How to Avoid Burning Bridges

On Thursday, I finally received a response to a job application I had submitted early last year:

Elaine,
Thank you for your interest in the post-doctoral position in my group. Are you available for a 1 hr phone interview sometime tomorrow or Monday?
Please let me know.
Thanks.

Dr. Xyz
Big Stupid Company

No apologies for the ridiculous delay; it was as though he had just come across my application last week. Shall I suppose his company receives so many job applications that there is a 15-month lag to respond? Does he think I remained unemployed in anticipation this whole time?

I send out many requests that disappear into the ether. I wondered why people didn’t just take 5 seconds to reply with a Sorry not interested.

We think that a complete disregard of queries implies that we’re so busy we don’t have the five seconds to respond. But the senders know better by now.

Sorry not interested burns bridges. Complete disregard actually means Not interested at the moment, but might possibly be interested in the future so I don’t want to risk saying something to offend you*.

Here’s what my prospective employer really meant to say:

Elaine,
Thank you for your interest. You were useless to me for the past 15 months, but now that I need something you can do, I’ll be nice and give you the courtesy of a response.

Dr. Xyz

I’m going to ignore it, of course. A part of me wants to reply and tell him where to stick it, but I remember there was a time when I desperately wanted that job. And maybe in a couple years I’ll find myself broke and homeless with staggering medical bills and I’ll have no choice but to reply:

Dear Dr. Xyz,
Thank you for your kind response. I had so many messages in my inbox that it took me two years to delete all the Cialis ads and get to your email. Yes, I am indeed available for a phone interview.

Call me!
Elaine

*On a side note, if people are ignoring your queries for thoughtful response, it is possible that you simply suck at email.

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