Navigating the black hole of writing job applications

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I love writing. Really I do. Which is why I have chosen to write for a living.
As many freelance writers do, I don't put all my clients into one egg basket. Among my clients I count newspapers, electronic media, book packagers, TV producers and custom publishers. When I don't query well or when I feel I'm spending too much time researching, then it is my fault. The guilt can pile on. But I generally feel okay if I've done my best.
However, sometimes a job catches my eye and I apply for it. In ordinary times, I hopefully assume, all the applicants would be contacted. However, in these extraordinary times of MediaBistro and CraigsList postings, e-mail boxes at hiring companies are overflowing. So I am thrilled when I have applied for a writing job and have been told I've reached the first cut of writers. Contacted by the company, I know that the pool of applicants has grown a bit smaller. But that's when things get a little fuzzy.
Then, it seems, I fall into the black hole of job applicants. It's a lonely hole--not because one is actually alone, but because you don't know who your fellow travelers are. To make the journey even more awkward, you don't want to be a very squeaky wheel. In this world of social media, you become a social media pariah if you tweet your unveiled frustrations.
I know the saying is that squeaky wheels get the grease, but what if the person you squeak to uses a delete button on a whim.
"Ugh, a second e-mail from this job applicant, we'll take care of that!"
What if you remain stuck in the black hole even after a stellar interview where you "connected" and yet the potential employer never contacts you again?
"We'll let you know on Monday."
In fact, the employer refuses to respond to direct e-mails but continues to write pithy tweets while you scan for any mention of a job hiring. Do you un-follow them?
Herein lies my dilemma, I love writing for the versatility and the sheer energy I can expend on my assignments. But it is the business of freelancing that gives me a woozy feeling. One that makes me wish that I'd never applied for the job because then I wouldn't be watching my mailbox like a shunned lover. I enjoy the relationships I've built with my editors and, yes, some of them stem from blindly sending a letter of introduction. But sometimes, like today, I want to know who my fellow travelers are so I can commiserate with them and, maybe together, we can become a squeaky wheel that tells employers to give us some love...or at least some writing jobs.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at and, delving into creativity in everyday places. She will try not to check her e-mail and Twitter every minute today...well, maybe just every other minute. Just in case.


allena said...

wow. I pretty much forget about jobs once I send off my letter. This is because I've been hired weeks or even months later. I'll get an offer and have to go waaay back in my emails to see the original resume/cover letter/application. I definitely don't bother waiting around!

Elizabeth King Humphrey said...

I'm not advocating waiting fact, I applied for something else this morning.
Admittedly, there ARE many times when I may forget about them (especially the ones that sound perfect, but have a general e-mail address, like "") I file those in my follow-up file and discover them much, much later.
However, Allena, don't you ever wonder, when you have gone the distance and *interviewed* that you at least should receive some kind of an answer...not just e-mail silence?
Thanks for commenting!

Cathy C. Hall said...


I know exactly what you mean. I don't mind those jobs/queries that I never hear from again (well, I do, but I forget about them when I don't hear anything). BUT, when I've had a good interview or received a definite, positive response, and then I never hear another word? Not even a "we've filled the position, thanks for your interest"...That's just plain rude.

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