Friday, March 24, 2006

For My Amusement: Excerpts From Rejection Letters

"The Search Committee has reviewed an exceptional number of applications for this position and we were very impressed with the quality of many of the applicants. Upon careful review of your application, the committee felt that your accomplishments to date are truly commendable; however, we are unable to offer you a position at this time. We trust that you will be able to find a position that is compatible with your research interests and accomplishments and we offer our best wishes in your future endeavors."

"Thank you for the interest that you expressed in the faculty position. The Recruitment Committee has given serious consideration to your application. Yours was one of a number of excellent applications that we received. However, the Committee has decided to focus on other applicants."

>Dear Colleague:
>Thank you for responding to the advertisement for our faculty position. Although you did not make the short list for an >interview, we truly appreciate your interest and the opportunity to review >your resume. The decision was made particularly difficult because of the >large number of outstanding applicants. Although we have not reached a >final decision yet, we want to let you know the status of our search at >this time.

"After reviewing all of the application materials, we have selected to interview those whose skills, knowledge and
experience more closely meet the needs of the hiring department."

"Thank you very much for your application for a position.The search committee has now met, and I am sorry to say that we have decided not to pursue your application further. Both the number and the quality of the applicants have been very high, and we can interview only a limited number of people.

I am sorry that we cannot respond more positively, and I wish you success in your future work."

"Thank you for your interest in a faculty position in our department. Our recruiting committee has met several times over the past two months and has completed the review of your file. Over 250 total applications were received. We have decided to limit our interviews to 4 assistant candidates whose research focuses most closely complement and extend our current faculty in the department and across the institution. Unfortunately, we are not currently able to offer you an interview. I hope that your job search will be successful."

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At 1:39 PM, Blogger dlamming said...


I like that last comment though- at least their honest. If your research isn't exactly what they are looking for, I guess you're out of luck.

At 1:53 PM, Blogger ScienceWoman said...

funny those sound a lot like my rejection letters! (at least the ones that bothered to officially reject me and not just leave me in the dark for 6 months)

At 7:17 AM, Blogger TW Andrews said...

At least they're mostly polite.

At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After a score of rejection letters and a few score more of nothing, you will come to appreciate the former. At least they cared enough to write. Sometimes they will even tell you whom they hired. In my four years of academic searches, I only saved the best rejection letters (including one from the place that hired me the next year). This year, I got a letter from the chancellor saying that my promotion to full professor went through. I’m pretty sure that it was a form letter, too. Oh, and my grant applications run four-to-one against and those rejections come with ten pages of detailed explanation. Good thing I submit four or five every year. Part of being an academic is having a thick hide and being too stupid to quit.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger PhD Mom said...

I bet I can top you all. I applied for faculty positions in 2003 and just now received a rejection letter from one of the places I applied. My advisor has to forward it to me. I mean have the really been thinking that I was waiting with baited breath for the last three years!

At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was rejected by the American Assoc for Cancer Research 2006 Fellowships-- however they didnt even bother to send a rejection email. I happened to get a Google alert when they announced the winners.

At 12:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, I can't see anything wrong with these letters. How would a negative answer have to be worded so that you'd be content with it?

At 3:33 PM, Blogger pfjcsm said...

I empathize with your post. I have been applying for a PhD and have been getting rejections, mostly because my GPA at my MS is much lower than the GPA of kids with a BS who apply for a PhD. Its frustrating and sick and has left me with a low self worth. It doesn't matter that I have completed a research project with the most difficult advisor in my department and am in the process of getting two papers out. As far as the schools I have applied to are concerned, I am not worthy enough because my grades suck!!!!

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Meredtih said...

Those sound AWFULLY familiar- I wonder if every institution and even every department have really similar rejection form letters, or if we just applied for some of the same jobs this year, LOL.

Don't you hate those e-rejections? Like they can't even waste a stamp! But at least they don't leave you ahnging, like some places, I guess.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Junniper said...

This one's my favorite:

"Although you did not make the short list for an interview, we truly appreciate your interest and the opportunity to review your resume."

Is that supposed to make you feel better that the interview list was short? hahhaaha! Punks.

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

guess it's time to look for that staff scientist position you said those other whiny postdocs should take...

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Jess said...

As someone who has had to generate these letters before I can only say, sorry!!

But it is awfully hard to write a rejection letter that doesn't sound sucky. My chairman has taken to writing chicken scratched comments on the ones that go to candidates he knows personally like, "Sorry this didn't work out - went in a different direction this time" or "Call me if you want to talk about things." I hate to think what that phone call would be like, if someone actually had the guts to make it!

The last batch I had to send I was really tempted to write "Eenie, meenie, miney moe. . . . and you are not IT!"

But I thought that would be really mean. :)

At 4:03 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

It's true, it's hard to write good ones. But I did get some (I got a lot more than are on here).

I think it's awesome that your chairman offers to give personalized feedback. I could use some of that, although I suspect I know more or less what they would say, it would be nice to know what really matters the most.

re: the eenie/meenie/miney/moe, I have heard it's getting pretty arbitrary at this point because there are so many good applicants. I don't know if you meant it that way.

At 1:51 PM, Blogger Jess said...

Well, we seem to get two kinds of applications - really BAD ones and really GOOD ones. The bad ones have an aura of desperation around their very envelopes, and I feel badly for these individuals who just aren't in the right field or have gone through a series of hard knocks, but I also feel when I open an entirely unsuitable application, "Great, another app to type and file with no chance of getting hired." Like the concert bassoonist with an MFA from some tiny conservatory who sent cds of her repertoire and her headshot, when the position was for a tenure-track professor of music theory and we don't even offer course work in music performance!

For the good ones, it's all about personality. We had a five-way tie for our last position as far as the quality of work and references and interviews, but only one clear choice as to who would be suitable to work arm in arm with our existing faculty and student body. It was tough, because the other candidates were eminently academically qualified, but just weren't the right fit.

Sorry to keep posting on an older post - but it's interesting to talk all three sides of the job search process (applicant, staff, and faculty interviewers). :)

At 2:03 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


I'm glad to continue this conversation. It's giving me some ideas.

For example, if personality matters so much, why don't they add it to the advertisement? Something like:

"Extremely outgoing, opinionated young faculty member wanted"


"Non-threatening, easy-going"


"Efficient, detail-oriented professional attitude"

etc. ?

I mean, how the hell are we supposed to know what the department is looking for? And how are they supposed to have any idea what our personalities are like from our applications, when the whole idea of science is supposed to be so objective?

Argh. I don't think my applications came across as desperate. I think they probably had no idea what to do with someone like me, and since I'm not an obvious choice, they go with the more mainstream people who worked for advisors they've gone drinking with.

At 10:16 PM, Blogger Jess said...

I think they don't put those kinds of statements because academic jobs are supposed to be based on research and the actual work of the candidate than about them personally - admitting to seeking a particular personality might seem to dumb the search down to what one might post when looking for an office monkey (like me!). But there are also always going to be more candidates than there are jobs, so when you have a group where their work is basically on par, it comes down to personality and who you know. Networking is key.

I'm in the arts, though, so I'm not so sure about the sciences. Artists are known for their quirks and explosive personalities - we have several professors whose temper tantrums are legendary, and yet they still have jobs. . . But when we're looking for new faculty, we don't want someone who will rock the boat in any way that might be unpleasant to the establishment (as much as I wish comeuppance on some of them. . .).

The whole issue of finding work in academia is about paradox - your work might be brilliant but you might be a total asshole, or you might write well but freeze in front of a classful of undergraduates, you might have gotten crappy grades but you might be really good at networking, or you might just fall through the cracks for no reason at all. It sucks. It's rare to find an applicant for a faculty job who is brilliant and personable AND a good teacher AND willing to take on administrative work in addition to teaching and research - but it's not uncommon to find five or ten who have at least three out of those four qualities.

I guess from the job searches I've worked on, networking is always going to be a tipping point. Make a favorable impression at a conference and then build the relationship from there, volunteer for things within professional organizations that will get you noticed, and back up those contacts with work that people are interested in. Sometimes I'm sure it feels like you're selling out, but these are qualities of the people who consistently get jobs.

Again, I'm speaking from observing searches in the arts, so the sciences may have altogether different animals to play with. :)

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At 10:32 AM, Anonymous said...

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At 11:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this is really old but it has been extraordinarily helpful for me. I just completed chairing my first faculty search committee and had no clue how to write the rejection letters. I realized that I waited too long to tell people they weren't on the short list, but at least they'll get something. There's no positive way to say we hired someone else. Especially for the folks who come in for the interview. As for putting that personality comes into play on the advertisement... that's way more trouble than its worth. And yes, even in the sciences once you make the cut on research, it's who do you think will fit best in the environment. That's true for any job, not just academia.


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