Over the last four weeks, I continued to apply to various legal jobs and some non-law jobs. As was the case in my previous letter-writing campaigns, most of firms I applied to did not respond at all. But I also received a fair number of rejection letters and emails. This is the fourth-tier reality.

When I was a student and later fresh out of law school, getting rejection letters was devastating. But now that I’m a few years out and run a small practice, they don’t bother me so much anymore. In fact, they gave me the impetus to warn students about going to law school.

Today I will analyze the common and uncommon rejection letters that I received.

Dear Ms. Achimalbe,

We received your cover letter and your résumé. At this time, we do not have a need for someone with your background.

Good luck in your future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Some Unrecognizable Signature

for Associate Recruitment Specialist

If an employer does not want to hear from an applicant ever again, I recommend using this format for the ding letter. It is short and direct, showing no sympathy but not harsh. The comma after the salutation, typically used in a personal letter, shows that the firm does not recognize me in a professional capacity. There is no encouragement to reapply in the future. Finally, a scribble resembling a signature on behalf of an “Associate Recruitment Specialist” clearly shows that my cover letter and résumé did not even make it past the lower levels of the firm’s recruiting department. The only thing missing is a line telling me to jump off a cliff headfirst into a pit of rusty, cyanide-laden spikes.

Dear Ms. Achimalbe:

Thank you for sending us your cover letter and your résumé. Unfortunately, we were presented with many highly qualified candidates and so we had to make a hard choice to go in a different direction. However, we appreciate your interest in our firm. We will keep your résumé on file in case a position becomes available in the future.

Good luck in your future endeavors.

Sincerely,

[Positive Pam from Recruiting]

On the other side of the coin, this ding letter is coated with so much sugar that I wanted to eat it with my morning coffee. However, this is also a pretty common boilerplate rejection letter. Maybe for the younger folk, this would be appropriate. I know that companies want to let special snowflakes down gently. Or they don’t want one of their mean rejection letters being posted on the internet. So they use code words like “going in a different direction” and give hope.

Dear Ms. Achimalbe:

Thank you for your résumé. We are currently looking for a person with estate planning expertise. But your background shows that you have experience in [something other than estate planning]. While I do not have the time to train someone from scratch, I will keep you in mind for future referrals if I have potential clients who need your services. Please feel free to contact me if you have any estate planning questions. Thanks again for your interest.

Good luck in your future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Hiring Solo Practitioner

I liked this ding letter. The decision maker wrote the letter and it indicated why I was not chosen. Which means he actually read my cover letter and résumé. And he would also consider me for future referrals. He probably did not get many applicants if he had the time to respond with such depth. I’ll stay in touch with this guy. It may lead to contract work. And I’ll probably refer work his way too.

Hello Shannon. Just wanted to let you know we chose someone else for the position. Thanks and good luck in your future endeavors.

Other than being overly impersonal, this ding was sent via text message. I wonder if she does this with all of her applicants. If so, I hope she has an unlimited text plan. Because at some point, someone will spam her. A lot.

It’s not fun getting rejection letters. But I have received so many over the years that I now get my amusement from reading the unusual ones. Like other phases of life, I can’t let the many rejections stop me even though it can get discouraging. I might have to change my approach. Multiple times. But all it takes is one big break.

Earlier: A Final Warning To Those Who Enter The Law School Black Hole


Shannon Achimalbe was a former solo practitioner for five years before deciding to sell out and get back on the corporate ladder. Shannon can be reached at sachimalbe@excite.com.


comments sponsored by

39 comments (hidden for your protection) Show all comments