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MIT’s Washington Office has the best job rejection letters ever because they’re a lesson in branding

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Anyone who’s applied for a bunch of jobs within a short period of time knows that the most common response to your job application is silence. Sometimes – my estimation is roughly 15% – you get an anonymous email telling you that you didn’t make it through the initial screening, but typically you just don’t hear anything at all.

Such rejection-by-silence is just something you get used to because, sadly, it’s the norm. Which is why I was surprised to receive a letter in the mail from a place I had applied for a job about five weeks ago, the Washington Office of MIT. I had met with their #2 for an informal breakfast meeting but then hadn’t gotten a follow-up (I’m not sure it was a great fit from my end, either).

I’ve gotten so used to average and below-average treatment from human resources that I literally couldn’t imagine what could possibly be in this letter. I figured that they had recorded my personal information and were inviting me to an upcoming event that might be of interest. But nothing could have prepared me for what I found when I opened the envelope.

Putting the obvious generic flattery aside, there are some wonderful things about this rejection letter. I wish you could touch it. The paper is really high quality, the kind I would have used in a typewriter a lifetime ago. It has MIT watermarks on it (below the address, and below the signature). It’s hand-signed in pen by the director of the office. And they areappreciative of my interest in them.

And they should be. Applicants have long memories. And no matter where my career takes me, I’ll never forget this particular rejection from MIT because it says a lot about their values. They’re old-fashioned. They take the time to do high-quality things. And the letter is an amazing branding touch-point; MIT took a negative (getting rejected for a job) and transformed it into a positive (a surprise brand experience). I’ll remember it positively and would say nice things about the office if asked, and wouldn’t hesitate to work with them in some way in the future, maybe years and years from now.

Lots of people over think branding and marketing and have really complex ways of measuring its effectiveness. And human resources staff definitely tends toward the cold and impersonal. This simple letter “tactic” (if they even consider it that, which I sincerely doubt – it’s just a genuine expression of how they approach things) had a big effect on me. I’ll be saving their letter to me as a terrific example of how every brand touch point with a human being is an opportunity to make a positive long-term impression.

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The Fuller Fellowship: Advancing Conservation Through Science

WWF-US is pleased to announce the availability of Kathryn Fuller Fellowships for 2010. For nearly 50 years WWF has committed to delivering science-based conservation results while incorporating the latest research and innovations into our work. As part of its commitment to advancing conservation through science, WWF established Kathryn Fuller Fellowships to support PhD students and postdoctoral researchers working on issues of exceptional importance and relevance to conservation in WWF-US priority places.  This year, the Kathryn Fuller Science for Nature Fund will support doctoral and postdoctoral research in the following three areas.

Fuller Doctoral Fellows receive either $15,000 or $20,000 allocated over a period of up to 2 years to cover research expenses.

Fuller Postdoctoral Fellows receive $140,000 to cover a stipend and research expenses over a period of up to two years as well as $17,500 to cover indirect costs at the host institution over the two-year fellowship period.

Citizens of any nation may apply. Applicants for Fuller Doctoral Fellowships must be currently enrolled in a PhD program. WWF staff, directors, and their relatives as well as current Russell E. Train Fellows are ineligible to receive Fuller Fellowships.

Deadline for applications is January 31, 2010.

For more information on complete eligibility requirements, selection criteria, and how to apply, please visit the Fuller Fellowship webpage.

Or you may send your questions to fullerfund@wwfus.org.

WWF-US Priority Places

Amazon – portions of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname

Arctic – Arctic portions of Canada, Norway, Russia, Sweden, United States (Alaska)

Borneo and Sumatra – portions of Indonesia, Malaysia

Coastal East Africa – coastal and marine areas of Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania

Congo Basin – portions of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Republic of Congo

Coral Triangle – coastal and marine areas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Timor Leste, Solomon Islands

Eastern Himalayas – Bhutan, Nepal

Galapagos – Ecuador (Galapagos Islands)

Mexico – State of Chiapas, Chihuahuan Desert , Gulf of California, Mesoamerican Reef of Mexico, Monarch Butterfly Reserve, State of Oaxaca


US Northern Great Plains – portions of the states of Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming

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Seed-Funded Psychometric Web Identity Startup Looking for Chief Scientist

So my buddy Tim Koelkebeck of Apps for Democracy fame has a new startup called MyType that’s looking for a chief scientist. And the company sounds like they might be on to something important (I have a Ph.D. in animal behavior, so I know this stuff, okay?? :)   How can I deny Tim access to my social network of govies, techies, and influencers? Hope that some of you or your colleagues find this job posting useful!

About MyType

MyType intends to develop a psychological identity platform that will allow web users to incorporate a psychometric model of their personality into their online identities. This will enable websites to perform “likemind collaborative filtering”, e.g. Amazon could recommend books, the New York Times could personalize headlines, ad networks could target ads, and Google could alter search results based on personality.

Our alpha Facebook application’s ~50,000 monthly active users have answered tens of millions of psychometric questions, linked their Twitter accounts, and generally been willing to volunteer any information that we can analyze and provide minimal feedback on.  We’re releasing a more viral beta application around Thanksgiving.

Role of the Chief Scientist

We’re looking for a top-notch data mining/machine learning scientist to predict user preferences via psychometric models and develop a general identity model that combines the best of various psychometric measures.  You must be proficient in the LAMP stack as you will be doing some app development in addition to analysis.

Practical Considerations

We’re offering a startup salary and equity.  Location not important for now, but must be willing to move to SF if we raise another round.


If interested contact tim@mytype.com please!

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Job Opening: National Security Journalism Web Community Manager

I don’t normally post job openings, but in this case I’ll make an exception. I’ve been talking with the folks behind the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism’s new National Security Journalism Initiative about their Web strategy. They’re hiring a community manager, and I’m sure it could be a great job for someone in my network. It’s also a part-time job, maybe 20 hours per week, so that’s important to keep in mind. Medill has a newsroom in downtown Washington, DC. Job opening follows:

The Medill National Security Journalism Initiative at Northwestern University seeks a Web site community manager with strong production, writing and editing skills. The ideal candidate will have experience in social media, participatory media and interactive journalism. The focus of the Web site is on national security, defense and civil liberties with the purpose of improving journalistic practice and increasing public engagement.  The community manager will help launch the Web site and other outreach tools to bring together interested parties.

This is a part-time position of at least two years’ duration.


*   Launch, along with the co-directors of the program, the week-to-week editorial strategy for the new site
*   Help develop the tone and the voice for the site and any associated programming
*   Maintain and produce the site (A working knowledge of HTML and CSS, as well experience with audio and video production, is essential.)
*   Grow and expand site traffic and audience engagement
*   Seek out and execute meaningful editorial and content partnerships
*   Supervise social media and other audience development strategies.

CONTACT: Please send natsecji@gmail.com a cover letter and resume.

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