The Rejection Letter

The Rejection Letter

Personal branding, relationships, skills, and experience are very important topics among career advice. But one topic that many people don’t talk about is your heart and character- having a deep desire to put others before yourself and make a different in people’s lives. This is a quality that many we, Millennials, have ingrained in our mindset, but perhaps we should do a better job of flaunting this quality on the workplace, as it may bring us more success than we could imagine…

Let me to tell you a little story about Joe, a millennial who worked at small health start-up in San Francisco. As with any start-up, processes were broken, the product wasn’t working, and client information was always being lost. It was frustrating for Joe, but, more importantly, it was very frustrating for his clients. He could feel their rage, their stress, their concern on every call. See, the thing about clients is that you have to recognize that behind every employee is a human being. And attached to that human being is a family, a struggle, and ultimately a story.

“I recognized that there was a deeper reason behind why my clients were mad. They were concerned! They were worried that they wouldn’t get that bonus to pay for the daughter’s college tuition. Or that they wouldn’t be able to pay rent. We often forget that there is so much more to a person than the fact that they bought your product. I wanted to help those people and my company so I needed to find a solution.”

Joe started digging. He saw that there was so much information being collected during the sales cycle that never made it over to the customer success team. He then came across Salesforce – a tool that was used by sales team but not any other team in the company. I did some research and was instantly amazed at the technology. It was simple to use, powerful, and housed so much of the information he needed. Joe worked for 6 months following that on extending the platform beyond his sales team into the customer success team. The end result? SUCCESS. Client satisfaction rose and his team secured a 95% renewal rate that year. It made his clients happy and his company succeeded. At that moment, he fell in love with Salesforce.

“Growing up my mom always told me to become a doctor. It was ingrained in me that health was the only way to help people. But with salesforce, I found a different way of helping people.”

Two years later Joe was ready to make a move in his career to further challenge himself. His first stop? Salesforce. After applying to several Project Manager and Program Managers positions, making it through to final rounds three times and getting rejected all three times, Joe was feeling really defeated. Two of the three times he wasn’t good enough. The last was due to timing. He had all the qualities of an ideal employee: went to a top school, was a PMP, a CSM, everything. But for some reason things didn’t work out. In mid-March Joe received an email from a Salesforce recruiter who told him she was forwarded his resume from a previous recruiter and asked if he would be interested in applying for a Project Manager position they just opened. Ecstatic, he jumped on the opportunity. Long story short, he was going on a trip to Asia for his current job and could not start for 6 weeks. Salesforce couldn’t wait and moved forward with another candidate. Just like that, his dream job slipped through his fingers.

“It sucked – I didn’t know for sure if it was a timing issue or if it was just because I wasn’t good enough. The team was super talented and I really wanted to learn and work with them.”

As sad as he was, he realized that at the end of the day, they needed to take care of their customer and that is what Joe really wanted to make sure happened. He also witnessed three group layoffs during his last three years and knew how difficult it is to find good talent. At the end of the day, he saw his dream company succeed. And it was a good feeling to know that they were. That meant they would keep their doors open which meant the opportunity to apply again would still exist.

Joe wrote a letter to the hiring manager:

Hi Roger,

First, let me congratulate you and your team on the newest addition to your team. I know how much work goes into hiring so this is a huge accomplishment!

Although I am disappointed, the major positive that came out of the interview was the re-enforcement of my desire to play a part in helping Salesforce succeed. The team I interviewed with (Sarah, Winter, William, and yourself) were absolutely amazing and bright, and I would love to work with that team if anything opens up in the future. I know my skills and experience would enable me to do a great job in that role or a similar role.

If you have any advice on how I can improve my future candidacy, I would really appreciate the feedback. Again, thank you to you and your team for your time.

All the best,

Joe Smith

To which he received this reply:

Hi Joe,

Thanks so much for reaching out and for your kind words, that really speaks volumes about your character.

Rest assured, you are definitely still top of mind for our team and if our headcount continues to grow as expected, we will be in touch.

With regard to your future candidacy, I would simply continue to do the things that you’re doing now.  Grow your PM knowledge base and gain experience in the NYC area.  

Hopefully that helps, safe travels this week!


Two days later, he got an offer. Turns out Salesforce opened up another role just for him. And to his surprise, it ended up being a Senior Project Manager role. After 2 years of dreaming about being at this company and 3 failed attempts, he was finally there. 

He could have been bitter about the rejection letter. He also could have never responded, like most people do, and given up on his dream job just then. But deep inside, he cared about the company and was committed to his dream. His response to the rejection letter was authentic and from the heart, and the hiring manager recognized and remembered that.

It just goes to show that personal brand, skills, and experience are all important traits, but a big differentiator among many young professionals looking for jobs is authentically showing that you care.