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How would you like to get a 3,000-word rejection letter with a "42-point plan to help job seekers"? If you were one of 900 applicants for a writing job at Salon.com, you may have received it. 

Sean Gunther, the author of the rejection letter, thought he was being helpful, but the letter is long and confusing. For starters, it's unclear whether the receiver was rejected. It isn't until the end of the second paragraph that readers are told (sort-of) where they stand: "Those of you who are passed into the second round of consideration will be hearing from us soon, if you haven't been contacted by us already."

In an article, "Here’s How to Condescend to 900 Job Applicants With a 3,000-Word Rejection Letter, " Gawker blasted the email as "arrogant" and called the writer worse names. 

Gunther responsed to Gawker's criticism by saying that some applicants appreciated his advice. He quotes the following from one of the applicants: 

"I read your email this morning, and to be honest, I was a little irritated at first. I didn’t particularly want to know that there were 900+ applicants for the position. The email looked lengthy, and I wasn’t sure where you were going to go with it. For sure, it didn’t say that I was hired.

"I gradually realized that this is the sort of advice that every writer looking for work should read. I don’t think I made many of the mistakes that it mentioned, but I do I wish I had read it years ago. It’s also a rare thing that people applying for work should get anything out of it at all, especially something so useful."

Gunther defends his letter compared to other rejection letters: 

'Applicants learn nothing about their approach when the only response they receive is 'Thanks for applying, but the position has been filled.'"

Discussion Starters: 

  • What do you think of Gunther's approach? How do you think you would feel if you received the letter? 
  • Read the entire letter, including his suggestions. Which are useful, and which are not? 
  • Considering that the letter caused some hard feelings, what could have been a better approach, if Gunther sincerely wanted to help job applicants?