A couple of my oldest friends are actors and have much to teach me about coping with rejection. Their resilience and enthusiasm is phenomenal. In my case getting used to the ‘thanks’ but ‘no thanks’ letter is one of the novel perils of job hunting. Not least because the numbers of folks chasing each job right now is scarily high. So statistics are against us. And this, of course, means that each of us will have to read our share of letters that begin,
“Dear Mr Redundantpublicservant,
Thank you for your application for the post of X. I am sorry to tell you …”
I’ve been a recruitment assessor for many years and I’m trying to bring that insight to my job hunting. I’ve worked hard to unpick essential and desirable criteria and understand what they mean. My achievements have been re-machined and honed to demonstrate the competencies being sought. But no luck yet.
I do however have a growing collection of communications that seem to contain the same sorts of phrase. Every profession obviously has its own shorthand, vocabulary and grammar of course. Over the years I’ve worked with colleagues to stop them writing stuff like,
Thank you for your letter of 2 January the contents of which have been noted …”
Roughly translated this usually means,
“Dear misery guts,
You can stick your letter of 2 January because we’ve filed it in the bin …”
Words and phrases often seem to be used to cloak rather than reveal meaning. Sometimes it’s more blatant. I always know I’m in trouble when someone prefixes a statement with, ‘with the greatest of respect.’ In translation this phrase almost always means a variant of, ‘you’re a moron.’ The Chancellor of the Exchequer put in a bravura performance at a select committee before the summer recess using exactly this phrase.
Anyway turning to my own situation and noticing the similarity in some of the phrasing I’m now reading I thought it would be helpful to others on the hunt for work to provide some (not entirely serious) translations of some of my favourites.
Greetings: these are an invaluable way into understanding how many applicants there were and the state of mind of the recruitment team.
‘Dear Candidate’ means there were so many applicants we can’t remember all their names.
‘Dear [mailmerge list#$%%/]’ means there will shortly be a vacancy in our admin support section for someone who can actually do mailmerge.
‘Dear Applicant’ see Dear Candidate.
The opening sentence: vital for setting the tone of what’s to come.
‘Thank you for…’ means don’t bother to read the rest of this because you haven’t got the job.
‘I am sorry to tell you that …’ means definitely don’t bother to read the rest of this because you really haven’t got the job.
‘After careful consideration of your application …’ means the software we use to screen applications for short listing thinks you’re a dork for not including more of the key words from the application pack.
The difficult second sentence: how to smooth the feelings.
‘The post attracted unprecedented levels of interest ..’ means we should have offered far less money.
‘We were able to select candidates for short listing who matched our criteria more closely than you …’ means what on earth made you think you were cut out for this job, loser.
‘I enjoyed reading your application …’ means it gave me a few good laughs.
‘We enjoyed reading your application …’ means the whole HR department had a few good laughs.
Signing off: saying goodbye is the hardest thing.
‘We know this news must be disappointing to you …’ means you can cancel the haircut and take the new suit back to M&S.
‘Unfortunately we cannot provide more detailed feedback …’ means we simply don’t know where to start and we’re worried about your self-image.
‘We wish you well with your career plans …’ means please don’t apply for anything else we might be advertising or we’ll injunct you for stalking.
‘We will be retaining your details on file …’ means it’s in the bin and
‘… in case suitable roles come up which more closely match your skills set …’ means don’t hold your breath unless you want to water the pot plants.
I have a lot of sympathy for HR departments and recruiters at the moment – no really, I’ve been there myself – and I’ve actually had some really helpful conversations giving me feedback that I’m putting into practice. So don’t despair and I hope I’ve cheered you up a bit.
Do you have any favourite phrases of your own?