David Heinemeier Hansson

January 6, 2022

It's not a lottery

The opening for director of engineering at Basecamp has barely been up for a day, and there's already an inbox full of applicants. Virtually none of whom seem to have bothered reading the basic requirements for the opening or comply with the instructions on how to make a successful application. And I'm just left thinking: What's the point? Do people think this is a lottery?

This isn't unique to this position, of course. We always get a large amount of applicants to openings at Basecamp who don't even seem to do the most basic work to ensure their application fits the opening. And it fascinates me, because presumably this approach must work for some people, some of the time, right? Otherwise why would you keep operating like this?

Maybe that's part of the disillusionment with the modern job market. That applications are being processed by AI, and humans don't even see your effort, unless the computer finds the matching keywords in the CV. So why put in the effort! But is that actually true? Are lots of companies actually hiring this way? For positions like this? I'm skeptical.

Either way, it's not how we review applications at Basecamp. There's a human on the other side, and that human is not going to spend five minutes pondering whether you might be a fit for the role, if you don't comply with the basic requirements, like including a cover letter. Or having the relevant experience required for the role (like needing experience as a "manager of managers" for the director of engineering).

You might think, what's the harm? Not like it takes a lot of effort to apply like this! Just spam the CV, and that's it. But I think there's a cost to that kind of job applications which show up in a psychological toll from a terrible applications-to-callbacks ratio. That further just worsens the feedback loop: I'm not getting callbacks, so I'll put even less effort into the next opening.

I guess what I'm saying is make the effort or don't bother. We're not drawing names out of a hat here.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.