Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ding Letter Party Gets Dinged

In an ironic twist to the debacle of this year's recruiting process, Chicago Business' attempt to throw a "Ding Letter Party" to lift the spirits of GSB students was, itself, dinged.

With despair and hopelessness rising as ding letters came rolling in, Ryan McGlothlin, ChiBus editor emeritus, floated the idea of a ding letter party. In the proposal, GSB students would share their pain by posting ding letters on a public bulletin board; various liquid substances, meanwhile, would be provided to allow students to forget about the constant parade of dings. However, at the February 21 GBC meeting, the ChiBus proposal was publicly and unceremoniously dinged.

Not only did the ding letter party get dinged � it wasn't even granted a closed-list interview. ChiBus had to rely on the open list to broach the topic at the GBC meeting. The idea suffered the same fate as most open-list interview candidates � it received a polite hearing, yet was dinged almost instantly.

"Thank you for your offer to throw a Ding Letter Party for GSB students," said the ding letter party's ding letter. "Unfortunately, we cannot offer you the opportunity to host a ding letter party at this time. We are considering other ding letter events whose qualifications more closely fit our business needs. In the event that another suitable ding letter opportunity arises, we will keep your ding letter party offer for future consideration.

"If your interest in throwing a ding letter party continues, we encourage you to keep in touch when full-time ding letters come out in the fall. The outlook for ding letters looks promising this year, and we expect renewed interest in a ding letter party.

"Again, thank you for your interest in throwing a Ding Letter Party, and best wishes in your ding letter endeavors."

Outgoing GBC president Manoj Mehta was quick to point out that the party was not, in fact, dinged. "What you have to understand is that ding letter activity is highly volatile in this economy," explained Mehta. "We are not rejecting the idea outright; we are simply delaying a decision until the ding letter outlook is clearer."

Thursday, November 02, 2006


No, this is not another squeeing-over-Adrien entry. (Not that I haven’t been doing my fair share of squeeing over Adrien, mind you.) This is a jobseeker’s lament: doesn’t anybody send ding letters anymore?

You know, ding letters: a polite letter from an employer to whom you submitted an application for employment, thanking you for your interest and telling you that they have hired someone else. It’s disappointment, yes; it’s rejection, yes; but for the desperate job hunter, it’s also blessed closure.

I’ve been hanging on to the hopes of a particular position at a publishing company in Philadelphia for ten weeks now. My former job made me particularly suited to this position and gave me an unusual skill set, a mix of humanities and technology, that I was confident would set me ahead of the ordinary applicant for such a position, whose experience would probably mostly be in one area or the other. I checked the website every other day. I obsessed over this position. I first applied for it in March, I sent in another application in May just in case, I pestered my former boss into tracking down an acquaintance who worked for the company to interrogate him about the position. The fellow was kind enough to allow me to use his name and give me the e-mail address of the vice president to whom the position reported. I wrote the v.p. a glowing e-mail, sent him a third resume. The contact also mentioned that the department was expanding and reorganizing and that they wouldn’t be hiring right away for the position. A few weeks ago, a position went up for a director of operations for the same department, so I assumed the reorganization was completed and that I might be hearing quite soon about an interview. The other day I checked the website and the position had been removed.


Though I would have loved this job, I would have accepted that they found someone more qualified–someone with a health science background, someone with more experience in formal book editing than I–or even that they decided not to fill the position at this time, but would it have killed them to send me a damned ding letter? An e-mail would have been acceptable! Emily Post might not approve, but my blood pressure would certainly appreciate it. They had to know I was interested! I applied for the bally job THREE TIMES!

You know, years ago I worked in a Human Resources department at the local plant of a large chemical company. EVERYBODY who filled out an application or sent in a resume–even unsolicited applications–received a ding letter within a month of their application. I did a big mail merge every few weeks and everyone received a letter personally signed by the assistant manager of human resources. This was maybe a hundred letters at a shot (but fortunately the guy was energetic and liked that I had everything organized and ready to go for him). When I first started working there they had photocopied form letters, including the signature, and I would have to type in the person’s name and address and mail it out. It was rather obviously a form letter. When I got a word processor, I quickly learned how to do mail merges and asked if it would be okay to do ding letters that way, as it looked more professional and was certainly not as rude. They were still form letters, but it was nearly impossible to tell.

It has been argued that personalized ding letters, or any correspondence other than the absolutely necessary, can be assumed by the recipient as opening a dialogue, which will cause them to call back constantly checking if anything else had opened up. I’m here to tell you that such incidents were minimal. In two years of working in this department, we had maybe three or four such incidences, including one specimen who filled out an application for a laborer’s position with a barely literate scrawl and then, when he wasn’t immediately hired, called his state senator to complain, who in turn called us to find out why the applicant was being “discriminated” against (he was a white male, btw). He got his ding letter a trifle quicker than some others. I think they did eventually hire the guy, though, so the squeaky wheel analogy is certainly applicable, as well as the vague hopes for future employment expressed in every well-written ding letter.

The best ding letter I ever wrote was to a former…I can’t say boyfriend. A former flirt, shall we say? A guy I went to college with–let’s change his name to protect the idiotic and call him Dick–briefly dated a friend of mine and then spent several months hitting on me off and on during the spring. I was not disinclined to accept Dick’s overtures of courtship and suggested we get together during the summer, as we lived fairly close together. We did go to the movies once, and out to dinner once, and after that date he said he didn’t know when he would see me again, he was spending a lot of time with HIS GIRLFRIEND. HIS GIRLFRIEND WHOM HE’D DATED FOR FIVE YEARS.

I was, needless to say, somewhat taken aback. He’d gone out with my friend, and hit on me (and some other girlfriends), and had a Home Town Honey (HTH) all the time?

It turned out I did see Dick later that summer, as part of a get together with a group of college friends, to which he dragged the HTH, who was visibly furious at the hints of when-the-cat’s-away behavior dropped by drunken friends who until that evening had not had the least idea of her existence. It was fun to see him squirm like the weasely little worm he was.

It was even more fun when, four years or so later, Dick’s resume crossed my desk, unsolicited. He didn’t get hired; fear not, no skulduggery on the HP’s part, there was simply no open positions at that time for chemical engineers. I remember taking Dick’s ding letter from the printer, my initials proudly typed at the bottom. I tucked it into its envelope and sent it on its way; I still remember the big grin I wore when I did it. Hell hath no fury, indeed.

But at least I sent the ding letter; Dick never sat staring longingly at the phone, waiting hopefully for that phone call.