January 27, 2013

The Art and Etiquette of Rejection

In the American film 'Up In The Air', George Clooney's character (Bingham) travels around the United States firing people.  He delivers the news to employees selected to be "let go" with an approach, that makes his job appear efficient and bloodless. With a smile, and positive spin on retrenchment, Bingham presents imminent job loss as a unique opportunity for a lifestyle change, rather than the bleak situation that it actually is.
That same slick, cookie cutter approach to HR communications, is reflected in the replies I've received - in response to the countless job applications sent out over the past twelve months.  In fact, not replying at all seems to be accepted common practice among recruiters. 

With on-line applications being the standard approach, one click on an employer's delete button, can remove any trace of your efforts in a second. Occasionally I have received those "thankyou, but no thanks" replies by post.  I prefer snail-mail letters, and even emails, so much more than the rejections received directly via telephone. 

These usually follow the job interviews, which begin with an initial excited congratulation that: "You've made it to our short list. So you've done so well!" An appointment time is scheduled. You brush your teeth, put on your job interview "costume", and you front up. 

And by the end of the interview, you have a feeling you may have actually nabbed the job. And why ever wouldn't you? Since, you thought you had spruced up well, delivering appropriate, intelligent .....and well-considered answers.

In the following 48 hours, you try not to get your hopes up. And for a while, after job hunting for such a long time - you fantasize that the interviewers might just have finally taken you seriously. And (yippee!!) you might even be offered an actual job - after which you can be a "normal", taxpaying person again. Subsequently, you even imagine having meetings(!), work lunches and team-building! cappuccinos with the interview panel.  And you ponder which nearby coffee shops you'll all meet up at, once you're signed up as a paid employee. (Oh such are the memories of being a secure employee ....or even an insecure employee.)

I know ...medication time!

But hang on. Stop the insanity! Fast-track the lobotomy and the floral straight-jacket. What indeed WERE you thinking!?  

Subsequently the phone rings. It's that bloke who was on that interview panel. Calling back so soon! He's sounding so friendly.  You knew he liked you all along. Of course, he's not going to offer you a lunch-date. Not today. That'll come later. He's going to offer you the job! Why else would he be ringing? For he's sounding so cheerful and upbeat.

But no such luck. And, he says way too jovially that he's, "Sorry you were unsuccessful". 

And just for once you wish the phone call HAD been from one of those annoying telemarketers, spruiking impossible to refuse funeral plans, free hearing tests and solar panels ...thus signalling you to simply hang-up.

Alternatively, how therapeutic it would be, if in reply to vexing - over-the-phone job rejections - we could say to those smug HR people, in our best Julia Roberts Pretty Woman voices: "Big MISTAKE! people...BIG. HUGE!!"


I hate being told that I'm "unsuccessful" over the telephone. I prefer such news expressed in the Times-Roman typeface, and delivered slowly, via a postman on a bike. Nevertheless,  as the Dalai Lama, Malcolm Fraser, Richard Nixon and the Cookie Monster have said: "Life isn't meant to be easy!" 

My comfortably employed, nubile "job coaches" at Job Services Australia (aka the Job Network) keep telling me that I MUST ask for feedback. They seem to thrive on the blood and guts of their unemployed clients interview post-mortems.

So, keen to have something meaty, to report back to my "job coach" about, I strike while the iron's hot, saying ever so calmly to the jolly InterviewGuy on the phone:  "Can I have some feedback?" And the applicant terminator replies: "We are telling interviewees they'd be more successful if they provided more examples." 

Now what kind of discombobulated, monosyllabic feedback is that? And, just what is the etiquette on replying to "feedback" that makes no sense?! 

Do they think if they bluntly say, it's because you're, "Too old, not blonde and blue eyed, too ugly, fat? or pathetic"  we rejected appli-can'ts, might react by stalking such HR people! ... finding out where they live, poisoning their water supply, and kidnapping their cat?!  

And here's the thing....they're probably right. Actually never thought of cat kidnapping as a career move. But now it's beginning to make sense and is quite possibly viable and therefore do-able? ......must google the NEIS program to research funding options.

Forgive me dear reader. I digress. (But of course the kitty kidnapping would involve no cruelty, and they'd be well-fed until their poncy owners cough up the money. When I could return said cats, in good nick ....and all parties can return to business as usual.)

Well, at least cat kidnapping, is not quite as bad as the measures taken by unemployee Bruno – in the 2005 French film, The Axe. You see, Bruno loved his job as a middle manager at a paper company, and optimistically views being laid off as an opportunity. However, after two years of searching for a comparable position, the optimism turns to desperation, whereby Bruno concocts a grimly audacious plan to identify and kill his fellow job applicants so that he is the only qualified person left.

What a good job seeking strategy me thinks!! But I haven’t resorted to those extreme measures just yet. But it does give one ideas. They do say you have to think outside the square nowadays, to truly nail that job.

Returning to topic

In response to another dreary "thanks but no thanks" (we'll never be calling YOU again) phone call - when I ask for the dreaded (prerequisite) feedback - the sweet young lass says the successful candidate, "Had more recent experience".... CODE FOR: Was more recently born. And she added, "They were someone, who - from the start of the job - could hit the ground running."  Charming.

Ok, so I'm not Cathy Freeman. But, I'm nowhere near a suitable candidate for The Biggest Loser TV program (and so what if I was! ...give me another 6 months of this and there's a big fat chance I will be! .....a big fat job candidate, that is.)

And why did she have to subtly make such inferences about my professional abilities/physical fitness? The interview, after all, had been for a pretty basic casual role within the municipal council sector, for which I knew I was adequately experienced, qualified, and capable.

"Well thank you! for calling!!" I say irritated - keeping calm and moving onwards and upwards? ....towards the family block of Cadbury on the top kitchen shelf.

Off to explore cat-kidnapping ventures now ....dear reader.


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