Job application etiquette: the polite rejection letter

February 27, 2007, 3:12 PM UTC
Fortune

A lawyer I know sent me the following email exchange relating to an interview for employment at a trusts & estates firm in Boston. I verified its authenticity from both ends of the exchange, but have taken pity on the law firm, and will withhold its name and that of its administrator. The exchange demonstrates the importance of examining email addresses closely for unexpected things like middle initials or appended numbers. (For ease of reading, I’ve rearranged the thread so you can read from top to bottom.)

From: [A.L.]
Date: February 14, 2007
Subject: Law clerk position
To: [Samuel F.]

Hi Sam,

I am in touch with you regarding your email to M[.] L[.] about employment with our firm. We are currently looking for a temporary law clerk.

I’d be happy to meet with you. Please let me know when you’re available.

Thanks!

A[.] L[.]
Administrator
[Law Firm and address omitted]
Boston, MA 02108

From: Samuel F[.]
Date: Feb 20, 2007 6:25 PM
Subject: Re: Law clerk position
To: [A.L.]

Dear Ms. L.,
Your message was a pleasant surprise. Regrettably, I must decline. My schedule as a second-grader is quite hectic already. Moreover, I am very busy planning my eighth birthday party next month.
I will of course keep you in mind when I graduate from law school in 2024.

Yours,
Samuel F[.]

Yesterday I spoke to A.L., who said she’d meant to write to a different Samuel F.–a recent graduate of American University Law School who had submitted a resume to the firm–but had inadvertently omitted a character from the email address.
Since the Samuel F. who received the email also happens to be the son of a lawyer, I have my suspicions that his father may have lent him some assistance with his reply.