“A precursor to ghosting is when either party doesn’t feel bought into the process or has that emotional investment. There has to be greater emphasis on approaching people you genuinely think are right for the job. And, if someone takes time out of their day for an interview, virtually or in person, they deserve feedback.”
Craig Freedberg, a regional director at recruitment firm Robert Half
Yesterday I spent an excruciating period of time documenting the past five rejections (or lack there of) after interviewing with a wide range of companies. I wanted to share it with a friend of mine who offered me a promising consulting project to give her some context on both how grateful I am that I currently have a seasonal position with an amazing group of people, but how scared I am to enter the job-seeking world again full-time when this role ends.
I have thought a lot about this. I keep telling myself that I am never going to accept another interview without certain conditions (i.e., a guarantee that I’ll be treated with respect and kindness) or that I won’t become emotionally invested in every potential opportunity.
I’ve even considered including a proper rejection letter as part of my cover letter. One that includes a personal touch which is lacking in nearly every email I’ve received over the past year. “Leah, thanks for taking the time to meet with me. I really enjoyed hearing about your work with the Charlottesville Track Club. If I were a long distance runner I would definitely want to sign up for the Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon. It’s clear you’ve invested a great deal of time and effort into making it a fun community race.”
It doesn’t need to be a competition between which is worse: the generic rejection after you’ve shared a personal story that connects you to the mission of the organization or being ghosted after you’ve made yourself vulnerable by sharing your top two weaknesses. They both suck. They both hurt. Neither should ever happen in my opinion. It’s just bad business and it’s not kind.
Every applicant could some day be a potential client, customer, donor, or volunteer. Why in the world would you want someone to leave with a bad impression when showing some empathy and respect takes just a few minutes. One sentence is all it takes. One sentence that shows you listened and appreciated one unique thing about the person.
I know that it can be awkward to have certain conversations. I know that we’re all very busy and some things slip through the cracks or that it’s just easier to be impersonal and copy and paste.
I’m not perfect either. I have two emails I’ve been meaning to send, but put off far too long. One to someone who asked for feedback on the interviewing process after rejecting me and another about a volunteering opportunity that I haven’t had the energy to invest in properly. Those messages will be sent today. I’ll probably over apologize and over share, but I’ll be honest and even if I never get a response, I’ll know I did what felt was the right thing to do.
My other musings about the job hunt:
Talking about suicide is never easy, but it’s imperative to start the conversation.
I’ve been thinking about something a former therapist once told me that I now find wholly inappropriate and even dangerous, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
When an elementary school classmate died by suicide last year I wrote a bit about my experience with suicide in my own family as well as my feelings regarding having confrontations or disagreements with friends or strangers who have opinions that are the antithesis to my own beliefs. Some feel suicide is a sin. Others see it as a coward’s way out.
Since you never know who has a personal experience with suicide or if someone has lost a family member or friend to mental illness, it's important to always start the conversation from a place of kindness and empathy when speaking of suicide.
My other related posts:
I hope to write more about this, but in the meantime, here are some other resources.
10 Things Not to Say to a Suicidal Person
“I do know people, especially teens, for whom this statement was tremendously helpful. It spoke to them. But it also communicates that the person’s problems are temporary, when they might be anything but. In such a situation, a realistic goal for the person might be to learn to cope with problems and to live a meaningful life in spite of them. The other problem with this statement is it conveys that suicide is a solution – permanent, yes, and a solution. At a minimum, I recommend changing the word “solution” to “act” or “action,” simply to avoid reinforcing that suicide does indeed solve problems.”
Please Stop Saying, “Suicide is a permanent solution …”
“The statement violates the age-old principle that what we communicate ought to be designed specifically with a focus on the audience for whom the particular communication is intended. “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” might strike someone who is not suicidal as a clever statement, and it might be a helpful thing to hear from the point of view of someone who already believes (or is likely to be convinced) that his or her problem is temporary. But the audience for this anti-suicide ditty is, of course, people who are suicidal.”
DON’T SAY “SUICIDE IS A PERMANENT SOLUTION TO A TEMPORARY PROBLEM”
by Nancy Virden
Suicide is never a solution. Period.
Not all problems are temporary
‘Not temporary’ does not mean hopeless
Why you shouldn’t say “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”
by Hollis Easter
It’s not effective
It sounds judgmental
“I liked something Joanna wrote: that it can be helpful to ask people ‘not to take irreversible action when they’re at their lowest.’”
The Problem with Saying Suicide is a Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem
by David Telisman
“In the mental health vernacular, a popular expression that I don’t like is, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” I’m not a licensed anything when it comes to the treatment of mental illness, but I live with it everyday, and I can tell you that this expression is a misnomer. Suicide is as tragic as it gets, and many people have an awful penchant of demonizing those who’ve taken their own lives as “cowards” rather than showing compassion and learning why--and there’s an abundance of reasons why--people carry out this act.”
I will celebrate my 6th PokemonGo Anniversary on July 11. I can’t remember life before this game. It’s been a constant personal motivator as well as a bonding experience for me and my husband of 22 years. Initially we wanted the kids to play with us since they were avid Pokémon card collectors when they were younger, but that didn’t last long. My niece and nephew were also among the legions players that left the game over the past few years when the initial nostalgic obsession faded, but my love of this game has never been stronger!
My husband has joked that if PokemonGo is ever pulled from the app store, we’ll have to get a divorce. In laughing together at the thought of this we also acknowledge the huge impact this game has had on our lives as a couple. It connects us as we live over 1,000 miles away from each other for more than 250 days a year. The only presents my husband ever gives me are the gifts in PokemonGo, the regional postcards with happy and colorful digital stickers. Our virtual long-distance dates are remote raid battles. We text each other screenshots of newly acquired shiny Pokemon like we share our daily Wordle scores.
We are best friends in both the game and life. Here’s hoping for another 6 years of couple-enhanced gaming!
I had just one account for quite some time, but as soon as I realized the advantages of having multiple players on each of the teams I might have taken it a bit too far. When I would sit in Starbucks with 6 old iPhones tapping away to fight a virtual creature I'd get strange looks or references to the grandpa in Japan who had rigged a scooter to hold his dozens of devices to play.
I recently interviewed for two positions with job titles and salaries that were not necessarily at the same level as my last full time job, but seemed like the perfect roles for me at this point in my life.
I was eager to join both organizations due to the nature of their businesses and the responsibilities of the positions.
In my follow-up letter to one, I explained that the role was the ideal opportunity for me and I really wanted to work with the team I met. “On paper it might seem that I’m overqualified or perhaps a temporary role isn’t the best career move at my stage in life, but when I first saw the listing I was immediately drawn to it and wanted to apply.”
For the other, I went above and beyond to prepare a presentation before the phone screening with the talent advisor. During the call my presentation was shared with the hiring manager who apparently responded, “OMG get her in for an interview ASAP.” I was thrilled!
That excitement quickly turned to fear as I was incredibly nervous before the second interview. I added 8 more slides to my presentation in hopes of impressing them even more. In my thank you message I wrote:
“I’m looking to join a company where I imagine myself staying until I retire, in whatever role I can do my best work. I’m a loyal and creative person and when I commit to something, I’m in it for the long haul. This is one reason why I’m a marathoner and I spent the majority of my adult life in just two positions.
I prepared a presentation before meeting anyone in your company because I wanted to demonstrate my commitment to the interview process and to show my next-level interest in this specific role. I think it’s crucial to find a candidate who’s willing to efficiently size up your current efforts as well as make recommendations. I began that process, but I have so much more I’d like to share. I’d love the opportunity to discuss my thoughts with your team and to learn more about the decision making process for current initiatives as well as your larger marketing plans for the future.”
Hours later I was rejected, apparently because I was overqualified.
“At this time, our team feels your qualifications are outside of the parameters of the role. We do not feel it is a good long-term strategy to offer you less than you are worth.”
I know my worth. I know what I want. And when I believe I have value to add to a team, I go for it.
I would never invest so much time in an application if I didn’t feel it was an opportunity I wanted to pursue.
I was at Learning Without Tears for over 22 years. When I left I wasn’t a Senior Manager or a Vice President, I was in a mid-level Specialist/Coordinator role. Those upper management and executive titles have never been my career goal.
I want to do something I’m good at, that I enjoy, and with people whom I like. I’m a “rockstar” not a “superstar” (as described in “Radical Candor”.) I’ve never found it desireable or necessary to climb the corporate ladder. All I want is a role where I can be productive and creative, where I work with people who accept, value, and compliment my true self to achieve a greater good as a team. To me, that is true success.
I never thought that putting so much care and consideration into an initial interview might disqualify me, but that’s who I am and it’s important for me to share what I have to offer. I am intense. Maybe in a way that not everyone sees as a positive, but it’s who I am.
After this latest rejection I searched “overqualified” and found this relevant article:
“What Employers Really Mean When They Say You’re Overqualified (And What You Can Do About It)”
Of course it terrified me to see this explanation of what employers are thinking when they say you’re overqualified:
You’re too old
“Yep… this is the ugly one. Some employers maintain negative stereotypes about older candidates. The law prevents them from discriminating based on age, so “overqualified” is a useful proxy to avoid explicitly addressing the age issue in hiring.“
I’m a runner and race results live forever. I will never be able to hide my age and I wouldn’t want to because I’m proud to be 51.
Luckily, without even knowing it, I followed their advice to address being “overqualified”:
1. Explain your situation
2. Show your enthusiasm for the job
3. Be clear (and reasonable) about your salary expectations
4. Explain how your extra skills will help the employer
5. Network, network, network
I’ll never know if they really thought I was overqualified or if it was an acceptable excuse for some other reason. If I bombed the interview and said something that turned them off, I’d really like to know, but I’ve learned after 100 interviews that no one will really give you the feedback you need even if you ask for it.
Rejection stings no matter what. It’s especially painful when you make an extra effort and expose your own vulnerabilities by being honest.
I know my worth and it’s not dependent on being hired although sometimes it’s hard to believe that.
I’ve only cried a few times during my job search. There have been just a handful of jobs that I felt absolutely perfect for and was extra eager to make a good impression.
It’s terrifying to to be brave enough to communicate what you want with the founder of a business or to share extremely personal details about the difficulties of the unemployment process and what lead to it to human resources.
Being vulnerable is risky, but it’s in my nature. I’d much rather overshare and leave everything on the table than have regrets that I didn’t do everything I could to get the outcome I wanted.
I was inconsolable with tears when I received the email rejecting me for being overqualified, telling me it wasn’t a good long-term strategy to offer me less than I’m worth.
When I applied for the position I was required to put a salary expectation. The amount I shared was actually less than the starting salary given in the initial phone screening. How then could they offer me less than I decided I’m worth?
My desires and expectations about what role I need and the compensation I want have become clearer over the past two years. I’ve learned that money isn’t everything and that I must believe in what I’m doing. Titles have never mattered to me, but success does. There’s no one direct road to accomplishing your goals. It’s the journey and the relationships that matter.
I think I’m an amazing person with so much to offer no matter the position or the company. I honestly believe the next manager who hires me will have no regrets because I will only accept a role that feels right for me and will lead to success for everyone involved.
I will be filing my final weekly claim for unemployment benefits on Sunday. I won’t be able to answer YES to the question regarding having a start date for full-time employment, but I am optimistic about the future.
For the past 25 weeks I’ve poured myself into the work of finding full-time employment and it’s been quite the journey: exciting and arduous, invigorating and demoralizing.
Since February 2021, I’ve had 100 interviews with over 70 companies. I consider that an accomplishment even though all of my efforts resulted in a total of 17 weeks paid work with two different companies and three volunteer roles.
I have wanted to “quit” this job of looking for a job so many times this year, but I persevered and in the process I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve reassessed what I want, need, and desire in an employer and reexamined all my strengths and weaknesses.
I’ve also identified key problems in the hiring process that have left me frustrated, yet inspired to create a better and more equitable system.
One personality trait that has led to many achievements in my life is my inability to see a problem without wanting and trying to fix it. I’m determined to take all the lessons I’ve learned to help others navigate long-term unemployment without losing hope and their core identity. Stay tuned for more information on how I plan to do this.
In the meantime, I’d like to make a huge plug for davidolenick.com whose illustrations and designs speak to me every day! THANK YOU for making me smile during difficult times.
As a RRCA certified race director and running coach, I volunteered with the Charlottesville Track Club for over 13 years by creating logos, managing training programs, and promoting events. My proudest achievement is the creation of the Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon in 2014. The 10th running of the event will be celebrated on December 4, 2022.
I worked for 22 years at Learning Without Tears, a family-owned company that specializes in handwriting, literacy, and keyboarding. It seems a bit kismet considering I had horrible penmanship as a child despite always loving to write, eventually earning my MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University.
I was born in Findlay, OH, raised in Reading, PA, worked in DC for 12 years, living in Charlottesville, VA since 2005.
favorite inspirational quote:
“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we might oft win by fearing to attempt.”
From “Measure for Measure” by Shakespeare
I am not a huge Shakespeare fan, I prefer James Joyce, but my husband is a 17th century scholar who shared his colleague’s favorite Shakespeare quote with me back in 2012. It’s been a running mantra and Geeks Who Drink Trivia team name ever since!
I got married on Bloomsday, June 16, the day depicted in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. I named my son, Laoghaire Ignatius, after the Irish town Dún Laoghaire where you’ll find the James Joyce Tower & Museum and a character from the short story “A Little Cloud” in Dubliners. My daughter’s name, Annalivia Plurabelle, comes from a character in Finnegans Wake, who’s a personification of the River Liffey, which flows through Dublin.
what I do for fun:
I love long walks, slow runs, Pokémon GO, Geeks Who Drink Trivia, and Wordle.
if I could have one magical super power:
When Fran proposed to me on my 29th birthday (May 18th), I knew immediately that I wanted to elope less than 30 days later on June 16th: Bloomsday.
We took a course on Ulysses together at George Mason University and had fond memories visiting the historical sites associated with the novel during trips to Dublin in 1999 and 2000.
I’ve got to write more about the other ways I’ve incorporated James Joyce into my personal life, most importantly in the naming of my children!
Here’s my new mantra to calm some of the anxiety I experience before interviews:
“I have no one to please and nothing to prove. I don’t even know if I want this job yet!”
I found this quote after googling “I hate interviews will i ever get a job”. Seriously.
The article, which includes tips on overcoming interview anxiety, stated the obvious:
“A job interview is a very artificial situation.“
Perhaps the key to improving the interviewing process is taking steps to encourage a more authentic conversation rather than to have a static test.
Having endured nearly 100 interviews over the past year, I know that the best ones happen when the script is ditched and real personalities are revealed.
I strongly believe that if you have a set list of questions you want to ask prospective employees during an interview then include that as part of the application process.
Requiring applicants to answer specific questions when submitting a resume helps both you and the applicant by weeding out those who are blinding submitting generic cover letters to dozens of employers (full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of this!).
It’s immeasurably helpful for me to understand exactly what a company wants when they put the extra effort into creating a more equitable process for hiring. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating.
I plan to examine more lessons learned from my own experiences, but in the meantime, here are some useful resources I’ve found online.
Just tell candidates what you’re going to ask ahead of time.
It's time to make transparent interviews the new normal.
TIPS ON OVERCOMING INTERVIEW ANXIETY
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS TO ASK EMPLOYERS