Arrow-right Camera
News >  Features

Don’t scold in response to rejection

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the appropriate response if a professor, to whom one has applied for a summer position, does not notify one promptly that he has filled the position with someone else?

I am a first-year law student; I applied for a research assistantship with a professor for this summer. I interviewed with him. At the interview, he said that he would make his decision soon and reply to me promptly by email.

About a week later, he offered the position to someone else in my class. That person accepted the offer.

I learned of this almost immediately afterward. I wasn’t upset by this: I was happy for the fellow who got the job. The next day I expected an email from the professor. And the next. The professor has taught first-year classes many times before; he should know news travels quickly.

I received no message till a week later. The professor then sent me an email telling me that he was sorry not to choose me, but, etc. He neither acknowledged nor apologized for not responding promptly. I felt and still feel insulted.

Am I right to feel insulted? Should I tell him that I feel insulted? In reply to his email, I sent him a note thanking him for his consideration and saying that I thought that his choice of student would be excellent in the job. In an aside, I mentioned that I learned of this the previous week.

Was this note improper? What should I do besides stew?

GENTLE READER: Look for another job. But not in the etiquette business, where we do not go around scolding people. Even Miss Manners would not dream of doing such a thing; she gives an opinion only when asked.

Granted, it would have been considerate of the professor to tell you his decision in good time so that you could begin making other plans. Unfortunately, many prospective employers do not have the courtesy to respond at all to applicants whom they have seriously considered.

But it is unwise, as well as rude, to enter the job world with the idea that you can reform the senior people in it.