I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while, but hesitated.

The change of mind?

The trending LinkedIn post, feeling sorry for employers getting ghosted by candidates.

While the author offers a variety of stats and facts that supposedly explain why candidates are ghosting companies, his article fails to actually feature any responses from candidates themselves, hence this article by a former job seeker and veteran freelancer.

My opinion?

Maybe candidates aren’t showing any courtesy because companies so rarely show them any.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, a staggering 75 percent of people said they didn’t hear back from a position they had applied for in the past year.

I can attest to that stat. I’ve felt that pain many times.

It wouldn’t bother me that much, if companies’ application processes weren’t so outrageous these days.

Take Noah Kagan, founder of Sumo.

Before a bunch of us commented on this absurd LinkedIn post, Kagan had his “chief content officer” recruit candidates by forcing them to succumb to a “challenge” to have a chance of becoming a writer for the Sumo blog, which gets a substantial amount of traffic.

It was six months ago now, but basically it promised the “rare opportunity” to work with the self-proclaimed king himself — Kagan — who became popular after being hired as No. 30-something at Facebook and promptly getting fired.

All you had to do was apply by writing a ridiculously long, high-quality post, promoting it to your LinkedIn network and getting people to like it. You submitted your application by commenting on some post or something like that.

If you’re feeling an annoyed tone in my writing, it’s because I’m annoyed.

In 2014, Kagan invited me to apply for a freelance writer position — similar to the above position I just described.

You can see the emails below.

First, after inviting me to apply, he asked me to fill out an obnoxiously long application.

noah kagan

Then, in the next chain of emails, after I already wrote an in-depth post for him to review, he made me fill out ANOTHER application “because the role was so popular.”

noah kagan

After I completed that form, Kagan promptly ghosted me.

That stung.

I should’ve known this was a joke because I bought his AppSumo deal, classily titled “How to do less work by leveraging free interns,” which taught purchasers how to automate their hiring process and basically screw applicants.

Flash forward to 2017, and Kagan’s chief content officer emails me, asking if I’m interested in working as a writer for Sumo.

I have a ridiculously large portfolio including a long list of reputable sites, so I was flabbergasted when he told me he wanted me to write an in-depth, high-quality post for Sumo as part of another Sumo-challenge.

noah kagan

I replied, saying yes, before I realized the challenge paid $200. I haven’t written an article for the ridiculously cheap price of $200 for the last six years.

Here was the challenge:

noah kagan

I began to undertake the challenge, but then I started to have flashbacks of 2014, when Kagan led me on and wasted my valuable time. (Yes, other people’s time is valuable too! Shocker, right?!)

When Chris wouldn’t give me the style guidelines, which was stupid because I’d have them IRL, I began to get a bad, ANNOYED feeling in my stomach, and I told Chris I couldn’t do the challenge.


I gave him my reasoning, hoping he’d realize how rude this challenge was, but instead, I received the following response:

Classic Kagan-manner.

That’s the first time I stood up for myself and acknowledged my worth as a highly skilled, more than talented candidate, and stopped letting people like Kagan waste my precious time.

I call out Sumo, because they basically started the trend of absurd application processes.

But Sumo is far from the only one pulling these stunts.

Another job I applied for at Later had me complete a quiz, using the buggy software, Hundred5, before I could even apply for the job.

I took the test because I wanted to see what it is was like (I’m an avid early adopter), and it was bad.

The questions were about as good at HubSpot Academy’s exams, which, if you’re familiar, questions often could have multiple answers, and really smart marketers can easily fail it.

The test was timed and had about 15-20 questions. When it came time to submit the quiz, the software bugged out and who knows if my answers/application were even submitted. I didn’t receive an email confirmation either.

What a waste of time.

Want another example? I’ve got one.

Mailerlite posted on WeWorkRemotely that it was looking for a freelance content marketer or something similar to that.

All you had to do was sign-up for a Mailerlite account, and create a campaign.

Here’s my application:



They opened the email three times (I’m sure it was a forwarding address), and clicked on three links, not including my resume or anything of substance.

Wonder what they were trying to do? Hire someone or acquire more users?

These are just a handful of hundreds examples of how inconsiderate companies can be during the hiring process.

Think I’m just a complainer and making this stuff up? I wish I was.

Take this phenomenal article in Columbia Journalism Review, which highlights the gross application processes of many widely popular publications, including but not limited to: Bustle, The Outline and GQ.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the Spring of 2015, GQ asked freelance writer and editor Beejoli Shah to produce a four-page front-of-book section for the magazine. She was responsible for conceiving every element, from lists to profiles to Q&As, and naming writers she thought would be right to tackle each piece. She had two days to do it, although it usually takes editors several weeks. And she would not be paid.

Shah didn’t work at GQ, although she hoped to. The FOB she made wasn’t real: It was an edit test, the screening exercise nearly every publication requires candidates to complete at some point in the hiring process. Shah, an experienced journalist, knew a test was inevitable when she applied for the senior-level Culture Editor position, so she devoted 36 hours to writing 900 words of FOB ideas, plus 3,000 more addressing the other three portions of the edit test. “It was a nightmare, but I wanted that job so badly,” she says.

After returning the test, she met briefly with another editor, which felt promising. A month later, he told her the magazine was “unclear” about their plans. That was the last she heard about the position. “I get that there are a million people taking the test, but to me, that shows how little the hiring process is valued,” she says. “I don’t think people realize how much work is being asked.”

This isn’t just happening in creative jobs though. It’s happening in every industry, including programming.

Quartz at Work wrote about this in April.

The post is by a computer programmer, who was asked to build a food delivery application for a fictional restaurant as a way to test her coding abilities.

“I was a bit shocked. The time commitment for building an entire application from scratch can be substantial, and the homework assignment didn’t pay,” she writes.

What did she do? She did exactly what I did to Kagan — she gave up and rescinded her application.

“After a long weekend of work, I was so exhausted and miffed that I gave up. I told the interviewer I wasn’t interested in the job, but the reality is that I was dismayed at the interview process.”

In the words of Trendwatching, we’re in the era of “Glass Box Brands.”

I’ll let them explain what that means.

glassbox brands


Back in the day a business was a black box. For outsiders, it was pretty hard to see what was going on inside. The brand that was visible to the outside world was whatever you painted on the outside of the box. People came and looked at it. They either liked it or they didn’t.

In 2017, a business is a glass box. Outsiders can easily see inside. They can see the people and the processes. They can see the values. They can even see what the people inside the box feel about what they’re doing.

Do you see how this relates?

Maybe you don’t have negative reviews on Glassdoor or Indeed because you paid for them to be removed, but let me be clear, industry professionals talk, and if your hiring process is like any of the ones I’ve outlined above, then you’re likely the next company to get ghosted.

The data confirms this.

“If your application takes longer than 10 minutes to complete, you are missing out on 50% of qualified job applicants.” (Source)

ideal job application

And according to another study from recruitment company Appcast, recruiters can boost conversion rates (candidates viewing a job ad who go on to complete an application) by up to 365 percent by reducing the length of the application process to five minutes or less. The study tracked 500,000 job seekers looking at online applications across diverse platforms and more than 30,000 completed applications.


Something everyone seems to forget — job seekers and companies — is that jobs are mutually beneficial relationships for the talented.

If you are phenomenal at what you do, you have leverage. Never ever forget that.

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  1. That bad feeling in your stomach is from being hustled. There’s another word for it. Theft.

    Don’t give away your knowledge. Not by writing content or doing code challenges that a company can use & sell.

    i personally balk at interviews over 45 minutes. When i hear 3 hours i just chuckle.

    At the end of the day demand has never been stronger. It is a sellers market. Engineers have the upper hand should they choose to exercise it.

  2. I have had this problem, and also I have had to change my CV so many times because agencies and employers were getting fussy about the layout and content.
    I was finding that I was getting one reply in 200 applications sent, and 1 interview in 1000 applications sent.
    And the main problem was that only 1% of all the applications sent replied.

  3. Thank you for this article! I have been going through a lot of this lately. It is getting really old and tiresome. In the last 6 months i have had 6 phone interviews, and 1 video interview. Every one of these interviews were followed up with an email back thanking them for their time and consideration. I have not heard back from any of them. (I am pretty sure they all want a younger, out of college employee to pay less) but that is besides the point, just let me know I don’t fit within the budget. This is all after each interviewer tells me that they will get back to me in a week or whatever BS timeline they want to give me.

    In the last year I have also been contacted by many other companies , I do my research, and if I am not interested I just let them know. I know this probably looks bad, but I am at the point that I now get right to the point and ask what the salary range is before I even do a phone interview. That way I can either go forward or just end the process right there on the spot. I am not about wasting anyone’s time especially my own.

    Now I am a designer (not a writer) I can’t imaging doing free/cheap design work just to get a job. When will companies realize that is not the way to do business.

  4. Fascinating article. Thanks. My husband is a laborer and was asked by a prominent company to do a $300 job on spec. He and several other single-employee companies were placed in a competition, of sorts, for future work. The multi-million- dollar company received free work. Not one of those “tested” ever received paid work!

  5. It’s interesting how few employers understand that applicants are also interviewing them during the entire hiring process. I received an automated e-mail from a potential employer yesterday, for example, seeking to arrange a telephone interview appointment for next week. I posed a question to the sender in my response and indicated I would check my schedule while waiting for a personal response and before confirming the appointment.

    My purpose was to see whether a human being is actually reading the e-mails or the company is instead over-reliant on automated online systems such as those for setting appointments. I have not yet received a response of any kind, automated or otherwise, so unless I learn otherwise before the desired telephone interview date next week, this company will have failed to passed my own interview criterion before ever having a chance to review my portfolio or meet face-to-face.

  6. I have been filling out applications for graphic artist positions. I can’t understand why they ask for my resume, auto-feed it into the website and out comes a garbled mess that makes me cut and paste the data into the fields correctly so it makes sense. Worse yet, they have me submit the resume, them expect me to type in the same data into the fields–no cut/paste allowed. It is exhausting.

    Then I hear nothing. Crickets. Dead crickets.

    Just get off your lazy ass, read my resume, see I have 40 years experience, reject me without an interview or portfolio review, and send me the frigging rejection email. Chop, chop, I got things to do.

  7. I’ve had a CTO shake my hand with excitement after showing me around the office and where my desk would likely be, only to come back later and tell me that a couple of his rookie engineers with zero social ability or empathy said that I was lying about my technical experience, which is backed by dozens of endorsements and years of successful projects including awards from PC Magazine and other achievements. The hiring process has become so degrading and time-wasting that I would rather put 10x effort into my independent consulting career than burn another 5 years of my life being taken advantage of, lied to, and told that “our company is special because our idea is so great and amazing etc”. Good for you, we all have great ideas. The difference is, some of us know how to execute on them, and some people only know how to exploit others to do their bidding. The time has come to turn this problem on it’s head, because a company is just a company, but a human is an actual being of life, and therefore should be valued and cherished for the unique individual he or she is.

  8. Fantastic article.

    This reminds me of the, also hard to understand, issue many companies have with the way they serve their clients/customers. Many claim to have amazing customer service, but fall incredibly short in this area and then wonder why business, retention, sales etc are lacking.

    Both issues are rooted in a form of arrogance that is hard to believe and is counter productive to their ultimate goal.

  9. The graph that shows the relation between missed opportunity and length of the application is actually wrong. The missed opportunity is the people that do not complete the application. These would be represented by the area above the function effectively making this graph a lot more dramatic.

  10. I wonder if some of the arduous job application process is a way to reduce the number of applications that the hiring company had to go through. Applicants self sort because only the most interested finish the application process? Is it misguided? Yes. But lots of companies these days are built by people with little experience that may lack the nuanced understanding required to develop a deep bench of talented contributors.

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