I'm a pretty thick-skinned individual these days, so racking up a nice collection of rejection letters from the very few institutions even offering theology positions this past year has not been devastating. Still, I can't help but notice the amazing qualitative difference in the rejection letters so far received. Compare:
"Thank you for your kind interest in our tenure track position... We received a record number of applications for this position, and so many of them are from such wonderful and thoughtful candidates. I wish we could hire them all. Of course that is impossible. Unfortunately, after review of your credentials by our search committee, it has been determined that we will not be able to pursue this process any further with you. I'm truly sorry to bear this news, but I do thank you sincerely for your interest in our position. I know that the future will bring its own share of success and blessings for you, perhaps even in ways you did not expect."
"...is grateful for your interest in our job... We can now announce that we are offering the position to ----. Again, we thank you for your interest and for the thoughtfulness of your application. We all think highly of you and your work, and wish you every success as you move forward with your career."Now, it seems like letter #1 is attempting to say the same thing as letter #2, but in fact, what you get is something more like "we had lots of people apply, some of whom really good but we're not saying whether or not you were one of those, we looked at your credentials and were frankly horrified, sorry to say so, but hey, thanks for applying and just as a parting shot, maybe you should start thinking about a different career path altogether."
[Note to self: JTB, if you ever find yourself writing one of these letters, remember to look up this post in the ol' blog archive before composing it.]