The college I went to had a pub with the policy that a rejection letter (for a job, post graduate position, etc) could be traded for one free beer. It was a brilliant policy for encouraging people to try. From one perspective 30+ letters of rejection to get what you want is depressing. From my perspective that would have been getting the thing you wanted along with thirty free drinks.
Make your own luck, right? :)
The worst is surely from the University of Colorado at Boulder. I find the prose florid and demeaning. Lowlights include implying that many "well qualified individuals" applied, using a sentence structure that clearly suggests you are not counted amongst them.
Yale runs a close second worst, for their brutal and brief suggestion that you go "elsewhere".
The best is from the Colorado School of Mines. It is pleasant, warm, apologetic. In particular, it bothers to express appreciation of time & energy invested, and it speaks of a "closer match" of the shortlisted candidates rather than pompously announce how grand their field was.
University of Colorado at Boulder: pg. 19
Yale: pg. 26
Colorado School of Mines: pg. 14
I must agree the Colorado School of Mines struck me as warm as well, from the get-go, before I read your comment.
I am in germany, so my experience may not compare. But at my institute we have many international postdocs. As far as I see it, there is NO way to get a faculty position without an international research record. Some of our postdocs get a professorship though, but it may be in Korea or China, never in Europe or in the United States so far.
When I thought about my career during my PhD time, I felt like it was a one way ticket to think about science positions only. They were very rare and the competition is hard. What is to gain except a mediocre salary for a lifetime? At least in Europe it is also tough to go back from a research institute and work for a business again.
So I decided to develop software (I am a physicist). That is closer to my interests than science. I finally landed in space projects and write scientific software, have free access to great data (that no scientist in the world can see so early) and I can really focus on my work. The professors, on the other hand, spend their day giving and preparing lectures, organizing money for the research and don't have time to do some research themselves.
There are always ways to go. If one way is tough, it will most likely remain tough all the way. It opens the mind to think about alternatives and this chance should be taken, imho.
(1) conveying the fact of it politely and unequivocally,
(2) ensuring that the process halts immediately, and
(3) leaving an impression such that the candidate's likelihood of thinking & speaking ill of us in future is minimised.
The fact is, rejection usually amounts to disappointment and in some people that means they're about to pass through the stages of grief, often quite quickly. As the rejector you have a chance of being on the receiving end of the anger & bargaining stages from a rejectee.
This creates an incentive to give away as little as possible. If one states that the candidate was weak in a specific area, there are a few - just a few but it's enough to be a major deterrent - that will treat this as an invitation to negotiation over that and/or related points. In the worst case this led to a large volume of unsolicited communication that proved challenging to curtail.
Thus goals (1) and (2) had not been achieved and goal (3) was abandoned in the interests of time.
From another dimension, IANAL but I have also been advised by Ms.IAAL that being specific also opens the door to a risk of being wrong (or even being simply perceived to be wrong), and thus a liability concern.
If you really want that kind of feedback, do some mock interviews. What you're asking for just isn't a service that prospective employers have much incentive to offer.
Once an interview occurs then I would hope a far more personal approach gets used. The benchmark for this was McKinsey (I was there 10 years ago). I went through the recruitment process there from both sides, and we had a simple policy to call the person back within 24 hours, letting let them know immediately whether they were in the next step or not. We would also offer to give constructive feedback (and have it to give) to both successful and unsuccessful candidates.
That said, June is still ridiculously late. The search should be done by March or so at the latest, with maybe some contract details lingering until April if there's a hard negotiation.
I've often thought that it would be nice to keep candidates a little more apprised of where they stand, but another problem that faculty search committees run into here is that in our litigious culture (in the US at least), we have to be very, very, very careful what we say for fear of a lawsuit. Sigh.
As such when I got the rejection letter it didn't ruin my day at all, I really wasn't surprised. What did surprise me was the way it was phrased. It was a while ago so I don't remember verbatim, but it was something like this:
you are not of high enough caliber to be admitted into Waterloo
the word caliber was definitely used. What a cold, cold way to reject someone. I can only imagine having gotten that letter thinking I might have a chance of getting in. Would have been devastating.
Talk about not sugar coating anything :)
My advice to anyone applying out for faculty jobs is just to expect a ton of rejections. I stopped reading the letters/emails after I knew they were rejections. Reading more doesn't do any good and it's not like it is a personal letter anyways. One of the things that made it easier was that I was once involved in a faculty job search. 400-500 applications were whittled down to about ~40 that looked good. The process of whittling those down to the 7-8 we interviewed seemed very arbitrary; many of those we didn't interview looked very good. After the interviews, you could have made clear arguments for a few candidates. In the end, one got an offer. So, after seeing the number of applications involved, and the randomness involved in the process, it's pretty easy to just know there will be a lot of rejections.
I often get non-committed, non-final quasi rejections along the lines of "we didn't land the project we wanted to hire you for, can we talk in half a year please?" or "we're now moving headquarters and delaying all hiring, would next fall be fine?".
On the one hand it feels good not to be outright rejected, but I always have trouble judging what's really going on. Is that really the reason, or just an excuse? Are they merely trying to keep contact with potential future hires?
On the other hand, most of them are probably just jerks.
In any case I don't see why anyone would allow such lampreys to suck the life of their own web page.
I found it interesting that most of the letters (with the exception of two) referred to you as Mr. Chang rather than Dr. Chang. I just since you had not technically finished your PhD by that point they were technically accurate. (The letter from Brown seems to be dated June and begins with an apology for delay, so maybe by that point you were actually a Dr.)
Did you find it demeaning that they didn't refer to faculty position applicants as Dr.?
1. Academics actually have a better historical- and linguistic claim to the title "doctor" than do physicians and surgeons.
From Wikipedia: "Doctor, as a title, originates from the Latin word of the same spelling and meaning. The word is originally an agentive noun of the Latin verb docēre [dɔˈkeːrɛ] 'to teach'. It has been used as an honored academic title for over a millennium in Europe, where it dates back to the rise of the first universities." 
2. In the UK, surgeons are called "Mister" for historical reasons, as explained by a FAQ of the Royal College of Surgeons. 
Well .. it would be nice if I could put Dr. on my passport or drivers license. But that doesn't seem to be an option.
Academics tend to guard jealously their hard-won academic titles, and also to strive for accuracy in the things they do. An unsolicited 'Dr' might be extended as a courtesy to a graduand, i.e. someone who has already submitted and successfully defended their thesis viva voce. But surely not to someone who is merely 'finishing up' - a process that might never terminate.
You are right. I didn't outline the reasons why I posted this very explicitly. I hoped that people would form their own opinions about these things, honestly. One reason, for myself, was that I found myself reflecting on failure, persistence, bad job application strategies, etc., and just marveling at the mass of it all there in one spot, all looking rather similar.
The feeling of rejection is one that we all share, and I thought I could connect with people by posting these letters.
Anyways, normal rates, yes. Special post? Guess not. I felt it was worth sharing.
Also, in this case it was fun to the see the letterheads for a large number of well-respected engineering schools all addressed to the same person. Just to be in the position to be rejected by those departments is a significant accomplishment, after all.
Y'know what? Twenty-nine rejections and one offer is a perfectly normal rate, not just for faculty positions but for many things in life, but it doesn't make each one less painful. When you're stuck in the middle of it and you don't know how the story is going to end, you can lose perspective.
If you disagree with somebody, you reply.
You don't downvote just because you disagree, and you definitely don't downvote without a reply just because you disagree.
Downvotes are for trolls/rude people.
Explain to this person why you disagree, I want to know.
You'll note I'm taking the trouble to reply. I checked your join date. It is before several of the many repostings of this statement from pg,
first posted 1592 days ago:
"I think it's ok to use the up and down arrows to express agreement. Obviously the uparrows aren't only for applauding politeness, so it seems reasonable that the downarrows aren't only for booing rudeness."
I upvote to approve of posts that I agree with and advance the discussion, and I downvote from time to time if all I have to say on an issue is that the statement in the comment I'm downvoting doesn't warrant agreement. I look at my own comments for reasons why people might disagree with them, but I don't feel obligated, as a reader here, to spell out ALL the details about why I might disagree with a comment to everyone who posts a comment containing a dubious statement.
I appreciate your reply. (Yeah, I upvoted it.) If someone had found a newer quotation on the same issue, I'd refer to that whenever this frequently asked question comes up. To the main point, there is no rule here either in the explicit guidelines
or in the established custom of the site that a downvote mandatorily must be accompanied by a reply, nor is there any rule or custom that downvotes are solely to be applied to the kind of comments that pg has described
as "comments that are (a) mean and/or (b) dumb that (c) get massively upvoted." The question is a question of line-drawing. I try on my part to make my upvotes far outnumber my downvotes, and I try actively to upvote any comment that made me think of an aspect of a problem I haven't thought about before or that cites information I haven't learned before. I lurk in a lot of threads just to upvote good stuff. But some comments mostly just try to express poorly thought out opinions with little factual basis or to make lame jokes, and there is no particular reason to explain downvoting those comments. I don't always claim that comments that I downvote are from "trolls/rude people"; sometimes they are just comments that don't meet the usual high standards of regular participants here.
If you don't like an article or don't find it interesting just ignore it, that's the whole point of the voting system. Things that are interesting to a lot of people bubble up, things that aren't, don't. Commenting with "I don't think this is interesting" isn't helpful.
As for your actual post, the author is saying the rejection letters had a particular impact on him even though he eventually got what he wanted. Having been rejected by a few places when applying for graduate studies after having decided that I didn't want to go anyway(because I had decided against pursuing further studies and starting to work) I can definitely sympathize with the author, it still feels bad.
Furthermore, I think the collection of such letters is definitely interesting. Most people when they get rejected tend to think that their case is unique and think that this reflects badly on themselves. I think that it's interesting to see that even people who "made it"(got his dream job, didn't he?) still went through that. So it's perfectly normal.
I haven't even got one rejection letter yet. A few rejection emails, in each case many months after I'd given up all hope of getting the job, is all I've got to show for it.
Sigh. Good thing I'm pretty.
I remember sending out of 200 resumes during the recession at the end of the 80's. Back then you'd always get a letter back -- even if you didn't get an interview!
Now, it's so much easier for companies to send a rejection -- yet most don't bother. Sigh.
My wife went through this same process last year. Not one single rejection letter.
Times have changed.
But on a more serious note, Mark reframed his rejections into a positive learning opportunity for many people. Thanks for doing this Mark.