A few years post-graduation, as the reality of adult life - early mornings, office politics, rent bills - sets in, most people start Googling the companies they saw on Shark Tank, passed on subway posters or got a referral code for from a friend. Any good job postings?
Millennials want meaning in their work, to witness impact on a business. They want to and do feel a strong connection to brands, seeded in a belief that their real time feedback - tweeting, posting, liking - is not only encouraged but needed. They relish evangelizing products and services they're early to find, and are often first in line when a relevant position opens up.
Your users and fans can be and often are an excellent recruiting pool, particularly at the junior and mid-level; they're already bought into the mission.
Small, early stage companies don't often have the resources for a robust HR operation - the CEO or COO tends to be heavily involved in or managing the process entirely, minimal intake and processing tools are used, interviews may be loosely structured and there are often many candidates to consider. Hiring is important, but it's one of 20 things on the to-do list, and the focus is often just on filling the spot.
Founders are often miffed when potential partners or investors to whom they're selling their story fail to provide a direct yes or no, but frequently forget that they have that same obligation to the people eager to be part of that story.
One thing big companies with large talent acquisition departments are great at is saying no. I've never heard of someone applying for a corporate job and not hearing back - whether from an automated system or a human being.
A good friend recently interviewed for a position with a startup in New York of which she'd been a dedicated fan from their earliest days - a highly engaged user with an influential network who told everyone she knew about this amazing company. Visit their website, download their app, this team and their product are awesome!
She was thrilled to meet the CEO, and put together a long list of ideas to share on potential partnerships that could drive additional awareness and monetization. They said she was great, and would be in touch next week on next steps.
When a week went by, she sent a quick follow-up note. When another week passed, she figured they were just swamped. Six week, still nothing. When she finally got an e-mail letting her know the role had been filled, many months later, it was only because she'd mentioned to an acquaintance of the founders that they'd failed to ever respond.
Needless to say, she's no longer preaching the company's gospel.
Passing is fine - you will pass on the majority of candidates for any role until you find just the right fit. What's dangerous is mismanaging the process such that a fan becomes a critic, because commentators of any kind speak loudly. A bad hiring experience ruins your reputation not just with one person, but with every other person with whom he or she comes in contact, including that one future candidate you'll now never be able to recruit. That's not the virality your company is looking for, and the fastest way to ruin your reputation with talent.