A Tale of Two Companies

A Tale of Two Companies

Having wound down my startup, I’m on the hunt for a new job. As many of you know well, the whole process sucks.

I’d like to relate (and offer commentary on, of course) a couple of recent experiences with Boston area startups. It’s a quick peek into the true culture of these companies and offers immediate insight into where you might want to work, or NOT.


Company 1 — Drift

Role:  Sales          Fit for my experience:   Very Good

A customer-centric business founded by some ridiculously successful entrepreneurs. Given their success and likely ability to draw talent from wherever they choose, they could take an aloof approach to recruiting and hiring. They don’t.

Contacting Drift was unexceptional, except to the extent it was human. I emailed the recruiter. He got back to me within a couple of hours to report that they’d filled that role, but he’d like to stay in touch on future opportunities.

Fast. Professional. Honest. Warm.

I doubt it took him more than a couple of minutes to create just a little more good will toward the company. I expect he does this every day. I expect everyone there does this every day. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do as people and as a business. As a startup business, it’s not an overwhelming amount of work and simply the right thing to do.

I don’t know whether I’ll ever be under real consideration for a role at Drift, but I’m certain that, culturally, it’s a place I’d want to work.


Company 2 — let’s call them BevSpot

Role:  VP, Sales          Fit for my experience:   Fair

SaaS. Rookie founders.

Per their process, I emailed careers@. As a sales pro, I use Streak in my Gmail to track opens. I know my thoughtful, professional, and job and company-specific cover letter email was opened. I assume my resume was viewed. But there was no response from BevSpot, not even the usual “Thanks. We got it. We’ll be in touch if appropriate.” That’s a reasonable minimum expectation.

Applicants deserve to know that they’re in the queue, not simply in a black hole. Further, a startup making its first executive hire owes thoughtful, professional applicants a professional response. Tell me to pound sand. I can take it. That’s far better than nothing.

After hearing nothing for three weeks, I followed up. It wasn’t a “please interview me” email.

I know someone read my email — Liz? Courtney? — because I’m a sales pro who tracks even some personal email.
BevSpot is growing up and this VP Sales hire needs to be an experienced, professional adult. It’s time for your hiring practices to reflect the company’s maturation.
At a minimum, you owe applicants, at least the serious ones, a basic acknowledgement that their email / resume was received. That’s the minimum. Fortunately, you can implement that today.
I don’t expect this will help my candidacy. (Regardless, I’ve done this before — helped SaaS businesses grow, and grow up. I’m ready to do it again, but convincing you to interview me isn’t my aim here.) This is about helping you build and defend your brand. Maybe you can just ignore fresh grads. I wouldn’t, but there’s less harm in it, I suppose. With an expectation of success, the VP Sales role won’t be your last experienced hire. Professional adults just want to be treated like… professional adults.

No, I didn’t expect this would help me get the job, but it felt good to vent a little, I believe I’m 100% in the right, and maybe I can help them treat future applicants better.

This email was opened within hours. Still nothing from BevSpot. About 100 employees, two people working in People Operations, and recruitment is already broken.

Weeks later, and after noticing that the role had been filled, I emailed the CEO to relay my experience, which I viewed as unprofessional. He responded apologetically within 12 hours. Still nothing from People Operations. Hacks.

This is not a place you want to work. This isn’t sour grapes, I promise. This is an organization that, despite being early stage and small, already has a culture problem. They treat people like shit, and you don’t even have to take my word for it.


One of these companies clearly is and will continue to be, a great place to work.

One of these companies will be successful.

The other? Without a cultural enema, not so much.

Yes, the job hunt sucks. But sometimes there’s valuable insight buried inside the frustration. And this much insight was available without even interviewing.


*** Update 12/16/16:  Broken culture. Broken company.