Pre-covid I had applied speculatively for unpaid internships and had one decision maker write back that he:

really didn't have anything suitable at the current time

although he:

definitely admired my energy

and would

certainly be in touch if something suitable came along.

I don't know why I thought he was being sarcastic when I read it, like he was mocking me? It's the admire my energy bit that really threw me off. I've never had anyone be so complimentary (if he was being that ) over a simple inquiry.

I'm asking as in a few months I am going to start writing again to heads of small companies speculatively for opportunities and don't know whether to include him on my list? It is difficult trying to encode ambiguously worded emails, for all I know he could be saying quit buzzing round me and wish people would be more direct & forthright in their communications so as not to lead potential applicants on.

EDIT: I have now included a culture tag. I am in the UK where indirect communications and the recipient having to. decipher the subtext is very much the norm as opposed to direct communications.

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    "We really don't have anything suitable at the current time, but I admire your energy. I'll be in touch if something suitable comes along." - None of that seems ambiguous to me. In fact, it seems pretty clear. What about that seems ambiguous to you? – joeqwerty Aug 23 '20 at 1:29
  • I'll be in touch if something suitable comes along is ambiguous because I don't know if it is a polite no thanks or yes but not now coupled with the weird I admire your energy .. what do you take it to mean, what makes it clear? – Sally101 Aug 23 '20 at 1:36
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    Them saying "really" and "definitely" makes it seem more genuine. – Monstar Aug 23 '20 at 9:30
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    @Sally101 : If you believe that it might be culture-related, please add an appropriate tag. – breversa Aug 24 '20 at 15:30
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    Most "decision makers" don't have the time or thought-space to waste being snarky, sarcastic or any of the other things you might read into this. This person doesn't know you, and frankly you're not worth the energy of applying something with subtext (no offense intended). If they weren't on the level they simply would not have replied. Take it at face value and move on. – Joel Etherton Aug 25 '20 at 14:27

Chances are you can take their sincerity at face value regarding their enthusiasm for your energy. As somebody who gets approached in this way quite a bit, I can tell you that it is nice to be approached by keen, energetic, interested candidates (You might be surprised what the "average" is like).

What I would be mindful of though is, while it's somewhat culturally different across the world "not at this time" likely means never. It's unlikely to be you, more than it isn't something they would usually facilitate. While things might change its unlikely that a busy company that is approached many times per week by people will think to get back to you. By all means try again but I would consider it "why not" rather than pin any hopes on it.

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    While it's certainly uncommon, it does occasionally occur that in such a case a new position really does open up and they really do remember having an excellent candidate that would be suited to said new position. You're right to temper expectations though. – Cronax Aug 24 '20 at 14:26
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    Does it really matter whether they are sinceere or sarcastic or whatever? The message is plain as day - No. – Tymoteusz Paul Aug 25 '20 at 8:02
  • @TymoteuszPaul This is what the OP asked for an opinion on. I would say that it indeed matters if the candidate is still considering attempting to be placed at that company. If it were deemed that this was toxic behaviour that might affect the OPs choices. – Techlead Aug 25 '20 at 12:07
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    The "never" thing also tends to be around timing more than "I get so many of these". I get these kinds of emails, and when I do see something that I'm inclined to respond, I add them to a list of potentials by date. When it comes to intern and junior positions, I'd much rather have a list of "go-getters" at the ready than have to rely on interviews for that information. It's rare that something comes up, though I have referred individuals to other areas of my company based on my list. Sometimes nothing opens up before that person moves on. – Joel Etherton Aug 25 '20 at 14:31

Chances are it is templated or automatic response sent without any human behind screen and you are just overthinking it. It is very common for hiring people to send out these en masse. It is ambiguous and leaves silver of hope on intention to avoid negative associations with brand.

  • Thanks for the contribution, do you have any experience of this you would like to share? – Alan Dev Aug 23 '20 at 13:16

My Bet: This is just a standard reply for speculative applications. I also bet the that phrasing was chosen to emphasize the initiative (admired my energy) and leave the door open/don´t burn any bridges ( if something suitable came along)

In general, in any business communication, try not to see any malice where none is explicitly stated. If you receive communication that makes you feel strongly, best let it sit overnight an re-read it the next day and see if you really have cause for those feelings.

Also: You can apply to any company periodically, as often as you want, so long as they don´t tell you the infamous "don´t contact us, we´ll contact you". Some will recognize the perseverance, especially if your application makes it clear that you really want to work with them. Others will eventually tell you a definite no - ok at least than you know. What´s the worst that can happen? Getting a no or don´t applying at all .. you don´t loose anything.

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    the infamous "don´t contact us, we´ll contact you" Ahh yes! Interesting you say that as that is exactly what I thought we will be in touch if suitable position materialises meant ... yup I've definitely been overthinking this! – Sally101 Aug 25 '20 at 11:11

There is little to lose by writing a second time after many months. If the response was serious and he thinks you're a good candidate, he may have something when you ask again. If the response was sarcastic (which is unlikely) he will snort "oh wow, this one again!" to himself when you write again, and either ignore you, or tell you more bluntly that he has nothing to offer you.

If you don't write to him again, he also won't hire you. So what's the risk in asking again? He might send you a rude email. But he probably won't, even if he doesn't hire you.

  • interesting thanks. I will give it a shot as have little to lose as you correctly say. I guess if he responds along the lines of we still don't have anything, thanks for interest we will be in touch if we do I can then just scratch them off my list ... though danger is they may actually not have anything! – Sally101 Aug 23 '20 at 1:03
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    @Sally101 then that would be your loss and down to you not them. – Solar Mike Aug 23 '20 at 5:39

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