Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ethics and Interviews

We all know that the academic job market is over-subscribed and massively competitive. Being on the side of academic job-hunter can be a tough and demoralising road. Which is why I find it so frustrating when potential employers sometimes appear insensitive to the difficulties post-Phd students encounter.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I believe in honesty and sharing both the good and bad experiences we face beyond the doctorate.

So, I want to share a recent experience I had interviewing for a non-stipendiary research position (i.e. nonsalaried but with a research stipend and academic affiliation provided). I have written about the issue of academic affiliation here. I am in the fortunate position of having a job lined up already, so this academic role would have been the icing on the cake.

The application details for the job were barely advertised and the application details thin. The skeptic in me felt that it was likely that there was someone already in mind for the position, but the role still had to be advertised and procedure had to be followed (this skepticism was echoed by others I should add). However, I held out hope that perhaps the application details had simply been hastily put together. I found the advertisement rather close to the deadline but managed to pull a proposal together and my referees diligently worked to get my references in on time. It was not just myself who put time and effort into the application, but my referees did too.

You can imagine my delight when I was called to an interview!! I dedicated time to preparing for the interview, talking to others to anticipate the questions and prepare answers. You can then imagine my disappointment when the interview lasted 15 minutes with only 4 questions! There was a undefined but definite feeling of indifference towards me, for example I was never asked about future publication plans, future contribution to the institution, nothing that would indicate that they in any way realistically contemplated hiring me. In addition, I felt I was unceremoniously kicked out of the interview room, and given no indication of where I was or how to find my way out. 

So, I knew I wasn't going to get the position - that was fine. But never had I felt less wanted or welcome in the interview process. Which led me to think: why did they invite me in the first place? Was I just making up the numbers?

Ultimately, I got my answer when the rejection came through, describing my application as uncompetitive in comparison with the other candidates. Fair enough. But if it was deemed so uncompetitive, why interview me at all? I knew I had just made up the numbers.

This is unfair. It gives false hope to a candidate, and wastes their time and effort (and those of the referees!). In those circumstances, the least you can do is give the candidate the best interview possible to gain valuable experience for future endeavors. 15 mins and 4 questions is a kick in the teeth.

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