John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Happily disappointed.

I was happy to get a disappointing Dear John letter today.  I’m kind of used to that, but I was disappointed because it the first sentence started with “I want to personally thank you for interviewing” and the second sentence began with “we have decided not to pursue hiring you at this time”.  So I am disappointed. How does that make me happy?  Let me explain both sides.

The most important reason for my disappointment is that I thought I could do great things in a position where great things need to happen. The letter came from a company that has some untapped and unique competitive advantages, and no geographical boundaries. That company only does $26 million of annual sales in a marketplace where a single federal program will spend more than $6 billion dollars annually, in just one subset of that company’s target market. They have a few thousand customers but there are over 325,000 possible customers.  It is a company where salespeople produce more than 80% of sales, and a company with no currently coherent online brand.  Their print catalogs are great, but they don’t really maximize social media opportunities, ecommerce, or electronic marketing at all. In this wired world, this is a company with a dozen unique variables that combine to present a spectacular opportunity.

I felt the same way in 1994 when I was doing work on complexity theory and Conway’s game of life. I thought of profound implications for economics nestled within the program that emulated artificial life.

For this interview – I tried a new and novel approach. I interviewed as if I were a consultant. I did research on the company, the position, and presented – to the interviewer – the issues, the opportunities, some solutions and ways to get to them.  To fall on the baseball analogy that felt most appropriate, I felt it was the most soaring and highest homer I’ve ever hit at an interview.  So I am disappointed that I didn’t correctly gauge where the fence was.  It is a secondary thing, but I do not know how anyone could have hit it further.  

Why didn’t I get an offer? I don’t know and I may never know, but I was happy with my performance. I was happy with my preparation. I was happy with the interview. Overall, I am comfortably calm and happy that I did as well as I could. I’d certainly love to get feedback, but it is what it is.  There are lots of reasons why they may not have wanted to pursue hiring me. I would like to think that they wanted someone to bunt, and the home run ruled me out. It is fun to think like that, but I’m not quite that arrogant and I know that it is equally possible that the fence was further than I could ever hit.  Maybe my “home-run” was their ground ball.

So finally – I am quite happy that the company had the uncommon courtesy to send me a letter to let me know. That was a very nice touch, and to me, it reflects amazingly well on them!  For every interview a company gives, in person, I think it should be a common business practice to send a letter. The people you hire should get one, and the people that you do not pursue hiring – they should get one also.  If it is worth the time to interview a person, it should be worth the time to send a brief note.  From my perspective, I am happy that I’m no longer in the dark about that opportunity.

So – I’m happily disappointed.

What do you think?


August 25, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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