Job rejection fail

You don’t have to be a freelancer for very long before swallowing the bitter pill of fail: freelance job rejection. Frankly, I’m good with it: Don’t want me in your club, I don’t want to be a member.

In that vein, I got a good laugh a few weeks ago. A representative of a custom publishing company—which had declined me as a freelancer sometime around the holidays—inadvertently copied me on an email…which said some unflattering things about me!

I chuckled, then proceeded to forward it to a few of my freelance pals who had also applied and gotten dinged, as well as one who’d reached the second round and was so appalled by their byzantine and awful process that she declined.

A day or two later, the sender realized what she’d done, and sent me a pleasant apology, and I responded to the effect of “no worries, thick skin, made me chuckle.” Bottom line, I can’t get too worked up over such things.

So, the reason I bring this up is the recent social-media-induced kerfuffle over an editor who sent out an epic job rejection letter to 900 applicants to a Craigslist classified ad.

Check the links and you’ll see what went down. Personally, my take is that it was presumptuous of him to approach it the way he did, not to mention a violation of short email conventions. 1) He could have avoided a lot of the flak by simply including a link to a page that contained his 42(!) pointers. 2) It makes no sense at all that he sent it to the second-rounders as well as the rejects.

That said, the backlash is over the top—I can’t believe people don’t have something better to do than hit “delete.” Spend the time cold calling, doing your taxes, or screwing around on Twitter. And for that matter, the whole affair underscores how Craigslist isn’t an ideal hunting ground, since you’re competing against such a large audience. (For a better route, here are some great tips from a Jenn Mattern guest post on “Where Can I Find High-Paying Freelance Writing Jobs?”)

In the comments: Would you rather get a detailed explanation of why you didn’t get a freelance job, or is “thanks but no thanks” enough to go on with your life?

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  1. says

    Yep, that thick skin is definitely a necessity. I’ve been working on building it up for more than 20 years, and rejection still has a definite sting for me.

    Still, I know the smartest thing to do is let go of my issues (because they are my issues), make sure the piece is as good as it could be, and then send it on to someone else.

    That’s about the best any freelancer can do.

  2. says

    One of the classiest rejections I ever received was from a writer, which was 1) brief, 2) complimentary of my writing skills, 3) sent with a thank-you for applying.

    Like Debra, I still feel a bit of a sting. I think when I don’t feel anything, then it’s time for me to examine why. That’s just my DNA. But, I don’t spend a lot of extended energy over it. There are other fishes in the sea.

  3. says

    You’re a class act to respond so politely to that woman. Rejecting a writer’s work is one thing, but going on to badmouth them? What’s constructive about that?

  4. says

    Sometimes it’s okay to get feedback, but only if it’s warranted. I remember asking the hiring woman for feedback after the job went to someone else. I wanted to know what to do to make a better impression next time. She took that time to tell me in spades what a pain in the ass she would have been to work for. First, I had to show up once right after work and with just 15 minutes notice. She slammed me in that feedback for not being “properly attired” (I didn’t have a jacket to go over my blouse and dress pants) and told me that it appeared to her that I didn’t take the job seriously. She also had given me instructions for some sample project. I gave her my best writing. I missed the mark because I didn’t quite understand what she wanted.

    Her answer to that– “You clearly didn’t follow directions and decided to do things your way.”


    I thanked her for her candor and resisted the urge to tell her she needed to work on that paranoia.

    She was the exception. In general, when I ask for feedback, I get honesty and helpful suggestions. In one case I got hit on (slimy bastard), but he did say that I’d appeared too attached to the then-current job. He was right. I was one person left on staff to put out two issues that month –I was breathing that job.

  5. Dr. Freelance says

    You flatter me, Valerie. Not sure if it’s a class act–more like my GenXer mentality of not giving a crap about what people say or think about me. And, the company (though not this contact) was a referral from a long-ago co-worker, so I figured there was no benefit to being rude back to her.

    Lori, that is a horror story! Talk about a lack of social grace…

  6. Jodi says

    Ouch! I think that reply would have been best used as a blog post, rather than a reply to applicants for a job!

    Having sorted through hundreds (if not thousands) of paper resumes in a previous life, I can appreciate the enormity (and difficulty) of personally responding to each one.

    However, the best way to handle it is to send out a polite, “I’m sorry, good luck with your search” email to the unsuitable applicants, and a “We’d like to talk to you further” email to the potential hires.

  7. Dr. Freelance says

    Thanks for weighing in, Jodi. I remember the number of resumes I used to get as an editor (Dark Ages, pre-Craigslist, back in the 1900s), and I can only imagine how overwhelming it might be nowadays. Your solution is the more appropriate way to handle it, methinks.

  8. says

    (First-time commenter here—nice to meet you Dr. Freelance!)

    Like you, I’m pretty spiffy with rejection. Getting laid off a bunch does that. I prefer either a “Thanks, but no thanks” form letter or the lovely ring of silence. A few kind people gave me some great feedback but those are rare indeed. I’ve found that most people move on too quickly and are too focused on their own end goal.

    There’s really no need to be a jerk about rejection (from either side). I just take in the information and keep looking for my next shiny object. Oh, and I eat a cookie. Cookies make it all better. 😉

  9. says

    Nice to meet you, too, Erica–thanks for commenting. I agree about the principle of not being jerkish about it, and you are 100% right about the cookies taking the sting out of it!