Ghosting behaviour: it’s not you, it’s me

Last week I saw a recruiter I follow write a post about how they had been encouraging their candidates to message executives in companies they had interviewed at, and not heard back from, to complain about their experience. This brought up a lot of feelings for me… I’ve been that candidate, left in limbo, who doesn’t know whether to try and retain hope or succumb to a broken heart. I’ve also been the recruiter, receiving more emails from candidates than I can cope with, feeling frustrated because my hands have been tied. There are two sides to every situation, and so if you’ve had a challenging experience when going for a job at a start-up or scale-up, I hope the following may help you understand why.

Note: the original post also included examples where candidates had been treated badly or felt they had been discriminated against. I want to preface the following with the acknowledgment that this behaviour from a company during a recruitment process is never acceptable and should always be escalated so it can be discussed in the open.

There is a wide range of reasons why small businesses struggle to provide an experience that candidates deserve:

  1. Fundraising uncertainty – Expectations around injections of investor capital can change really quickly, meaning the budget available for a particular role can suddenly disappear, be delayed or be put at risk. Most recruiters in this situation would rather put the hiring process on hold rather than onboard someone, only to have to let them go in the near future.
  2. Resource constraints – The hiring process is an incredibly human resource-intensive process, and teams in start-ups are by their nature small. If one member of the team gets sick, goes on holiday or has a baby, it may be that there is no one else in the organisation with the experience to appropriately assess the skills needed for a particular role.
  3. People change their minds – There is a lot of learning which needs to go on in early-stage and high-growth companies. This can be compounded by a lack of recruitment experience within a leadership team, as founders are usually generalists or experts in their product’s field. This means the requirements of what people are looking for from candidates can quickly change once they start the interview process or the needs of the business change unexpectedly. The hiring team are usually reacting to these changes as best they can and may not be able to provide clarity to candidates until a more secure plan emerges.
  4. Everyone is doing 3 jobs – In small organisations, more often than not, everyone is balancing multiple different job roles. If the person you’ve been communicating with had been really responsive and then suddenly went silent, it’s more likely they’re trying to close out year-end or helping with some emergency product testing than they are to be just ignoring you. 

I genuinely believe most recruiters and executives are doing their best to treat candidates well – it’s as much in our interest as it is in yours. We are sorry it’s not always the best experience, so by all means chase us, but please be kind when you do.

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