“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place” — George Bernard Shaw
Somehow in the greatest technology bull market since tech 1.0 in the late 1990’s I have managed to find myself on an interview train making no stops. I spent the first ten years of my career working through the labyrinth of Wall Street finance and banking to achieve my goal of being a client facing banker. Some would say I foolishly abandoned my career to pursue the startup fairytale. But over the past five years I’ve learned more from the failures of working in early stage startups than I ever did in the successes of banking. I do believe the mix of corporate structure and agile resourceful early stage startup experience are the reasons why I continue to get opportunities to be turned down.
“I try not to worry about the future — so I take each day just one anxiety attack at a time.” — Tom Wilson
Over the past 9-months I’ve been interviewing for a new Customer Success position in the San Francisco Bay Area with….well…little success. The only highlight I can report is the continued flow of new interview opportunities. After making an off the cuff estimate to a friend about the number of interviews I’ve had I finally decided to write them down and account for all the outcomes. I’ve now recorded a phone or in person interview with 29 separate companies and counting. From series A to publicly traded valley stalwarts I’ve had exchanges about various Customer Success positions with them all!
Over the course of these interviews I noticed a few communication trends worth noting. Of the 29 interviews 48.28% or 14 of them ended with a company either never calling me back to update if I would or would not be moving forward or respond to my follow up email inquiries about next steps. Mind you, I was following up only because the phone call would end with “we’ll be in touch with next steps”. But rather than say “no” or “you won’t be going forward” they decided to ignore me to let me know “we’re not interested”. This includes my interactions with internal HR/people management/internal recruiters, actual hiring managers and even a CEO. No phone call, no email, just complete self-loathing radio silence.
It’s about at this point you’re asking yourself “This person must be an idiot! 29 interviews!?!?!?!” I have my thoughts about that number as well but the purpose of my post is to discuss the communication or the lack of communication I’ve experienced over the 29-interviews.
“If I’m curt with you it’s because time is a factor.” — The Wolf, Pulp Fiction
For the past 18-months I’ve been running all customer facing responsibilities for a European b2b ad tech SaaS startup. With an insane amount of effort, resourcefulness and the assistance from HQ I was able to get up to speed quickly and operate independently to assist the 100,000+ global registered users and 2,000 paying customers the company maintains. As the only person in North America a mere 9-hours behind my closest colleague my days can be kind of busy. Through five channels of communication my day can include:
- Educating existing customers to increase engagement and increase activity.
- Address inquiries ranging from explaining what a unique click is to an individual to machining data for a large enterprise customer in an effort to reduce churn.
- Close new customers & partnerships through presentations, demos & calls.
- Up-selling when opportunities make themselves available.
I joke that I started with a single laptop and now have three monitors to help get through the day. I love my job but I’ve hit a ceiling with no clear future of it ever being raised.
“Even a broken clock is right twice a day”
The amount of work it takes just to be ignored is quite amazing. I’ve come to give up on anyone’s ability to follow up and follow through. I’m aware as a job seeker it’s up to me to be aggressive in my search. But more often than not it will require multiple attempts to yield a response to a question I was originally asked. For example the struggles of setting up phone interview:
“Hi, Joe please let me know if Tuesday at 11am works for a call.”
- “Hi ___________, Tuesday at 11am works great for me!”
Days have gone by….no response to my email reply
2. “Hi ___________, I’m just following up to confirm Tuesday at 11am still works?
Days go by…more silence
3. “Hi ___________, per your email on __________ requesting a time and date for a call, I am still available on Tuesday at 11am.
Few more days go by….
“Hi Joe, Tuesday doesn’t work for me, how about Wednesday at 3pm?”
Now it’s game day, Wednesday at 3pm and I’m ready for the call. I’ve cleared my calendar, did my research, let’s chat! BUT forget the agreed time for the call because its common practice for the person to be anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes late with no warning. Should this be interpreted as a warning sign or chalked up to bad practice by the individual? I’m not sure since this was not exclusive to the 48% I highlighted earlier. Only twice did my first phone call with the contact person begin at or around the agreed time. Call me a corporate stooge but if you have scheduled time to speak or meet with someone and you’re going to be late please send an email, a text…Christ at this point I’ll accept a Snapchat updating me of your situation.
“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” — Andy Grove
Maybe this is my lack of ability to throw away the corporate structure that was beaten into me during the first 10 years of my career but I believe all individuals need to be accountable to follow up and follow through when dealing with coworkers, customers or anyone for that matter. Everyone needs to be accepting that they are responsible for completing tasks even if they are boring or monotonous. You can’t just only enjoy the good without the bad.
How did the hiring practice become so broken? Is the hiring practice broken? If my sample size was just a couple of early stage companies I would chalk it up to inexperience. But when it spans the spectrum of technology companies what does this mean? Is this a case of poor training and/or business etiquette? Can this be interpreted as a sign that times are too good? Colin Cowherd a sport radio host once said he knows the economy is doing well based on how bad his service is at Starbucks. All the good employees were promoted or moved onto better jobs and their roles needed to be filled. Usually with those not ready or prepared. So is this a sign of a great economy; my plight and inability to advance my career? If true, shouldn’t my job search be the opposite? What they hell am I doing wrong?
By no means please DON’T read this and think I’m pointing the finger at everyone else saying “You’re wrong and I’m right”. I take blame for my struggles. I review game tape in my head of each interview. Trying to identify the pitfall, the mistake I made that lead to the radio silence, the offer not being extended or the rare notification that I will not be moving forward. I own my struggles and strive to find the answer. Each and every minute of every passing day there isn’t a moment I don’t harp on what I could have done differently.
- What are your experiences as job seeker? Has this happened to you? Do you care?
- What are your experiences as a hiring professional? Why is this so common? Does it bother you?
- If you’re a founder, CEO or senior management of a large company or startup what are your thoughts? Is there a solution?
My friends and family ask me how this is affecting me. It hasn’t been easy but you have to learn from your mistakes and continue to move forward. My job search has expanded nationwide but that is due to the insane costs of renting and childcare in San Francisco with a tiny piece being the total and complete lack of success in my job search.
I just want to know what happened to professional courtesy in the hiring practice. Was it always this way in technology and I’m just late to the party? Has it always been common practice to not update a candidate on their interviewing status or is there a genuine issue with people delivering bad news? Maybe it comes down to it being easier to ignore because you’ll eventually go away.
If you’re interested in learning more about me, my experience and how I can help your post sale management please view my profile linkedin.com/in/joegonsalves, check out my website www.hirejoesf.com or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.