The Ultimate Rejection Letter: CEO Fail or Mentoring Moment?

rejectionAt YouTern, we often say “coachability” – your willingness to learn from mistakes, accept and absorb feedback and then make deliberate improvements – is a huge factor in getting hired.

Successful job seekers and young professionals are coachable. Those who are not coachable… fail, and fail often.

Am I Coachable?

You may be asking yourself that question right now. Lucky for you, a recent Gawker post titled “Here’s How to Condescend to 900 Job Applicants with a 3,000 Word Rejection Letter” (sub-titled “42 Do’s and Don’ts from a Dick”) provides an excellent litmus test for your level of coachability… and maybe your tendency to fall into “victim” mode when faced with criticism.

How did you react to criticism you received? Were you angry? Or did you say, “I’ve always wanted feedback, this is great to learn from!”

“May you get everything you wish for.” – Gypsy curse

In the letter, a CEO outlines 42 reasons applicants were rejected from his company’s job posting. Yes, forty-two.

The author, Emma Carmichael, seems to take offense on behalf of rejected job seekers everywhere. She even appears to find fault that the letter was sent “in one bulk delivery”. So I had few thoughts:

  • I wonder when she last made the effort to write unique personalized letters when tasked with communicating with 900 people?
  • Didn’t these applicants receive what every rejected job seeker ever asks for… the reason why they were rejected?
  • Hallalujah, an employer actually took the time to respond to a job applicant (in this economy, this guy should get a medal!)

Curse the Resume Black Hole

How many times have you, as a job seeker, complained (and rightly so) about the “resume black hole”…  where you send your resume and cover letter to countless job postings, only to hear… nothing? The deafening silence is an all-too-familiar feeling to most of us.

When you think about it, this CEO’s letter outlines a pretty good roadmap for how to get your resume read… one of the most difficult aspects of the job search process.

Additionally, the examples provided in the rejection letter are a decent tutorial not only for this particular job posting… but for pretty much any job posting. The CEO, regardless of his agenda or attitude, outlines many of the most common mistakes pointed out by HR professionals and recruiting managers – almost all of which are fairly simple to avoid.

Examples of Coachability (or Lack Thereof)

Unfortunately the post’s author doesn’t take much time to add her own original thoughts or opinions; she let the CEO’s letter do most of the talking knowing the post would get hundreds of comments. And it did. Job well done, in a reality-tv kind of way.

Fortunately however, the comments provides excellent illustrations of those who are coachable… and others, well, not so much:

“SaraRueful” took the “coachable” route:


And “Bexxx” took the high road:


On the other side of the spectrum we have the colorful “JukeJointJezebel”, who reacted exactly how the author of the post and Gawker knew a young careerist would (followed by some solid advice from “dbx”):


I encourage you to read the rejection letter… then take a thoughtful look at your own reaction. Along with the Gawker post’s author and many of the commenters, were you offended?

Or did you see the CEO’s letter as good (albeit harsh) advice? That maybe his letter is a roadmap for how to improve your own job search… and get that much closer to an interview, and a job offer?

Let us know what you think, in the comments section below!





Dave EllisAbout the Author: Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team and is instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). Dave serves as YouTern’s Content and Community Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter!



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