Open the door, or close it?

In the last 10 days, we’ve received over 300 applications for open positions we’re currently recruiting for at Collegewise. With that many applications, we have to turn away a lot more people than we can hire or even interview. And we think applicants who show an interest in us deserve to be treated with respect, especially if they really take the time to put together a thoughtful cover letter to help us get to know them. Applying for jobs can be a demoralizing experience for even the most intrepid job-seeker, and it’s important to remember that there’s always a person behind the paper.

Still, it’s interesting to see how some people respond to an email telling them we will not be offering them a position. Many reply and thank us for the update, citing how many jobs they’ve applied for and never heard anything back. Some express their disappointment and understanding, along with a sincere desire to be considered again if the right opportunity were to arise. And some tell us what a mistake we’re making. One applicant last spring responded to a personal email explaining why he wasn’t selected with only, “Whatever man. Your loss.”

When someone responds like that, what are they hoping will happen?

I’m not suggesting they’re a bad person or even that they’re wrong. Maybe we are making a mistake. Maybe we should have offered them a position. Hiring is an imperfect science and even the best process can’t guarantee you’ll get every decision right.

But a reply like that shuts the door. The conversation is over. What reason do we have to come back to them in the future, or to pass along a referral for another opportunity, or reach out and reconnect at a conference? We’re not holding grudges, we’re just taking the signal that this person is done with us. If that’s the intention of the reply, message received.

There’s no right or wrong here, and I don’t expect anyone to pat us on the back after we say no. But everyone deserves to find a job where they can be happy and successful, and it’s important to be intentional about which doors you close, and which you leave open.

Private counselors, how do you respond when a family chooses a competitor over you?

Students, how do you respond when you aren’t selected for a team, class or leadership position?

Colleges, what do you say to the student who informs you they’ve accepted another school’s offer of admission?

Your response to a no has an effect, one that can either close the door or keep it open. Before you respond to a no, decide what you’d like to happen with the door.