Your Company Culture Starts with Recruiting. Don’t F*ck It Up.

A lot of companies of late have been touting their incredible company culture. They extoll how their culture has enabled them to succeed and how people can have a lot of fun while co-creating products and services that their customers love.

Companies often think about their culture once you join the first day after you sign on the dotted line accepting the offer. But sometimes, I wonder if these companies really understand their company culture, and specifically, where it begins.

Ru Paul Drag Race ©World of Wonder Productions
Ru Paul Drag Race ©World of Wonder Productions. Copyrighted content falls under the guidelines of fair use.

Recently, I got contacted by a very well-known company to help with their Agile rollout. This company is very prominent here in Silicon Valley, not far from where I live. I have a few friends who work there, and they tell me they’re having a blast. They’ve been on a hiring binge during the pandemic, and I’ve seen a lot of LinkedIn postings extolling their company culture to entice job seekers.

After talking with the recruiter for the company, I seemed to be a good fit for what they were looking for and dove right into the interview process. I went through the interviews for about two weeks and passed with flying colors. The recruiter called me one day and said the job was mine. I asked him what they were going to offer me, and he said the paperwork for the offer is coming. Still, in the meantime, I needed to submit to a security check. 

I responded, “Uhm, isn’t this the other way around, where the security check is done after the offer has been signed and accepted?” He said that it usually is, but he wanted to start the process early. I politely told him no, and that I’d rather wait for the offer. The recruiter said okay and hung up. I never heard back from him again.

The recruiter never mentioned to me that the offer was contingent on agreeing to a background check. Why would I let a company conduct a background check if I end up not accepting their offer? During my entire career, background checks always occurred after accepting an offer. If this is a specific requirement for the actual offer, at the very least, the recruiter should have told me.

Mind you, this is from a renowned company here in Silicon Valley. I have a few friends who work inside that company. They said that what you see on LinkedIn: the work that people do, the environment they work in (including remote), the perks they get, the collaboration – most of those are true. The company culture inside is, in general, fabulous. 

But I asked, “Well, what about my recruiting experience?” All of them said, yes, they all had bad experiences while being recruited. Some of them even said they almost didn’t say yes to their offer.

I’d be happy if the recruiter just called me back and apologized, saying the position didn’t work out in the end. It’s all about common courtesy and treating people as people. I am not a quota to fill.

I’ve had a few experiences with recruiters who did just that. I particularly remember two particular recruiters. For both these scenarios, I was very much along the path to getting hired. They both told me the offer was working its way to the system. And then, something happened. They couldn’t follow through with the offer for particular reasons (not relating to me as a candidate). They apologized, and I was obviously disappointed. However, I still remember these two recruiters because of how they treated me as a person.


Recruiting includes valuing people and interactions

Twenty years ago, the Agile Manifesto was published. One of the key values was that we “value individuals and interactions over process and tools.” If you genuinely want to be that company that can tout company culture from the get-go, you need to start at Recruiting. 

Sadly, the recent experience I just recounted isn’t new. I’ve had similar encounters happen to me all these years where I never hear back from recruiters. Whether I get the job or not, shouldn’t recruiters treat potential candidates as if they’re already part of the company? 

As a hiring manager, I make it a point to contact the people I’ve interviewed and tell them the news – good or bad. Yes, people are dejected when they hear they didn’t get the job. Still, quite a few responded positively even with not-so-good news, telling me that it was great to get a callback since people often never hear back when the news isn’t good. I’ve also interviewed at a few companies who treated me as if I was coming to join them. And though the position didn’t work for me in the end, it worked for a few of my friends who I recommended after the process because I had an excellent experience with recruiting.

Recruiters and hiring managers need to begin with empathy and kindness in dealing with their potential hires and not f*ck it up if company culture is a key value. It’s all boils down to living what you say you’re doing.


Postscript: Remember that well-known Silicon Valley company? I did get contacted by other recruiters for other positions over the following months. I politely declined, saying I wasn’t interested in the positions they were hiring for.

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