One of the big headlines around the WhatsApp $19 billion acquisition by Facebook is that one of the cofounders was rejected by Facebook (and Twitter) back in 2009.
Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life’s next adventure. — Brian Acton (@brianacton) August 3, 2009
What we find interesting in this isn’t necessarily the $19 billion or the rejection itself. We are more interested in what this might teach us about how to treat candidates. Here are our four big takeaways:
1. Leave them with a good impression
Yeah, we harp on this one a lot. Because you know what? You really need to leave candidates – ALL candidates – with a good impression of your company and people. By leaving folks with a good impression, you…
- Protect your employer brand
- Leave yourself open to the possibility of having them work for you in the future (I’ve seen it happen!)
- Get them to refer their friends
- Leave open the possibility of acquiring their company for billions of dollars in the future 🙂
2. Have fantastic people
One remarkable thing about Brian’s tweet was that he talked about connecting with some fantastic people at Facebook. I have to wonder whether that influenced his decision to go to the negotiating table with them later on. After all, wouldn’t you want to sell your company to a place with fantastic people?
This means, of course that you have to hire carefully for culture fit (and then, of course, be nice to those people who don’t fit) and make sure that you keep your people happy enough for them to come across as fantastic in an interview. Kudos to Facebook for doing so in 2009.
3. Remember that they’re not dead to you
We live in a tiny, tiny little world. Industry verticals and places like the Bay Area make it even tinier. A candidate who once interviewed with your company can and will come around again. Maybe they’ll be a supplier. Maybe an acquisition target. Heck, maybe you’ll meet them on the other side of the interview desk! In any case, a candidate – especially one in your industry – will never truly leave your world.
4. Money might buy you out of grudge, but do you have $19 billion lying around?
“Hey – I wouldn’t care HOW a company treated me. I’d be nice to anyone for $19 billion.” Is that what you thought when you first heard about the acquisitions and rejections? I have to admit that it’s what I thought. Then my next thought, though, is how much money it would take me to get over a bad experience such that I could have a good working relationship in the future. I don’t hold grudges much, so it’s not prohibitively expensive to buy my love. Some people who do hold grudges, though? Well, I know that most SMEs don’t have that kind of money lying around, so we can’t count on buying someone out of grudge. And some folks can NEVER be bought.
We’re really happy for WhatsApp and its record-setting exit. We’re even happier, though, that Facebook did the right thing in their recruitment process with a rejected candidate and won big in the future as a result.