Tanju Deveci, Nausheen Pasha-Zaidi

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The nature of the current academic job market engages many PhD holders in continuous search for employment. The competitive job market created by this causes recruitment committees to review an overwhelming number of materials submitted by each candidate. It is often the case that applicants are not alerted if their applications are not successful, which likely creates frustration. Although receiving a rejection letter may be considered an act of kindness, rejection can be a face-threatening act for both the addressor and the addressee. Therefore, special care needs to be given to writing an employment rejection letter. Despite this, the advanced electronic communication often utilized when communicating to applicants seems to create formidable challenges. With this in mind, this research aimed to identify how the rejection speech act is performed in emails addressed to PhD holders, and what professors thought about different types of rejection emails. Data for the former collected using fifty-eight authentic employment rejection emails and data for the latter were collected using a survey comprised of three emails, to which twenty professors responded. Results revealed that a variety of moves were employed in the emails. These included ‘subject-line’, ‘salutation’, ‘thank-you note’, ‘notification of process completion’, ‘compliment’, ‘justification’, ‘rejection’, ‘remedy’, ‘appreciation and/or thank-you note’, ‘good luck wish’, ‘valediction’, and ‘addressor’s name and/or affiliation’. Although these moves did not seem to have a fixed order, an overall structure was detected. On the other hand, data on professors’ opinions about different rejection emails showed that the content and how rejection is expressed impacted their perception of the self and the institution. Results are discussed and recommendations are offered to mitigate the effects of employment rejection emails which are highly face-threatening.

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