It's graduation season, the time when many young people are mulling what to do about a job offer. Some ask their parents. Some ask their professors or their friends. And, this being 2015, some ask strangers online.
A young engineer posted a question Tuesday on Quora, the question-and-answer social media platform, about two offers under consideration. The just-starting-out engineer wanted to know whether ride-sharing phenom Uber or HR software service startup Zenefits — both of which appeared to have made job offers — was the best place to start a career.
"Uber has a really good reputation," the engineer wrote in a list of pros and cons, noting that Zenefits isn't as much of a buzzword on the resume. "I think that working at Uber will really help me move to companies like Google and Apple, which is something that I want to do in the distant future."
But it wasn't just random people who chimed in with advice. Zenefits CEO and co-founder Parker Conrad also weighed in with an answer. "Definitely not Zenefits," he wrote, going on to say that the company was rescinding its offer. "We really value people who 'get' what we do and who *want* to work here, specifically," Conrad wrote. "It's not for everyone, but there are enough ppl out there who do want to work here that we can afford to be selective."
Then, apparently realizing it's not great PR to publicly tell a young engineer that an offer no longer stands, Conrad edited his response. He took out the part about the offer being revoked and then noted his comment had been lightly edited to remove info that "didn't seem fair to have be public."
A spokesman for Zenefits confirmed the job offer was rescinded and said a company recruiter contacted the engineer by phone before Conrad's post on Quora, but would not comment further.
This would be nothing other than a random recruiting flap in a mildly trending social media episode, except that everything about it is just so perfectly indicative of the times. The willingness to publicly share details of a job offer and tap the hive mind for input. The proud startup CEO who says it's a "bad sign" when people hesitate about a job offer. The young engineer weighing multiple offers at hot Silicon Valley companies — one that's upending entire industries and another that just announced a huge $500 million in funding.
And then there is the permanence of digital 'oops' moments, and the Internet's uncanny ability to find them. Because people can see how other Quora users have edited their posts, Conrad's changes to his answer were called out by others. "Ooof, beware edit history on Quora," wrote Tracy Chou, a widely followed engineer at Pinterest who formerly worked at Quora.
Finally, of course, there's the ensuing viral debate on Twitter. Some praised Conrad for acting appropriately or defending his company's culture, while others called it a "brittle reaction" or "absurd," asking "where’s the empathy for how hard it is for folks just starting out?"
And what of the young engineer? We were unable to reach or identify the anonymous applicant (a post we made to the thread on Quora has not yet been returned). The engineer did make another post to the thread, apologizing and saying "no disrespect" was intended for Conrad and the Zenefits team: "I wish you guys all the best. :)"
And though Uber hasn't confirmed whether its offer was accepted, Mark Ragowsky, a member of Uber's communications team, weighed in on the Quora thread. "Come work for Uber," he wrote. "We need great engineers, senior, junior and everything in between."