28 May 2005

A Tale of Two Rejection Letters

Two rejection letters I recently received, with identifying information removed:

Dear Ms. Goetz,

The [name of fellowship] selection committee has carefully reviewed all of the applications for appointment beginning in the fall of 2005. I regret to inform you that yours was not among those chosen to receive funding.

Letters such as this regularly claim that the applicant ppol was large and that many deserving candidates had to be rejected. Let me assure you that, in this case, these are not empty words. We had a rich pool of [number] excellent applications from candidates at [number] universities in the United State, Canada, and Europe, and we could only make nine awards. It was disheartening to have to turn down so many promising young scholars whose work is worthy of support.

While I am sorry not to be able to convey better news, on behalf of the committee I want to thank you for applying for the fellowship and for giving us the chance to learn about your work. I wish you every success in your future endeavors.

Now that was a rejection letter that left me beaming. Yes, I was very disappointed not to be offered a fellowship, but this letter let me down easy. Now try this one:

Dear Ms. Goetz,

I am writing to inform you that you have not been awarded a [name of fellowship here] in this year's competition. On behalf of the Department, I wish you continued success as you complete your dissertation.

Eh? Now that is an example of how NOT to write a rejection letter. It isn't polite or kind. Let all those who read this blog who have to periodically write reject letters model theirs after the first example. Give the grad students some reason to keep trying!


At Saturday, May 28, 2005 6:06:00 PM, Blogger Another Damned Medievalist said...

I feel for you! You'd think that people would at least try! I have to say, one of the places that interviewed me sent the nastiest of rejection letters. Some of the ones where I didn't stand a chance were much kinder indeed. Oh well -- maybe when I get to hire people ...

At Wednesday, June 15, 2005 8:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The number of thoughtless rejection letters that I got during my fellowship/job search was amazing. To me, it says a lot as to how department or program leaders think about new hires and grad students.

At Wednesday, August 17, 2005 1:08:00 PM, Anonymous Sean said...

At least you got a rejection letter. Probably 1/3 of all jobs where I sent an application NEVER REPLIED AT ALL. Did they cancel the search? Did I barely not make the cut? Who knows? -- I do like the letters that told me the name and affiliation of the person who got the job. I still keep in contact with a few of these people in my field, who have turned out to be really friendly.

At Friday, August 19, 2005 9:21:00 AM, Anonymous Sean said...

To Medievalist: when you hire people you'll find that it's a pain. I've served on 10 search committees in 5 years and I've chaired 2 of them. They never come at a good time. You're always busy with other stuff. It is incredibly time consuming. But somehow going through the applications is uplifting in a way -- I enjoy seeing people at their best. And I've always tried to be really nice even to those who got rejected, since I know how it feels to be on the other side!


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