The courtesy of a phone call

Today, Dan got a call from a recruiter who represents a law firm that interviewed him two days ago. The recruiter wanted to tell him that they were no longer considering him for the job. Possibly he's "overqualified." We were elated.

Don't get me wrong, we are long since past thinking "overqualified" is a compliment. It's simply something people say to mask a thousand reasons not to hire someone. It's just that those thousand reasons are all more difficult to say. "We realized that Jim's brother-in-law is a much better fit," perhaps. Or, "we hated your hair." Or, "our third-quarter numbers are in the tank, and we're freezing the hire." Who ever knows what irrationality lurks in the hearts of men? No, we were elated just to emerge from limbo. Overjoyed that someone took the courtesy to call. Because as any job seeker will tell you, much of the time, no matter how positive the interview, you are left to stew and wonder.

I remember when it was not this way. It changed sometime shortly after the turn of the century, or maybe right after Sept. 11 when everyone was hurting for many different reasons. Interviewers used to tell you when they would get back to you, and they pretty much kept their word. Even if it was a difficult call to make -- a "no" instead of a "yes" -- at least you knew.

Career counselors used to avise asking for feedback from employers who rejected you. Then you knew what to brush up on the next time. One time an executive editor told me I didn't seem to want the job enough. I didn't "reach across the desk" and grab him by the lapels. Seriously. Now, it's mostly just silence.

A silence that squeezes your soul like a lemon. I even prefer the lapel comment to silence.