I recently filled a position for a company. It came down to two finalists - let's call them Dierdre and Fred. Both had strong backgrounds and references, but Dierdre consistently outshone Fred through out the interview process that included meetings with the Hiring Manager, a panel of peers, and the Owner of the company. She was more prepared for the interviews, more articulate, more assertive about her ideas for how she could contribute, and generally more fun to interview.
As I conversed with the hiring manager about which candidate to make an offer to, we agreed that we would make the offer to Dierdre. We also agreed that Fred was a strong player but just not right for this role. We discussed another position that we expected to come open within the next couple of months that might be a good match for him. I sent Fred a personalized letter thanking him for the time and interest he had invested in the company, acknowledging his considerable skills, and suggesting that we would save his resume and perhaps talk again in the future. To my dismay I received this e-mail in response:
"Thank you for your response. Obviously, I had wished that it had been a more positive message. Personally, I thought my skill set and those required for the position were a reasonably good match."
Fred's passive-aggressive e-mail demonstrates both poor judgment and poor communication skills and confirms our choice of Deidre for the position. It also ensures that we won't be contacting him if and when the other position opens up.
The moral of the story is: whether you win the job or not, be gracious. You never know what other opportunities may be available for you, and being petty will never get you anywhere worthwhile.