Last summer my then-16-year-old son applied for a summer internship at a local university. He had found the listing at his high school career center. He put together a resume, wrote a cover letter and sent it all off, anxiously waiting an answer. In the meantime, he looked up the professor on the Internet. "He's so impressive!" my son announced — Ph.D. from an Ivy League school, winner of numerous scholarships, author of books and articles. This professor was indeed impressive.
After waiting a month, my son sent an e-mail inquiring about the job. The professor let him know that he would soon be deciding. As summer approached, my son sent another e-mail and was told the decision would soon be made.
He never heard back.
I was furious. Not because my son did not get the internship, but because this man who had written hundreds of thousands of words did not take the time to write three simple sentences. "Thank you for applying. I have selected another candidate. I wish you luck in your job search." What a lesson in graciousness that would have been! After complaining to several friends, I was told this is common practice. Apparently sending rejection letters has gone the way of using the turn signal.
This year, my son applied for two summer jobs. He got neither, nor did he receive any rejection letters. Just prolonged silences.
Now, there's nothing wrong with rejection. It's a fact of life. The sooner kids learn that lesson, the better off they are. But can't they be rejected with common decency? Sure, everyone loves to complain about teenagers — "They're so rude!" — but from whom are they supposed to learn manners? We can teach them all we want at home, but if it's not practiced outside, it will become as uncommon as good handwriting.
So if you happen to be hiring, please remember those three sentences. "Thank you for applying. I have selected another candidate. I wish you luck in your job search." You can use snail mail, e-mail or, heck, you can even tweet it. But please go ahead and reject with words, not with silence.