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Nightmare on Staffing Street

Leroy Ware
Dec 12, 2019 11:00:00 PM

A Day to Remember

It’s Friday the 13th — a day some folks consider to be the unluckiest day of the year. The superstition surrounding Friday the 13th is thought to originate with the Last Supper, attended by 13 people – Jesus Christ and his 12 disciples. It was the night before his crucifixion by Roman soldiers on Good Friday. Many people believe that Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, sat in the 13th place at the table.


The roots of this superstition can also be traced back to the arrest of Knights Templar in the Middle Ages by King Philip IV of France on Friday 13 October 1307. Knights Templar was a powerful religious and military order formed in the 12th century for the defense of the Holy Land. Imprisoned on charges of various illegal behaviors (but really because the king wanted access to their financial resources), many Templars were later burnt at the stake.

In more recent times, a number of traumatic events have occurred on Friday the 13th, including the German bombing of Buckingham Palace (September 1940), the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, New York (March 1964), a cyclone that killed more than 300,000 people in Bangladesh (November 1970), the disappearance of a Chilean Air Force plane in the Andes (October 1972), the death of rapper Tupac Shakur (September 1996) and the crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy, which killed 30 people (January 2012).

For most of us living in the modern pop-culture era, Friday the 13th conjures up visions of a ski mask, chainsaw, and an unstoppable freak named Jason who committed all sorts of unspeakable atrocities. I was a child when that movie came out, and I can tell you I lost many nights of sleep after watching it.

Fear of the number 13 has such a long history, it even has a name: Triskaidekaphobia. Triskaidekaphobia is so widespread, some hotels skip the number 13 and go straight to 14 when numbering floors. This is true for other tall buildings as well.

Today is Friday the 13th, and while the tales we will tell in this article pale in comparison to those described above, they affect millions of people across the world and we thought today was the perfect day to tell them.

The Tale of a Hiring Manager

On that very same night, a couple thousand miles away, something equally disturbing was happening. An engineering manager at a fast-moving startup was sitting on her couch, having a cup of coffee, reflecting on her day. Her company was 3 years old and had been growing by leaps and bounds. They had just raised a big round of funding from a well-known VC, and she had been tasked with attracting some of the top engineers in the San Francisco Bay area to help execute on their product roadmap. The market for top engineers in the Bay was highly competitive, though, and she was having a hell of a time with it.

Her company had been working with a well-known staffing firm since almost the beginning, and also occasionally sent requests to a couple smaller firms. The onsite candidates weren’t horrible, but rockstars were few and far between — and Jesus H. Christ the salaries they expected! Those salaries alone were enough to make her gasp, but there was something else: the staffing firms wanted another 25-30% in placement fees. With the new round of funding from such a prestigious investor, she had a duty to exceed expectations and bring in A-level talent without breaking the bank, so she recently expanded her search to include remote candidates.


The remote candidates presented even more challenges, and she was receiving them in droves. None of the staffing firms her company worked with seemed to have much experience in remote staffing. The submissions were all over the place. Some of the candidates were extremely qualified (even over-qualified), but it seemed unlikely they would stick around for long. Their resumes were full of short-term consulting gigs that never seemed to last. Other candidates just didn’t seem like they had much experience working remotely, and she dreaded the nightmare of trying to keep them synchronized with her onsite team.

Beyond all of this, the search itself was just starting to take a toll on her. Her inbox was full of emails with resume attachments. She constantly had to dig around trying to find what she needed before an interview. There was no way to see, at a glance, who she had already passed on and who was still in the running.

As she sipped her coffee, she looked out the window and noticed a black cat slinking down the sidewalk. It seemed appropriate, given the bad luck she was having with this talent search. She decided to head to bed and wake up early so she could resume this battle in a better state of mind.

The Tale of a Recruiter

Not long before our unlucky manager checked out for the night, a recruiter stood up to stretch his legs.  He was still at the office, trying to fill a position with one of his top clients that had been eluding him for weeks. Everyone else had already left for the evening, and the office was eerily quiet. He was about to lose his damn mind! For the last week, he had been courting an engineer who, it seemed, was “the one”. Finding him wasn’t easy. This guy had a likable personality, excellent communication skills, all of the experience his client had asked for, and his work history was just amazing. He had worked for some of the most well-known companies in the world, in senior positions, and had a wealth of expertise that was beyond anything he had ever seen. When the hiring manager finally got all his ducks in a row and put an interview on the books two days ago, he was certain the deal was in the bag. But then, out of nowhere, the engineer ghosted him. The recruiter texted him an hour before the interview. No response. He called him a couple times about half an hour prior. Nothing. No response on email or LinkedIn. The guy just disappeared into thin air, as if he never existed, and the recruiter hadn’t heard from him since. 


This wasn’t the first time the recruiter had been ghosted, but this time it really got the best of him. He was running out of options, and he was worried that his failure to deliver — and especially this disaster today — would cause his client to turn to another staffing firm. The company the recruiter worked for didn’t make things any easier. The applicant tracking system (ATS) they used was primitive as hell. It was slow, ugly as sin, and full of outdated resumes. The search feature was basically useless — lacking geographical and fulltext search or anything resembling recommendation functionality. ghostLoading new candidates took forever and required manual data entry. Yet the company resisted him and his colleagues at every turn when they begged for an alternative. Even worse, the ATS had no calendar or email integration beyond bulk spamming of job descriptions, so he wasted a ton of time everyday sending interview requests and confirmations, reminders, followup emails, and all sorts of other communications.  Between that and the screening calls, he had little time for what mattered most: finding top-caliber engineers to fill his roles.

Luckily, his company gave him almost unfettered access to LinkedIn, and that’s where he spent most of his day — conducting searches and sending InMails. It was getting harder and harder to reach candidates even there, though, with so many recruiters competing for attention by spamming engineers with canned messages and posts. The recruiter had always prided himself on executing quickly and understanding the needs of his clients and the candidates he worked with. However, lately he was beginning to wonder about his future and the future of his profession. The industry just seemed broken — in need of a totally new experience.

How The Story Ends…

Although these tales are works of fiction, they are inspired by true events. The horrors they describe are real and happen every day. There is good news, however. Unlike most stories told on Friday the 13th, this one has a happy ending.

After many years of working in this industry and building amazing software products for many others, the founders of a recently-launched mobile recruiting platform called Knack have created a totally new experience for talent acquisition. We’d be honored to show you how Knack can turn your worst nightmares into the engineering team and software applications you’ve always dreamed of.



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