recent experience.
So I worked with the CEO and lead developer to create a job description, posted it on a special board, and got about twelve applications right away. I went through them, scored them based on qualifications, and presented a short list to the team. We talked about it, and reached out to I think five people to set up interviews.
We heard from one person.
Remember, these are people who reached out to us, responding to the job posting.
That was okay. The one person who replied was on our short-short list. We had a good interview, and then… I (being the main contact) was ghosted.
I value good communication, and ghosting someone is not what I would call good communication. The longer I was ghosted the less interested I was in this short-listed candidate.
Communication…. lol. I said I value good communication, and I was upset that i wasn’t hearing from this candidate. All the while, there were new applicants I wasn’t hearing from. Oopsie. This is such a two-way road, and throw in the human factor and we have the perfect storm for misunderstandings and such. Instead of saying what all the candidates I reached out to did wrong, I’ll share why I did not communicate well (from the job seeker’s perspective). These are going to sound like excuses, but that’s not my intention. My intention with this post is to paint a bit more of the landscape of finding the right hire, and sharing why the “candidate experience” can suck.
I’m Busy Doing Other Things
I’m sorry to say this but you aren’t my first priority. And, this task (of finding a front end) might not be my first priority this hour, or today. I have things going on. I’m not a recruiter, but recruiters can have multiple, even dozens of “open recs” they are trying to fill. As we focus on what is most urgent to us right now we might be letting you, the important stuff, get paused. Not great, I know, but this is a reality you need to understand.
Just a couple of months after I launched JibberJobber, in July of 2006, I wrote Sense of Urgency, a frustrating take on how the job seeker’s sense of urgency is “I need a job now, today!” while an employer’s sense of urgency might mean, “We need you now… well, maybe next quarter!”
I’m Busy Working With Other Candidates
When I narrowed down on “the short list,” and then started responding to people from that short list, I was focused on them. We already talked about who we wanted to focus on, which meant not talking much (or at all) with others. We needed to focus on what we chose to focus on, which might not mean you. This is the root of me ghosting others. It’s lame but it is why you might not hear from me.
Does it mean you are a “no?” Not necessarily. That depends on what happens with my shortlist. Again, not making excuses, just sharing why I’m not communicating with you.
My Customer (the Hiring Manager) Changed My Direction
This actually happened… there were some pretty important changes with my customer, who is the person making the hiring decision (not you, the job seeker). They brought in another candidate, and we spent time with that top candidate while even putting the short list on hold. Then there were some strategic and customers things that came up that might have changed our entire direction, and put this position on hold…
Uncertainty sucks. Years ago I was in serious conversations with an outplacement company about a relationship that would have been very good for JibberJobber (lots of moola!!), but then all of the sudden I heard nothing from my contact for months. It was so frustrating from being super close to signing on the dotted line to getting ghosted for months. Did I mention “for months?” Talk about frustrating. Anyway, I found out that company was getting acquired, and there was a moratorium on communication which impacted me in a huge way. It sucked but we couldn’t do anything about it.
Strategies, direction, budgets, interests, etc. change. And those changes impact our lives.
I’ve Focused My Communication On People Who Have Paid Attention
This one really got under my skin. I sent messages out to the shortlist asking when we could talk, and requesting they get one other bit of information. I think out of ten people I asked for one more bit of information, TWO got it back to me. TWO. It was as if the others didn’t read my email.
Well, front end developer is a technical role. If you can’t pay attention to my short email, read the specs, and respond with what I’m asking for, what does that mean for your “attention to detail?” I didn’t do this as a test, to see who has attention to detail. I did this as a legitimate request. Not for fun, but for real. I needed that information. 20% actually got it back to me.
If you don’t hear back from me it could be because I have seen some red or yellow flags from the first time we communicated, including you missing something I’ve asked for.
Now, if I were your boss I’d coach you through it. But I don’t need to give unsolicited information/feedback to 8 people I don’t know, who didn’t even read my short email in the first place. If I ask for something, take it seriously.
I’m Waiting to Hear Back From My Top Picks
My top pics, the short list of the short list, should be in communication with me. But that might take a few days, then I reply, then I wait a day or two, then I reply, then a day or two later I hear back from them. This means a week, or weeks, could go by while I’m in that mode… and not communicating with you. I’d like to communicate with you but I don’t really have anything to say. “I’m waiting to hear back from my #1 pick… I’ll let you know if something changes.” Or, “I’m waiting to hear if they say yes, and if they don’t I’ll come talk to you.” That sounds kind of dumb, and I don’t want you to think you are bottom of the barrel or last choice. So I just don’t reach out and update you, especially if I haven’t heard from you for a while.
I make mistakes. I might have reached out to everyone and thought I included you, but I might have missed you. Or missed your last email. I’m not a robot and I’ll make mistakes and miss things. The saying “slip through the cracks” is common because it commonly happens. I bet you have it happen to (which is why I recommend JibberJobber as a job search tracker and organizer).
I’m Making This Up As I Go
I mentioned above that I’m not a trained or full-time recruiter. I know a lot of recruiters, and I reach out and chat with them, but they have years, decades of experience that I don’t have. I’ll make mistakes. That might mean I overcommunicate, maybe giving too much hope. I do this a few times a year, not a few times a week… so I’ll never be amazing at it. But that’s okay. It’s one of my job opportunities, not my chosen career. I am pretty good at parts of it, I think, but a lot of it is stuff I *think* is right, and I’ll just make mistakes.
Again, I’m not writing this post as an apology, and to offer excuses. I want my job seekers on JibberJobber to really understand why they may be getting ghosted by the recruiter or hiring manager.
So, what can you do about it?
COMMUNICATE TO/WITH ME
Instead of waiting to hear back, which could take a while because of the reasons I’ve listed above, get back on my mind and in front of my eyeballs by communicating with me. I know this can be uncomfortable, and perhaps doing it might annoy the person on the other end. But what do you have to lose? I’d rather you reach out and show interested and sell yourself (not hard, but genuinely and passionately).
Be tactful, be professional, and be hopeful. But don’t sit back and assume I have my stuff completely together and just wait to hear from me. If you are really interested, communicate with me.
What Else Can You Do?
As I work through my top pics, and for whatever reason they get selected out (they are too expensive, they are bad communicators, we interviewed them and there is clearly a technical or cultural deficiency, etc.) the next round of candidates starts to move up to top spot. This is a fluid process and who looked great at first might be a no-go, leaving room for my second picks.
Don’t get offended at being a second pick. I might have to weed through what I thought was awesome to find you, who happens to be the best and right hire. Work with me, communicate with me, make sure you don’t fall off because of bad branding or communication, and we might start a beautiful professional relationship.
But don’t get discouraged to the point where you are mad, bitter, or non-communicative. Those people end up on another list I keep… a list of “I would never hire these people because they burned bridges.”
The job search is hard and grueling. I know it is. It sucks. It feels demoralizing. But it is also riddled with human error… so fill in those gaps with your proactive and positive strategies and tactics.
You can do this. We can do this together.
UPDATE: The position was put on hold for a bit, and not it is not on hold. Those who stuck with me and communicated with me are in the running… hang in there!