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Employers, what’s with the mid-OCI rejection emails?

The 2L recruit is heavy on acronyms. Some are employers, most are government: MOL; DOJ; PPSC. Others are procedural: OCIs; ITCs; PFOs.

They came in handy when, one sunny October afternoon, I wanted to speedily recap this year’s process to my roommate: “Three employers sent out PFOs halfway through OCIs today!”

Translation: They emailed out rejection letters in the middle of the second day of on-campus interviews, at least at the University of Toronto. The career development office at Osgoode Hall Law School, the only other school with a two-day interview process, did not respond to a request for comment.

So, when some students checked their emails during a break on the second day of interviews, they learned that a recruiter with whom they spoke for 17 awkward minutes the day before had decided they were not worthy of further consideration for summer employment. And then, shortly afterwards, students had to head into other curtained booths and try to charm other employers.

There’s something to be said for prompt decisions: Waiting for an email in the weeks before call day can be agonizing. And once students know they’re out of the running for one organization, they can focus their energies on others and possibly even re-assess their interviewing tactics before their next kick at the can. But in a high-pressure environment with little down time, it’s more likely the news will torpedo subsequent interviews than trigger a well-planned strategy review.

“It's fine [the employer] rejected me — they don't have that many spots for the summer. But I would have greatly appreciated it if they'd waited about five hours to reject me,” says Atticus, a second-year law student who received a rejection email at lunchtime on the second day.

“I had four more interviews that afternoon and it's entirely possible other people had more than I did,” he says. “It kind of shakes your confidence and could affect someone's performance on subsequent interviews.”

Atticus ended up getting an ITC from the firm that interviewed him right after he got the rejection email. And while the timing of that email was “inconsiderate,” he would still consider re-applying to that organization during the articling recruit if he is not happy where he summers.

“It is a slight knock against them, but I think it would be foolish to impugn an entire office based on what I think is the poor judgment of at most two people,” he says.

Gretel, another 2L who also received a midday rejection email, had a tougher time since she was dealing with some personal issues as well.

“I still had three OCIs to go,” she says. “I opened [the email] up and it basically said you're fantastic — but we don't like you,” she says. “So I’m sitting there colouring while tears are streaming down my face. I’m trying not to look up because I don’t want to cry harder.”

And then it was time for Gretel’s next interview. Career development office staff hurried to find tissues, but it took her a little while to collect herself, and she lost precious minutes with the next firm. 

Gretel agrees resilience is important, but at the same time, firms don’t know what else students have on their plates. Politely phrased rejection letters still sting, and they make it harder to begin other interviews with a positive mindset.

So, employers, take note for next year: Simply wait until OCIs are wrapped up at each school before sending any emails indicating whom you want to speak with again.

The names of the students interviewed have been changed.