In 1999, I received a rejection letter from an anthropomorphic tomato…
My senior year in college I applied for a slew of jobs that revolved around marketing, but had yet to score an interview. Taking a few flyers, I applied to some small entertainment outlets that were looking for writers or entry-level production assistants. One such company happened to feature singing moralistic vegetables.
We sent paper resumes in those days, as most employers were skeptical about online applications. On expensive ivory paper, we printed three paragraphs begging for a half-hour in-person judgement. After attaching a one-page review on our life's work and attaching a certified U.S. postal stamp, we mailed out our hopes, dreams and salary expectations.
For our efforts, hiring directors mailed back a much thinner letter letting us know that they would rather hire a constipated tuberworm than a fully qualified college graduate. The rejection letter was usually plastered on company stationary and signed by the head of human resources secretary. It was heart breaking, but it was tangible. At least we knew that a flesh-and-blood human-like being evaluated the application, vomited, composed themselves and returned the correspondence. A rough thank you for spending an afternoon embellishing for their enjoyment.
Now we send applications via the interwebs. Employers download your pdf into automated systems that dissect experiences into keywords. Many don't even want the cover letter anymore, and prefer you just 1-click apply through LinkedIn or ZipRecruiter. Now with technology, companies can take all that problematic personality out of hiring. That leaves a lot more time to swim around large money bins like Scrooge McDuck.
In return, employers give applicants this message:
This past year, I have replied to 127 different job postings I have received 8 rejection letters. Apparently 119 Human Resources departments were too busy to send out a message letting applicants know that they didn't make the cut. Not even an automated e-mail. Not a great look for the automated e-mail company that I applied to.
Not that I miss 119 "You suck" letters, but I do miss what they represent. Over 86 separate companies just told me that my existence is only noticeable if I can be a marketable asset. If humanity lies in the details, then 86 separate companies made a conscious choice not to care. It's no wonder that an Accenture study reports that over 70% of the workforce feel disengaged.
Civility comes at a premium. We have shelved our souls into demographic buckets of vitriol: Snowflakes versus Deplorables, Rich versus Poor, DC versus Marvel. We have an instinctive need to organize. Brain science says the more that we feel that we don't matter, the more we organize people into these negative segments. It's even better for our psyche if we receive bad news than to receive no news. We don't do well when we are ignored.
A rejection letter can be heartbreaking, but the brain appreciates that the company cared enough to give you closure. After a year of job hunting and being ignored 119 times, my brain has pretty much checked out. It makes me appreciate the other 8 a whole lot more, and it's a weird place to be when you look favorable on those who tell you to go away.
In 1999 I received a rejection letter from an anthropomorphic tomato -- and the world was better for it.
Jack Grubb writes an incredible blog, Losing the Internets, which is read by at least 37 people and over 2,100 Russian SPAM bots. In his spare time he helps small companies find their marketing voice. Jack currently lives deliberately in Appalachia, Kentucky with his wife, two daughters, Jack Russell and a Lego collection beyond compare.