Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The Art of Rejecting

I don't have a problem with rejections. However, I have a problem with how rejection letters are usually written. Here take a look:

"Dear Dr. sunshine,

The XYZ Committee met to review applications from applicants for the XYZ position. The meeting required to take some difficult decisions – we had many more applications than we could possibly accommodate. We were guided by the referees’ reports we had received on each applicant’s synopsis. We had to take into account the balance of nationalities, and the role of the XYZ in providing support for different contexts across Europe.

We regret that we are unable at present to offer you a position at the XYZ....."

(The letter continues for two more paragraphs).

I don't have the patience to read 120 words before I know of your decision. Rejections suck anyway, but people move on. Had this been an acceptance letter, it would have started with, "Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that ...."

This is not the only example of a poorly written rejection letter, and certainly not a European thing. I have had many job rejects under my belt the past few years, and the rejection letters all looked the same. Verbose. Babbling. Vague. Vain. Lacking depth and focus. And inconsiderate of the rejected's time and patience. Do you see how acceptance letters are all about the candidate ("Congratulations! We are so proud to have someone like you in our team.") while rejection letters are all about the person rejecting ("We had to make an extremely difficult decision, we had applicants from all over the solar system!").

Have the courage to reject gracefully and respect my time. I should be able to read the first line of your letter and know your answer. I can handle rejections well. You got the candidate you wanted, but I've still got to look for another position. Rejections sting. They will sting still the same if I have to read a paragraph of your justification about why I was not good enough. Treat them like injections/shots. Make it quick. Be brief, concise, and to the point. There is no need to ramble and justify your decision. Because the justification you provide is also vague (too many applicants, too little space). 

And if you really care, what will really help is some constructive and honest feedback ("Your language was not at par, your experience was not enough, your publications did not focus on these things, you did not take a multilevel modeling class, etc."). Not your cookie-cutter cliches of helplessness. Because when I read a poorly written letter like this, I feel like picking up a tissue and reaching out to you to wipe your tears saying, "Don't worry, I can feel your pain. You seem more stressed rejecting me than I feel taking your rejection. Don't waste your time anymore. And don't waste my time anymore."


1 comment:

Alpine Path said...

I agree standard rejection letters are useless but the major reason they can't give a straight rejection letter is the possibility of being sued. For example, if they said your publications are not enough, you can sue them and ask them to PROVE its not enough, then they'll have to reveal how many people applied, what criteria they were checked against, what were their personal details, etc. All this can take months, if not years, in the courts. Imagine if every candidate sued - the employer would go bankrupt! So they follow a standard rejection letter where they can't be sued for not being able to offer a job :)