Monday, May 2, 2011

PFO season, the home stretch




They've been coming in fast and furious the last couple of weeks, as the last of the hires are buttoned up. This classy letter arrived in my e-box just today:

Dear Dr. Zombie,

Thank you very much for your interest in the position recently advertised by the Philosophy Department at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. I am writing to inform you that the position has now been filled. We received many applications of very high quality. Narrowing down our choices to a short list, and then (finally) to one candidate was a difficult process.

I remember all too well my own search for a tenure-track job in philosophy, and I know how discouraging news such as this can be. I do wish you the very best in your search.

Yours Sincerely,

Glenn A. Magee

Chairman, Philosophy Department

What this letter does right: refers to me as Dr. rather than Mr. or Ms. (I get both). Gets right to the point and tells me the position has been filled, without telling me how happy they are to have hired Dr. Awesome of Better Than U. for the position. Tells me the search was difficult because the many candidates were of high quality (a nonspecific compliment). Expresses sincere-sounding sympathy (directed towards the recipient) without insincere-sounding regret (I should care how the letter writer feels?), and wishes me well.

Short and sweet. It's not hard to do. And yet, so many of them get it so wrong.

Got vexations and triumphs to share with the class?

~zombie

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's exemplary. It seems odd that so many places fail at this, but as others have noted before, perhaps it has something to do with the bots in HR?

Anonymous said...

As the 2010-11 job market season is now pretty much over, I'm curious to know:

1) If you were offered a job, how much time did the hiring department give you to decide?

2) How did you initially respond when the hiring department called to offer you the position?

3) While some candidates are contenders for multiple, desirable positions, is it increasingly the case that the job you're offered is the only job you're offered? And, if so, is this changing the etiquette/norms governing this stage of the hiring process?

4) If the job you're offered is the one you wanted most, and if you have no competing offer which you can use as leverage for negotiating, how long do you wait before you accept?

Xenophon said...

I got a PFO recently on the day after the application deadline. Nice to know I shouldn't hold out hope, but still, it means they had a standard that wasn't stated in the ad, which they used to cut down the candidate pool. Aargh.

As for the CW Post letter, while I liked the last paragraph I still didn't like the "it was hard picking someone" line. Dudes, I don't feel your pain on the hiring committee.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm an intruder here, but I haven't forgotten what it was like; so I am interested in your blog. Regarding the "bots in HR", yes, I would like you all to know, that's true. We had a job this year, which we filled. When we narrowed our search we were supposed to remove the names of the rejected candidates from the electronic list. That removal was supposed to automatically generate an email rejection letter signed by me! I had not written that message, and it was truly an abomination -- not even grammatically impeccable. I found out about it only because it occurred to me to ask, and then I insisted that they block that message. (I don't know for sure that they did.) So please be aware that the signatory to your rejection letter may not have actually composed it.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm an intruder here, but I haven't forgotten what it was like; so I am interested in your blog. Regarding the "bots in HR", yes, I would like you all to know, that's true. We had a job this year, which we filled. When we narrowed our search we were supposed to remove the names of the rejected candidates from the electronic list. That removal was supposed to automatically generate an email rejection letter signed by me! I had not written that message, and it was truly an abomination -- not even grammatically impeccable. I found out about it only because it occurred to me to ask, and then I insisted that they block that message. (I don't know for sure that they did.) So please be aware that the signatory to your rejection letter may not have actually composed it.

Anonymous said...

Here's what's not cool. Sending an e-mail telling me to click on a link to a pdf, which then rejects me, makes me feel like you're making me go to a lot of extra work to confirm my rejection...

zombie said...

Anon 12:57:
1) Two weeks is customary. I was given two weeks. I asked for more time because I had been invited for another campus interview. I was given more time.
2) I initially responded by asking for all the details of the offer, asking what was negotiable, and informed them that I had another interview.
3) I don't know. As it turned out, I decided to accept the first offer (which I knew was very good) and withdrew from the other search before the campus visit was finalized, after investigating that position more.
4) If you don't have a competing offer, the conventional wisdom is that you have no leverage. I don't think it's true that you have NO leverage, but I was told in my case that getting a salary increase would require my having a better offer. I have friends (this year) who negotiated some terms of their contracts with no competing offers.
I accepted after 5 weeks, and after looking more closely at the other position I was in contention for. But as I say in (1), two is customary, although more time can be requested.
But there's no rule that says you have to wait to accept, or that you have to think about it for any length of time.