The Art of the Ding

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Regardless of what you’re trying for, how little you think you care, rejection always hurts. So when MBA on-campus recruiting hands it to you in rapid succession and en masse, you’d think that we’d be somewhat steeled for it ... and that firms would have some kind of consistent ding delivery mechanism.

But you’d be wrong on both fronts. Instead, we’ve been hit with painful rejections of all imaginable forms. Most of them just sting a bit, some outright cut, and a few are so absurd that all we can do is laugh to keep from crying. Below, we present a few of our most disarming rejection exchanges.

The Double Ding

Not to be mistaken for the joy of a Double Dare or the awkwardness of a Double Date, the Double Ding is the perhaps the most tragic of all. First, the informal ding: Fellow Candidate emails you (you guys bonded during Final Rounds) to announce he has won the lone internship offer …

From: [Redacted]
Subject: [Misspelled Firm Name]

...I wanted to see if you ended up getting an offer to [Now Correctly Spelled Firm Name]? Luckily I did get it, and in fact I think the whole idea is definitely starting to grow on me. In a way it would be like “stock camp”...

“Stock camp”? That’s a cute way to frame a grueling summer internship that allows no sunshine, sick days, or smiles. Anyway, despite the false modesty of his casual inquiry about your results, you both knew the firm would make only one offer that year. It’s totally fair for you then to choke on the self-congratulatory opener and give up there. He clearly means no harm though, so you feel kind of bad turning away Fellow Candidate’s first LinkedIn request, in which he presumptuously indicates you a “Friend.” However, as time and the gentle slight pass, when Fellow Candidate tries again a few days later -- treading gingerly this time, under “You’ve done business together” -- you accept.

Ding #2 comes when the firm gets around to you a week later. At this point, you can’t help but be an ass when you reply, “I know.” The recruiter feels all sorts of awkward, asking how you found out. You stop short of throwing Fellow Candidate under the bus (after all, you’re LinkedIn now), but you revel in the recruiter’s obvious chagrin.

The Ding by Appointment

Your favored firm has been trying to reach you for more than a week, four voicemails left between you two, an email reminder to check your voicemail and call back. Finally, an administrative assistant schedules a call for you and the Director of Research! Your heart skips a beat and your expectations launch themselves sky high, primed for good news only...After all, what tactless human being would make an appointment to report bad news?

In anticipation of the celebratory call in T-2.5 days, you ready your acceptance speech thanking first and foremost the Lord, Jesus Christ, clear off a space on the mantle for the framed job offer your mom assured you were born to win, blast the soundtrack of your life for 2.5 days straight...only to be stunned into silence when Taylor Swift the firm sweeps in with the most anticlimactic ding of all time.

The Auto-Email Ding from a Firm that You Never Even Interviewed With

Mail merge can be tricky.

The Dream Ding
Last but not least ...

Hello [Candidate],

Thank you for your interest in Firm X's Summer Associate position.

Unfortunately at this time the program is full. I would encourage you to check back with us in the fall when we are recruiting for full time Associates again. I wish you the best of luck in your summer opportunity.

Kindly,
[Recruiter]

That’s it! The perfect ding. Short, sweet, and so compelling you almost want to be dinged twice.

Finally, if ever you find yourself behind the recruiting desk, a few further notes on what not to do. Do not, under any circumstances:

1. Use CAPS in any email, ever. You’re already bearing bad news -- no need to yell at us while you’re at it.

2. Tell a candidate he is “in the 40th percentile of an above average candidate pool,” without color or suggestion for improvement.

3. Ding someone and then ask her if she’s still planning on moving to Boston, sans job, because you two got along so great.

4. Ding via snail mail. This one is tough because on the one hand, it’s unusually kind, personal, and it shows that the firm and interviewer truly care. But on the other hand, the PV of timely information during campus recruiting is huge. A ding delivered via carrier pigeon after three weeks of relentless recruiting with competing firms is nearly worthless. Perhaps send the email and snail mail simultaneously.

5. Forget to ding. Theoretically, I am still in the running for a summer 2011 internship with one firm. Actually... I’m gonna call in now and see if I’m off the waitlist yet. Wish me luck!

Related

The Art Of The Farewell

Not everyone gets to write a New York Times Op-Ed when they quit their job, however disaffected. It’s also easier to quit a job after twelve years of cashing investment banking paychecks. No matter how “morally bankrupt” Goldman Sachs is, Greg Smith isn’t giving his bonuses back. Unlike Smith, who quit his job on his own terms and got to publish most of his resume in the Times, most of corporate America isn’t as lucky – and almost everyone in corporate America really wants to quit their job. So what are you supposed to do if you can’t get any above-the-fold space in a major newspaper? You have to burn bridges the old fashioned way – by writing a farewell email.