Applications, Rejections, and Bad Manners

I’ve been a bit on the busy side this year. I spent a few months looking for work, after the closure of Glu Portland. I interviewed at a few places. My mom’s cancer took a turn for the worse, and she passed away.

It’s been busy.

More to the point, it’s been a rough year.

Along the way, I accepted an offer and am planning a cross-country move. Lots has been going on, like I said. I haven’t really had the presence of mind to think of much outside of that which is happening in front of me.

Today, out of the blue, I got a response from a company that I’d applied to back in April.

Okay. April. That was a while ago. I had to chew on this for a minute.

In April, I applied to a very well known AAA developer for a Design Manager position on an incredibly broken, generally tedious “free-to-play” card game in their lineup. The gig itself was at least two steps backward in my career, given their requirements and my experience, but it was one of the only somewhat-relevant openings available that week.

Today… July 14… I got a response saying they weren’t going to move forward with my application. Normally, I’d be fine with that. Heck, if I got a response within the first 2 weeks, that would be downright professional. They have needs, I have needs, and if they don’t align, we’ll just part ways for now. No skin off my nose.

But this is 2-1/2 months after the fact. Now they decide to send me a rejection?

Recruiters, companies, colleagues, let me tell you something:

If I’m on the hunt for a gig or some other collaborative arrangement and I send you a query, you have 2 weeks to respond. That is the professional window. If I haven’t heard back in 2 weeks, your silence sends the message, “You’re not what we’re looking for at this time.” At that point, I write you off. I move on. I find something better.

Like I said, no skin off my nose.

Beyond that window, a rejection email becomes insulting. It’s as if you were assuming I was just sitting by the phone, awaiting your call. In fact, the longer it takes to send that email, the more unprofessional and disorganized you appear to be.

I don’t want to work with people who are unprofessional and disorganized. I don’t have time for that in my life, regardless of the name of your company or the titles you’ve produced. If your company is that unprofessional and disorganized, you clearly can’t afford what it would take for me to come in to optimize your process.

I can hear some people now saying, “Oh, but you don’t want to burn bridges,” and, “What if they just needed time to evaluate the candidates?”

To the first point, I refuse to concede power when I don’t need to. If they can’t respect my time, then they don’t deserve my respect. If a company behaves like it’s run by a bunch of slack-jawed jackasses, then it only benefits me to burn that bridge.

Burn, baby, burn.

My time is valuable. It’s valuable to me, first and foremost. It’s limited. It will run out. I cannot afford to expend the emotional energy waiting for some HR wonk or dev team middle manager to decide whether or not my 20+ years of experience in this industry is worth considering. A glance at my LinkedIn profile and my resume — 10 minutes of effort, tops, if you want to be thorough — should tell you if you want to move forward or not.

I know this because I’ve hired people before. I respect the time of those applying for a gig. I don’t want them to hang their hopes on the gig, if they won’t be a good fit or if I’m looking for something else.

To the second point, recruiting teams generally stop paying close attention to applications after the first two weeks. That initial rush of applicants tends to be the primary pool, unless they’re all woefully under-qualified. Anyone else who happens to be considered after that point is almost always a direct referral, either from an external agency or — more likely — from someone inside the organization.

By the end of that two weeks, if your name wasn’t selected out of the general applicant pool, you should be notified.

Most general selection processes aren’t particularly careful. All selection processes are flawed in some way.

Some teams use keyword filters, which is unfortunate for those who don’t know or can’t guess the keywords. When a job title varies through an industry, as it does with “designer” or “producer,” this becomes even more problematic.

Some teams go through applications the hard way, reading each one, leading to cognitive and physical fatigue.

After the first 100 resumes, I can guarantee that most people stop paying attention to the details. In fact, I’m probably being way too generous in that assessment.

I’m not saying that people are lazy; I’m saying that our minds get easily fatigued. Words start to swim on the page. The task becomes tedious… a chore to be avoided, rather than a motivated search for a skilled and talented team member.

Either way, this idea that there’s some “careful” selection process is bunk. In fact, the best way to get your foot in the door for a phone screen or interview is to know someone on the inside.

For everyone else, it’s a crap shoot, regardless of how skilled, talented, or experienced you are.

It’s nothing personal. That’s just the way it is.

But that’s okay. I’ve made my peace with that. Just send me the generic rejection email after 2 weeks, and we’ll call it good. Or say nothing. That works too.

But 2-1/2 months? Please. You’re embarrassing yourself.

Hold on to your hats, folks, because the next blog post (which’ll come in about 2-3 weeks) is going to be about interviews. It’ll be fun!

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