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Some time ago, I had lunch with the Head of People from a rapidly growing ‘start-up’ – with $500m+ of funding and global operations, one can hardly call them a start-up anymore!

As with any rapidly growing company, a priority is to hire the right people to sustain the growth. There’s a simple reason start-ups move from the bedroom to the garage to shared space to shiny offices. Because the team is growing fast and they need more space. But teams don’t hire themselves.
These types of high-growth companies have a blessing and also a curse. Namely: they are very popular. Often they are consumer brands of the moment, so you’re aware of them in your day to day life. But they also attract the rapidly expanding number of professional services people who target start-ups as their next employer ( data shows this has doubled in the past 3 years and is now in the top 5 targets).

So why’s popularity a blessing and a curse?

It’s a blessing because you can attract great people. And you can attract them quickly. You have the cream of the crop coming through your doors.
However, the crop is a bumper one. Loads of people will be interested. Particularly in the more generalist roles. And these companies risk being overwhelmed with applicants.
The knock on effect is that they can struggle to manage the load well. Applicants never hear back. Or only hear back after months of waiting. Interviews take too long to schedule – and often the preferred candidate takes another offer in the meantime.
A poor candidate experience impacts brand – both their employer brand and their actual brand (these applicants are the target user/consumer for many of these companies). It’s really not a good thing.
Over lunch, we came up with a simple solution. If you can’t cope with the volume – and by cope we mean getting back to every single applicant within 2 weeks of application – just turn off the taps. Advertise opportunities for a far shorter amount of time. Close off the ability to apply, while you process those who have applied already. And if none of those candidates work out, just turn the tap back on again – confident that the flow of new interest will be pretty much immediate.

It seems so simple and so obvious. So why doesn’t it happen more? 

We felt that it is in part down to the vast majority of recruiters never having worked for a company in such high demand. They are wired to leave the flood gates open as they’re used to recruiting for companies that struggle to attract talent quickly and in high numbers. They’ve grown used to their local stream, but are suddenly in the Amazon river.
So if you’re recruiting for a brand in high demand, think about whether it would help you if you turned the taps on and off more regularly. Another trick is to pool similar roles and develop a pipeline: that’s another topic and I talk about it here.

The best candidates are in demand 


If you take 2 weeks to get back to a good candidate, guaranteed they’ll have other irons in the fire already. Younger companies would get back within 1 day or 2. They might even have an offer out within 2 weeks.
Interested in hiring? Find out more here, or contact