They've been coming in fast and furious the last couple of weeks, as the last of the hires are buttoned up. This classy letter arrived in my e-box just today:
Dear Dr. Zombie,
Thank you very much for your interest in the position recently advertised by the Philosophy Department at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. I am writing to inform you that the position has now been filled. We received many applications of very high quality. Narrowing down our choices to a short list, and then (finally) to one candidate was a difficult process.
I remember all too well my own search for a tenure-track job in philosophy, and I know how discouraging news such as this can be. I do wish you the very best in your search.
Glenn A. Magee
Chairman, Philosophy Department
What this letter does right: refers to me as Dr. rather than Mr. or Ms. (I get both). Gets right to the point and tells me the position has been filled, without telling me how happy they are to have hired Dr. Awesome of Better Than U. for the position. Tells me the search was difficult because the many candidates were of high quality (a nonspecific compliment). Expresses sincere-sounding sympathy (directed towards the recipient) without insincere-sounding regret (I should care how the letter writer feels?), and wishes me well.
Short and sweet. It's not hard to do. And yet, so many of them get it so wrong.
Got vexations and triumphs to share with the class?