Thursday, March 1, 2012

Interviews suck.

There is a lot of information available from all and sundry about how best to prepare for an interview, but there is one inescapable problem that no-one has an answer for: interviews, in general, suck.

Yesterday I had an interview for a fulltime permanent role that went for 20, yes twenty, minutes. Not only did I want to describe, using examples, how I have loads of experience and transferrable skills in every area that could conceivably covered by the job, but that I also wanted to talk with them about what the organisation does and how interesting I find the challenges ahead. In other words, all of the things that you are supposed to do in an interview. But I didn't have a chance.

Now, before you tell me I should have found out in advance how long the interview would be, I will tell you that the person I did ask told me it would go for an hour. This is the person who rang to invite me to interview, and who presumably would have been told when to schedule interviews and what time to allow between each one. Since she also works at the organsiation, she might have even been basing it on personal experience. Next time I will ask for the caller's interpretation of the interview schedule and their reasons for why it might be so.

After the obligatory interrogation of me, in the end, I was only allowed two questions of them. Doing a good job of immediately picking the two most important (to me at least) each one was met with a vague "we think the job description covers that". Well, perhaps it did to the person who wrote it, but really, no, it didn't. Maybe it was me who made the error of interpretation, but I really don't think so. After all, I have built a very successful career out of interpreting the written word. And yes, I did speak to the contact person listed in the job specs (who was not on the interview panel btw, which might have made a significant difference to my ideas about the role).

By this time I am still wanting the job, because, well, I am unemployed, so frankly, I need it. But then, in the wrapping up/summary, they killed it for me, by saying: "Of course, at this level and this salary it is a VERY senior role that requires a lot of responsibility and accountability". Well, yes, that would be why I want it.

Which part of being given hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money, doing research with atual live populations of people, publishing a book and loads of articles, consulting with industry, conducting public engagement, teaching up to 200 hundred students at a time, supervising administrative and junior teaching staff, mentoring PhD students, and generally being a collegial person in both my department and discipline does not require responsibility and accountability????


Oh, and BTW - my fulltime equivalent salary would be WAAAAY higher than the crappy wage your organisation is offering. So don't patronise me by telling me how highly paid I would be.

Given that for every part of my written application and interview, I used examples that demonstrated responsibility and accountability, I think I am justified in being a little annoyed.

I think they thought that I was just some kind of a student looking for my first job. Clearly the bureaucratic cogs don't allow for lateral thinking about transferrable skills.

We'll see what happens with the outcome. It would be just my luck that I end up working there after feeling so insulted at the interview. What they don't know but I do though, is this: once I did start working there they would quickly learn how fanstic I am and how grossly they have underrated me. All I need is to start work.

And what have I learnt from all of this? All interviews are different. No matter how similar the organisations, and how much research you do, be prepared to be surprised. Who knows? Maybe that guy that was so insulting is just socially awkward and is actually really nice and a great person to work for. Or maybe he's just really dumb, but it won't matter anyway cause he's too senior himself to hang with the newly employed hacks.

In the end: who cares - it's just a job after all. A chance for me to be entirely selfish and take what I need from them and move on if I don't like it. And that's the best part about not being an academic. You have options. Always.


  1. I'm sorry it wasn't a very pleasant experience, but YAYYYYY for having a job interview! I'll cross fingers that they do offer you the job, but sometime before then you'll be offered another, far more fabulous job and you'll be able to turn down these rude people :)

    1. Yes - I can't wait to be able to say "Oh, thanks for the offer, but I've received a better one". Two more interviews in the meantime, so who knows? Perhaps I will be offered more than one job. In my experience, a lot of friends who have been out of work have no luck for ages and then get three offers at once.

  2. Yay for a job interview!! Yes, Currer Bell is right.

  3. I agree with Currer. Even if it didn't go great, congrats on getting an interview!! That is huge in itself. If nothing else, it was a "first interview" - it gave you some practice for future interviews.

    Also, if the hiring manager was this condescending, then it's probably not the kind of place you'd like to work anyway. You quite possibly dodged a bullet.

    But now you know that your resume gets people's attention. And you know you'll get another interview soon. So like you said - take what you can from it. Interview practice. :)

    1. Yep, they certainly didn't make me feel like I wanted to work there. Unlike most other interviews I've had where I've left thinking "pick me, pick me".

  4. Ditto on what everyone else said. Even interviews that don't go well are good practice and you never really know how your interviewer perceived things anyway. Maybe they thought it went well and will offer you the job?

    Tangentially, the weirdest question I ever got in an interview was "In an epic battle between pirates and ninjas, who would win?" I was completely baffled. WTF! Who asks a question like that ... and why!? Luckily for me, I said pirates just because ... I dunno ... pirates seem like they have more fun? Apparently, libertarians like pirates, though, because they are "free" to "work for themselves and not for the dojo." So, yay?! Here I am. Also, apparently, no matter how well the rest of the interview went, no one has ever gotten hired at Think Tank (yes, they ask everyone this question) who answered ninjas.

    So, truly, more interviews = good practice. You just never know what to expect.

    1. hmm. I would have picked ninjas. Working as part of a collective and all of that. I have had enough of working for myself as an academic.

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