Friday, July 01, 2011

I'm Not Here

** Note: This blog post has been certified 100% accurate by the FSPEB
(as amended, see footnotes) **

Happy July[1], everyone[2]. I am about to enter one of those See You On The Other Side/Academic Edition times of the year when I will be crazy-busy with professional travel and other research activities for several months [3]. In fact, the next time I can see a not-insane time segment of any significant length is late October [4].

Even epic-multitaskers have their limits, and we here at FSP are about to hit ours, especially for the next month or so.

Therefore, blogging will get erratic for a while, not just in content, but also in timing.

I did have a thought [5] the other day, though. When a commenter noted that it was not believable that some professors had behaved in a strange and rude way towards me during an interview for a faculty position (lo these many years ago), I started remembering how my friends and I used to entertain [6] each other by telling each other about all the bizarre awful things that happened at our job interviews.

Perhaps experiences of this sort have been collected elsewhere in the blogosphere, but, even if so, perhaps it would be a fun summer activity to retell some of these here. Surely there are some great examples out there of Professors Behaving Badly during interviews for faculty jobs?

So, if you are willing to be patient with my intermittent comment moderation, I hope you will share with us here some exciting experiences that you or those you know have had during a job interview (not necessarily of the academic sort, so as not to exclude anyone from sharing their disturbing and/or bizarre experiences).

Perhaps you even want to confess some bad behavior of your own during an interview (either as interviewer or interviewee). This is the time and place to to do it.


[1] This may be a false or irrelevant statement. I am writing this in June and posting it in July, and I have no idea when you are reading this.

[2] This is an exaggeration. Obviously, not "everyone" -- in the literal sense -- is reading this blog.

[3] which is why it kind of drives me crazy when people talk about professors having the summer 'off'. I don't even have time to visit my ancestral home this summer; this is both saddening and a relief at the same time.

[4] This is an outright lie. I have a few hours free on the afternoon of Thursday, August 18, and there's a weekend in late September that seems to be quite unscheduled at the moment. It is also probably an illusion. As late October approaches, it, too, may become packed to the rafters with urgent events.

[5] This is an underestimate. I actually had two: one at 9:37 AM and one at 11:14 PM.

[6] This is not an entirely factual statement. Some of the examples were not entertaining; they were just disturbing.


Barefoot Doctoral said...

Not quite a job interview story, but almost. After my first year of graduate school, I wanted to change schools to resolve a 2-body problem. I corresponded with a good department in the right geographic location, and was invited to come out and talk to people etc. On my way down, my bus is running late, so I call up the professor who has been kind enough organize the trip and explain my delay. His response indicates that he has no idea who I am. I recall the e-mail conversation we had and the itinerary for the day and which parts of it I would likely miss.

"Oooooh, you're a woman!" he says, and proceeds to adjust the itinerary for me.

Later that day, we are discussing my experience at my current graduate program, what I've worked on, what classes I've taken, etc. When a topic relevant to his field, and what I'd be doing if I were to join his group comes up, he asks who I worked with.

"Professor X," I say.

"Hm, never heard of him."

For some reasons, I can't let pronouns lie. I never could. I begin the next sentence with "She...."

He says "Oh, she." Not to interrupt me, but just to take in the information.

The second incident could have been one of many things. But coupled with the first. I never ended up applying to that group, as exciting as I found their work.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

The chair of the search committee picked me up from the hotel in a VW microbus with a fully made bed in the back.

Anonymous said...

My personal favorite was being asked by a senior (but not senior enough to be considered a comical curmudgeon) faculty member "why in the hell would we want a blonde, woman, xologist in our department?"... classic. My answer was pretty much "you don't" which had already been made clear during other aspects of the interview. I happily accepted one of the other 4offers I already had in hand the next work day.

John V said...

My definite low point in a job interview:

Someone shuffled the folder of overheads for one of my talks, as I only discovered when I started to give it. This was in a rather formal European country, although fortunately it was the lunch talk, unfortunately well attended.

I never quite figured it out - they were in the right order in the airport on the way in, but I had left my briefcase in the office of someone else applying for the same job.

Most stressful time in an interview:

My lunchtime talk was for an elite crowd, and they allowed no visual aids. The host, known to be hostile to my specialty, assured me that [Medal of Science winner] had given a good talk on my subject just last quarter, so it could be done.

SocSciPhD said...

(This happened just a few months ago.) The morning of my interview, I was supposed to be picked up at my hotel (~10 miles from campus) by a faculty member. He never showed. I called the department chair, who told me to take a cab. I arrived so late, I missed my meeting with the chair, so we never talked during my interview.

In the same day, I met several times with an almost-retired male professor who asked, among other things, if my last name was mine or my husband's, how many kids I planned to have, and what my ethnic and religious backgrounds were. In all situations, it was the two of us, so was quite hard to demur. This same prof had many choice things to say about the department secretary (fat and lazy sums it up) as well.

I was not, in the end, offered the job, but I knew before the end of the interview that there was no way I'd take the position (although that was largely due to the department's complete disdain for research).

Anonymous said...

Pocatello, the dead of winter, no hot water in the hotel. No tepid water in the hotel. Nuff said.

Thanks for not offering me the job, Idaho State! And I really mean that!

Anonymous said...

A young attractive female colleague went out on her first TT job interview at an Ivy League institution. I only mention that she is young and attractive, because I suspect that makes curmudgeons think she would be an easy target. In her very first interview of the day with a senior male professor, he started off the interview by saying, "I think your model system is complete nonsense. I don't believe that any useful information could come of that type of work." Needless to say, she did not go there....

Anonymous said...

During my TT job hunt, I interviewed with a faculty member that said something blatantly racist. I am a minority.

Anonymous said...

One of my male colleagues made it clear during my interview that he would be interested in dating me if I were to get the job. Pretty sleazy since he and his significant other of several years hosted a reception at their house the night before. (And it assumed I would be interested--NOT!)

Anonymous said...

During the interviews for my first position after my post-doc, a senior professor asked to discuss my past publications, the first of which being about the probabilist analysis of a model of co-evolution (quite orthogonal to the rest of my research).

After getting my summary of the results (mainly, that massive extinctions can happen naturally in dense ecosystems), he launched himself in a creationist diatribe. I disagreed with him the most politely I could. I was hired indeed, and had many interesting chats with this professor, but I never knew if he was joking, testing/teasing me, or expressing his real beliefs (he celebrates jewish tradition but seems agnostic).

Anonymous said...

I was on the job market in 2004 and 2005. While interviewing at a private university, I was taken to dinner by a professor who was probably in his sixties. He then proceeded to order for me, without so much as consulting me on what I might like to eat. He ordered scallops.

I have often wondered if this was
a) a weird thing that he does to all candidates, because he loves scallops and assumes everyone else loves them as much as he does.
b) a weird thing that he does to women, perhaps thinking good manners requires him to order for them. (Miss Manners would disagree, of course.)
c) a religious test, since if I were Jewish and kept kosher, I'd have had to decline.

I hate scallops, but I ate them politely. I didn't get the job.

Anonymous said...

I work at a small biotech company, and a few months back I was interviewing candidates for an entry level chemist position. I had a disastrous interview with a soon-to-be graduate of a local university.

First, he showed up at least 20 minutes late for the interview. I didn't say anything, but when we were walking to the conference room he looked at me and said "I wasn't late. The guy at the desk called the wrong place."

When I asked him about his undergraduate research, he claimed it was PhD level science, but was unable to explain anything about it.

I asked him if he had ever used an HPLC (common in our research). He said yes. When I asked him to tell me how it worked, he said "You press go. Well, actually, you have to clean it first because the graduate students never do."

He also told me that he had been accepted to a "medical chemistry" (??)graduate program but decided to go into industry first.

I wrapped up the interview as quickly as I could. I was in awe that someone could be so arrogant and clueless at the same time. Needless to say, we didn't hire him.

Anonymous said...

In my first job interview for a tt faculty position, nearly every faculty member (especially the younger ones - they were all male) asked me if I was married. When I said no, one of them proceeded to tell me about how great the elementary schools were in the area. Another commented on the dating scene and said he didn't think it was such a great place for women. I did not get an offer from there.

Principle Investigator said...

True job interview story:

When I asked the two professors who took me to lunch what they liked most about the department/institution, they were unable to come up with a single thing. Then my last interview of the day was with the former chair of the department, who gleefully recounted the tale of how the current chair had overthrown her in an acrimonious coup the previous year. because of which the department was now divided into two bitterly hostile factions.

I accepted another offer.

Anonymous said...

I arrived late at night at a small airport about an hour from the site of my interview. No one was there to meet me, as arranged. The airport closed, it was bitterly cold dark winter, and I had to go wait outside. There were no rental cars, no taxis, no visible hotels or commerce nearby, and this was before cell phones. I used a pay phone to call the dept admin assistant, the only phone number I had with me as a contact. I woke her up, but she was very nice about it and called the professor who was supposed to meet me and I guess some other professors, and when I called her back to find out what to do, she said no one was coming and I should just figure something out. The police called a taxi for me, and I ended up at a hotel in an office park about 20 minutes away. The next morning I called the admin assistant to tell her where I was, and she said she still couldn't find anyone to come get me, so I should find a bus or limo service and get to campus as soon as I could. So I did that, and finally got there, several hours late for my first scheduled appointment of the interview. Two of the people I was supposed to meet with but couldn't because I was late made a point to tell me after my talk that that it was really inconvenient and annoying for them to have set aside time in their schedule and then I didn't show up. They were annoyed with me, even once they heard the reason! I also missed a meeting with some students, and was told that this was a big problem because this was an important meeting but I missed it. I was made to feel that it was somehow my fault that I couldn't figure out how to get to my interview on time. The only one who apologized was the admin assistant, even though the mix-up wasn't her fault.

studyzone said...

I interviewed for a position through a regional public university on a satellite campus. Because of the distance between the two schools, half of the search committee drove out to the satellite campus, where my interview took place, and the other half remained at the main campus. Part of my interview was conducted by video conferencing. The incoming program chair, who was in the room with me, started texting a faculty member at the main campus. This went on throughout my interview, with them erupting into giggles at random moments, pointing to one another, etc. It was very disconcerting because I had no idea if they were laughing at me, not paying any attention to me (more than likely), etc. For this, and many other reasons, I turned down the position when it was offered.

Anonymous said...

One senior faculty member told me he was not comfortable talking to women other than socially. We were sitting in his office for our half hour one-on-one meeting. I tried to ask him about his research or tell him about mine, but he kept cutting me off to tell me about his wife's gardens, his wife's volunteer activities, his wife's feelings about the climate, and that his daughter-in-law hadn't liked living there at first but now she did. I tried asking him about teaching, or the department in general, but he kept telling me about his female relatives.

Anonymous said...

During one interview, my individual conversations with faculty were dominated by their telling me how much they hated each other. They were more interested in telling me how evil particular colleagues were than they were in anything I had to say about my experience or ideas for the job.

Anonymous said...

During one TT interview, I was told by the search chair that I was the leading candidate. Another colleague on the short list was told the same thing. Neither of us were offered the job.

I never understood the reason for this--completely unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

During my tt job search, my interview at a top ten department was continually punctuated by tenured faculty - both young and old - although all male - trotting out the fact that they had among the highest divorce rates during the tenure process of any university. What was strange was that this was always said in a proud, sort of smug way. They often followed by asking, "So, what does your husband do?"

Although I received an offer, I turned it down.

Anonymous said...

Within the first five minutes of the interview, during a full committee meeting, I was asked point blank what my husband does for a living.

nicoleandmaggie said...

One gentleman decided to go into great detail about his toenail fungus over dinner. The same gentleman changed the topic of the lecture I was to guest-teach on as soon as I arrived at my hotel and checked my email-- he didn't get as far as he'd thought he would in class the day before. Also: the students did not know what July 4th, 1776 celebrates, besides fireworks.

I did not get the offer, the person who did is miserable but geographically stuck.

Anonymous said...

In Feb. of 2011 I went on the most unpleasant flyback interview ever.

I was driving myself from the airport and around town in a rental car (thank goodness I had GPS), which is weird, but I was willing to go with it. But I was consistently left to find my way without directions. The first night, I was left to my own devices to find a place to eat and I got very, very lost. The second night, the host professors invited me to dinner off-campus. I asked for directions, and they acted like I was being unreasonable, then left without giving me directions. ("It's in Xtown! Buh bye!") I had to track down a random passerby familiar with the area to tell me where to go, as my GPS didn't recognize the name of the restaurant.

The worst part was interacting with my potential colleagues, though. I would have been the third female faculty member the institution had ever had. Period. Ever. They were up-front about this, one of the lads even saying, "We've always wanted more female faculty, but somehow the hiring never works out that way." My potential chair would open doors, walk on the road-side of the sidewalk, get my chairs, etc. while at the same time asking hostile questions about whether I'd be bothered by my colleagues being active in charity work (!?!) and how I saw the college's mission working in the classroom (I'd been there for five minutes). At every answer I gave, he'd scowl, shift impatiently, then rephrase the question.

The other faculty member wasn't much better. Although he wasn't hostile, he didn't give me the text for my teaching demo until an hour before I was supposed to teach. I had asked for it two weeks in advance, and he sent me a passage. This turned out to be the wrong passage. And then he told me that I should "teach how I normally teach, only without translating Latin to English" (I'm a Classics professor. This is how nearly all of us are trained to teach.) This kind of information would have been really useful to me WELL IN ADVANCE of my teaching demo. So I was teaching from a text I'd just been handed and covering the introduction of a new tense of the subjunctive, and I was supposed to do this using as little English as possible. He was telling me all of this while his two young children were in the office; normally I'd think it a positive thing to allow children to play quietly while a parent takes care of business, but I felt very uncomfortable having a job interview in front of someone's kids.

During my teaching demos, Hostile Prof kept making faces and harrumphing. I was doing a perfectly good job (even with the last minute Latin), so I was puzzled. But over the course of the two days I was there, I realized that they barely knew any women with full time jobs (!) and their wives had both (happily?) sacrificed their careers in order to home school their kids. Which is fine, but they seemed to have a hard time thinking of me as /their/ peer and not their wives'. I don't want to automatically attribute the hostility, sabotage, and poor hospitality to the fact that I am a woman, but the gendered comments, the careful chivalry, their lack of experience with female colleagues, and the inexplicable hostility toward me (I generally get on very well with others) seems to point in that direction.

Early on, I decided that I would rather take a one-year at another institution than accept a tenure track offer there. So I asked if they had a maternity leave policy; they didn't. Family leave? Nope. I was really appalled by the whole thing, particularly considering the fact that this institution bills itself as an authentic representation of their (and my) faith. I expected a heck of a lot better than an all-white, all-male cadre who say all the right things about equality and justice, but put none of it into practice.

Needless to say, they hired the male candidate. Somehow, it just worked out that way.

Anonymous said...

OK, FSP, I am laughing (and crying!) too hard to leave any anecdotes of my own. But I think we must, absolutely must, have a vote on the best of these incidents. Winner to get . . . well, I don't know. A plaque engraved with "You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up"?

Jim Thomerson said...

When I interviewed for the TT position I accepted, I was turned over to a faculty member who had resigned in disgust. He did a very fair job of showing me around and explaining things to me. I was impressed that the department had enough self confidence to expose me to their greatest critic.

Anonymous said...

One interviewer spent 20 minutes talking to my boobs. And, I was wearing a turtleneck. I turned down the TT job offer.

Old Biddy said...

I've got a few from back in the late 90's. After an on-site, two day interview at several places, I did not receive a letter, email, or phone call to tell me that they were hiring someone else. Is it just me, or has anyone else experienced that?
I had a very sheltered grad school and postdoc experience, so faculty interviews were when I first noticed how much sexism there was.
At one place where I received an offer which I did not accept, they had never had a female faculty member and made a point of telling me so, making sweeping sexist generalization about female students, etc. The chair of the department had pictures of bikini-clad women up in his office, too.
My best story is from my first interview ever, and is more along the lines of something weird that happened rather than bad behavior on the part of my hosts. I was having dinner with several of the younger faculty. They started gossiping about other chemists, and somehow the topic of two former members of my graduate department (faculty and staff) who were involved in a rather complicated love triangle. Now, only one person at the table had met said couple, and after a few minutes she started gesturing frantically for us to shut up. It turns out that one of the people we were gossiping about was sitting at the next table over. Later I heard through the grapevine that the gossipee had thought we were a bunch of "rude Harvard grad students" Anyway, it taught me a very important lesson about being careful not to gossip on interviews, but it was also incredibly funny.

Anonymous said...

The chair of the search committee picked me up from the hotel in a VW microbus with a fully made bed in the back.

The chair of the search committee is a homeless hippie? Damn, pay must be really low there!

The worst thing that happened to me on the interview circuit was with a department secretary. As per the instructions, I put all of my application materials together in a .pdf. I checked this .pdf on multiple machines, making sure it could open on different versions of Windows and Mac operating systems (I'm not dumb). As per the instructions, I emailed this .pdf to the department secretary...who couldn't open it and asked me to FedEx a hard copy.

OK, maybe that's my fault. Probably not, but who knows? Maybe it got corrupted when I sent it. Never mind that I re-sent it after checking it yet again, and the secretary still couldn't open it.

Anyway, despite that, I'm called out for an interview. They said that they'd send me some materials to help prepare the teaching demo (e.g. a copy of the textbook that they use). I gave the secretary the address of my postdoc institution, an institution that receives lots of packages every day. I checked and re-checked the address.

A few days later, the secretary emails me to say that UPS or FedEx (forget which) said the address didn't exist and they'd never heard of my institution. Uh-huh. Anyway, I apologized for giving the wrong address. Fortunately, a heroic friend happened to be at a school that used that textbook, and happened to be coming to town for a conference, so I got the textbook from him.

Needless to say, this secretary continues to make many mistakes, and I continue to apologize for them.

Anonymous said...

I found myself in the midst of a department war about the subfield of the search that I was being interviewed for. Those who supported hiring in my subfield were really nice, but the others were hostile, mean, and aggressive. The hostile ones said things in my individual meetings like "I think what you do is pointless. Can you justify yourself?" Well, I could try.. They were similarly aggressive during the question time after my talk. I decided not to let it get to me; it was their problem.

Anonymous said...

I interviewed in a department that didn't have any women faculty or staff other than a somewhat elderly admin assistant. They assigned her to take care of me, guiding me from office to office, taking me to lunch etc. She even followed me into the restroom in the department, and stood outside the stall! I later asked a guy who was interviewed if he was assigned a minder, and he said no. What did they think would happen to me if I didn't have this woman shepherding me around? Were they being 'fatherly' or weird? The search failed when the position was frozen for economic reasons.

Anonymous said...

My spouse and I had a joint interview for 2 positions at a national lab. There was only one other female scientist in the group (>30 total), and she worked part time. The two managers had us over for dinner at one of their houses to show us how family friendly they were. As we stood in the kitchen talking to both of the managers, while their wives dealt with screaming kids in the other room, one of the 2 year old triplets tried to open the oven. His father ( standing < 5 feet from the kid with a beer in his hand chatting about what a great place this was for famiirs) yelled into the other room "honey, he's trying to get in the oven, why cant you take care of him?" . We turned down the job offers.

Anonymous said...

A department was trying to be as economical as possible with its interview process, and requested that candidate stay at the home of a faculty member. We were given the option of a hotel, but it wasn't really an option the way it was expressed. So I stayed with someone I had met but didn't know well, and it was exhausting because it was as if the interview didn't have any breaks, even at night. When we got home after the first long day (breakfast with the search com, lots of individual meetings, lunch with students, more meetings, my talk, dinner with faculty etc.), I was hoping I could have some quiet time, but my host's 4 year old daughter wanted me to play with her. I thought her mom or dad would say "No, Olivia, Dr. Z is very tired after her long day" but instead the dad (the professor) said "OK, but only for an hour. No more." So the mom and dad had some quiet time and I had to play fairy princess dolls and bunny daycare and ballerina school and so on. I tried to convince the kid that the bunny daycare should be a veterinarian's office and she should be the vet and I would be the anguished sick-bunny owner, but she just glared at me whenever I suggested deviating from her program.

Anonymous said...

I work in an applied field. During an interview for a chair a committee member asked how I was ever going to publish in top theory journal x given the nature of my work, but I regularly publish in top applied journals, y and z. I said I didnt intend to change my field just to publish in x (they knew my field before they short listed). Eventually I asked how he thought he was going to publish his main area of research in journal x given that his area is even more remote from that journal than mine. This was along with a whole heap of other inappropriate questions. I didnt get the job, nor would I have taken it!

Anonymous said...

I hate it when the interviewers take out their personal frustrations/dislikes in terms of research subfields, colleagues, or whatever on an interviewee. If a department invites someone to visit and interview, each person should set aside the fact that they personally didn't support that candidate or that they don't like that candidate's advisor etc. and just be professional.

Anonymous said...

I interviewed at a department who is infamous for its flawed interview process. The laptop started misbehaving the night before so I requested access to the digital projector a few minutes ahead of my interview talk.

I was told NO in no uncertain terms and treated as if I had made a most unreasonable request.

Anonymous said...

How about a place where the chair asked the female candidate to kiss him in the mouth since he was practicing for a play?

The weirdest part is that some of the old boys smile at that and say "isn't the chair such a cad"?

I wonder if they would say the same if it had been their wife/mother/daughter the one who had been asked for the kiss.

Karen said...

An interview story from (sort of) the other side: I'm a MS student at a teaching-oriented public university. Our department has done two job searches recently. As part of the process, students are invited to meet with the applicant, and also invited to join the lunch group (usually three or four professors and as many students).

We're a VERY informal department in a field that's traditionally informal, it was Friday, and the department chair happened to be wearing shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and sandals. The candidate, a likable but very formal woman, had struck us all as terribly uncomfortable with our collective informality. On the walk to lunch, the group strung out, and the candidate was able to take me aside, indicate our chair, and whisper, "Does he always dress like this?"

I'm not sure what came over me, but I couldn't resist. I answered quite truthfully, "No, sometimes he kicks off his sandals to lecture."

Anonymous said...

As I was standing at the front of the room preparing my talk, one of the older MSPs walked up and said quite loudly, "So are you Dr X's wife or girlfriend?" Given that my spouse and I have different last names and had both applied but only I had the interview, I was shocked. I stared at him for a few seconds trying to decide what to say (or if I should be sarcastic) and went with the truth. But what a way to start the talk (that interview only went downhill from there).

At a different interview at a top-5 university, I was told proudly by multiple FSPs that they got to see their children "for 15 minutes in the morning and about 30 min at night." The rest of their time was spent working and the nanny raised the kid(s). Maybe some people are happy with this choice (they were) but I was glad not to receive an offer from them.

Anonymous said...

At one TT interview, my first meeting began like this: "I guess they put me on your schedule because I'm on the search committee but I don't have anything to talk to you about because I'm not in your field." We are in the same field but work on different model organisms.

At another R1 institution, I met with the dean after receiving an offer. He rescheduled me twice due to conflicts in his schedule, so an extra trip was scheduled for me to finally meet him. I walk in, he looks over my CV while I'm sitting in front of him and says, "Well, your work sounds interesting. Maybe in the future we'll be hiring in this field and you can apply. How did you get on my schedule?"
I said, "I did interview. 3 months ago. And was offered the job. This is part of my second visit."
"Really? I would have had to sign that offer letter."
"You did. Here it is."
How was he not briefed?

apphysPhD said...

I'm a graduate student in applied physics at an Ivy league. In applying for postdocs, I had 6 interviews and got 5 offers. For every position I interviewed for, every potential colleague was male, and I would become the only female in the group. Maybe times are a-changing but despite these statistics, not a single untoward thing happened. In fact, as a single female I stood out among the many males in my field that are married to women with careers and toddlers they help raise. I guess I just wanted to share my experience as a counterpoint to the stories so far.

Outside of the interviews however... on one plane ride home, when I mentioned my interview at Caltech, the older gentleman next to me said "Oh, I didn't realize they were practicing affirmative action now." :P

Louise said...

Of the >10 faculty interviews I've been on, two stand out because of the behavior of my hosts.

At one of the interviews, they nearly killed me several times. By the end of the interview, it was a joke: How will we try to kill Candidate today? We've already tried to lose her in nearby national park, we've run over wildlife in said park, the grad student almost got in a car accident while driving her, there's been a power outage affecting a large part of the state... I even got into act when I accidentally stuck my finger in the power outlet while unplugging my laptop! My hosts realized that they had screwed up and apologized (but also admitted that I'd gotten to see what it was really like to live in the area).

At the other interview, my hosts just made excuses to cover their poor planning. The lowlights of that interview:
1. The teaching demo. I wasn't given the topic until 2 days before I was leaving for the interview, and it was so far from my specialty that I had not seen it since I took the intro class for the major (if then). They rationalized that since the prof for the class (a specialist in the selected topic) had given me his powerpoint presentation on the topic, it was ok.
2. The department and search committee chair missed most of my research talk for another meeting because it was "important." Inside my head a voice screamed, "And I'm not?"
3. The airport pickup. When the chair wasn't waiting for me outside security, I went to baggage claim to wait there. 30 minutes later, the chair called my cell phone and was glad to hear that I was already there so that he wouldn't have to park.

Anonymous said...

"The other faculty member wasn't much better. Although he wasn't hostile, he didn't give me the text for my teaching demo until an hour before I was supposed to teach. I had asked for it two weeks in advance, and he sent me a passage."

I was never given the textbook for one of my teaching demos - I took matters into my own hands and called the publisher and asked for the book for the interview or at least an online version. The publisher was very nice about it and gave me everything I needed - especially because he might have to work with me in the future if I got the job.

At another interview - I was told to do a research talk. I then met with the dean after the research talk and his first question was "Is that how you normally teach?" because that was a RESEARCH talk. So I then backtracked and explained a great lesson I just had. I was offered the job.

Anonymous said...

I have great stories from my TT interviews this year. At one institution (where I was offered the job), the most hilarious part of the visit was my meeting with the dean: she had two Labs (dogs) in her office, one ten years old, the other eight months old, and the whole time we were there, the puppy was bouncing off the walls -- attacking the older dog and dragging her around the room by her collar, trying to gnaw my shoe... The dean kept talking about benefits, leave, tenure, blah, blah, blah, while the dogs were snarling at each other. At one point the puppy started eating what looked like a poisonous tropical plant in the corner, and the dean noticed that I was staring at the dog, and she said, "Oh, yes, that's a poisonous plant... but he always chews on it and he hasn't died yet!" and kept talking about tenure review, at which point the puppy came over and vomited at our feet. The dean kept talking about tenure while she grabbed a box of tissues and started mopping up puppy vomit. It was absurd.

Anonymous said...

After returning from a post-doc abroad to my home country, I interviewed for a position in a relatively peripheral university. As part of my interview day I met with the Dean of the Faculty of Science. He spent most of the interview trying to convince me that this was a really poor quality university and I don't really want a position there. He went on to say that the state of science in the country in general isn't that great, and I was better off looking for a position somewhere like Singapore, where there was much more investment in science. I was not offered the position (although people in the specific department I applied for seemed enthusiastic about my presentation). Eventually, I was offered a position in one of the top universities in the country (and proud of it).

Ron said...

I'm a male professor. I once interviewed at a school where nearly everybody asked me if I was married. My answer was no. They'd always look disappointed, and then carry on with what they really wanted to say, which was "well this is a great place to raise kids!" It was in a tiny town, and I'm sure it was a great place to raise kids, but it would have been an awful place to meet a spouse.

Anonymous said...

During the Q&A after my job talk, I answered a question (about climate) generally as it applied to my research (in ecology). Although my answer was correct as it pertained to my work, it was, admittedly, imprecise. One of the senior faculty (a climatologist) immediately chimed in "if you make that statement again, I'll take you outside and beat you". I wish I could say I had a good comeback, but I think I just stood there with my mouth open.

Anonymous said...

Still a grad student... but we had a faculty search a couple years ago. In the middle of a candidate's department talk, a policeman barged in the door and motioned to her to come over to him. She looked surprised and he said something rude (loudly) and escorted her out of the auditorium. Our host prof bounded out the door behind them and a couple minutes later he returned with the candidate and she continued her talk from where she left off without missing a beat. Her amazing poise might have been part of why she was offered the position; she turned it down. I never found out who was supposed to be arrested instead...

Anonymous said...

I once applied for a job at Biotech Company X. They declined my application and returned my CV, which had obviously been crumpled up into a ball and smoothed out so that the flattened paper would fit in an envelope. Fast forward years later after getting my PhD, I applied again to Biotech Company X. This time I got an interview. I started to give a talk on my previous work in a language that was not my native tongue, and apparently it was so bad, that the Section Head who was interviewing me left during my talk, leaving me to his subordinates. He did eventually come back, but then it seemed like he was just going through the motions.

Anonymous said...

I had a telephone interview with a professor (who was female). My qualifications were an excellent fit to the job description, the phone interview went extremely well, and in closing she said that she would like me to come in for an interview in person and meet her group, and that her secretary would be in contact with me. The next day, the secretary told me that the position had already been filled--which seems to me like I had been merely fulfilling the criteria of "I interviewed x number of candidates to justify my pre-determined choice."

Anonymous said...

I love that near-arrest story! (Anonymous 7/05/2011 03:46:00 PM)

On my interview schedule was "Dinner with faculty." All day faculty said to me "see you at dinner." Interview was going well, but there was an odd thing on my schedule: prepare for your talk 3-4 pm (department meeting). I found out later the faculty voted for another candidate during that meeting. After my talk, my host said, "oh sorry, no one else can make dinner after all." I could tell he felt really bad that everyone else bailed. We had a great time at a fast-food joint. Neither of us wanted some fancy meal and I relaxed because I figured I was out of the running.

He's now my boss.

Anonymous said...

For what it is worth, my husband has been asked at every interview if he is married and what his spouse does for a living. He has been offered about 50% of the jobs he interviewed for. None of the offers, even the one he accepted, made any accommodations for me.

On my first TT interview, I was about 6 months pregnant - visible, but not huge. Talk about your life plans being out there in the open! The (female) chair of the department and search committee spent our whole time together telling me about day care at the university, what the public school system was like, which neighborhoods were the best. I tried to shift gears and talk about teaching and research, to no avail. Some of the other faculty made points to recognize my "condition" - did I need a drink of water, would it be too far to walk down the hall to another office, did I need a rest... Although all other candidates were, I was not asked to go out to dinner after my interview (a colleague later told me).

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic collection of stories - it's good to hear that I'm not alone. (And equally good to hear that it gets worse - like almost being arrested in the midst of your interview seminar!)

My own tale of woe goes like this: I'm applying for a centrally-funded postdoctoral fellowship. The point is supposed to be that, because your salary isn't coming out of anyone's research grant, you're free to explore your own research interests during the fellowship, with a view to setting yourself up to apply for more permanent jobs.

After my talk, panel member 1 remarks that it was all very interesting, but hadn't I considered using technique X - on which she happens to be a noted expert. I politely explain why it's not relevant to my work.

Panel member 2 chimes in, wondering whether it wasn't altogether more sensible to do Y instead. Again, it's unrelated to my research but central to his.

The same thing happens with the third panel member. This isn't about my fit with the department's interests or research: it's only about the interview panel, and each member is only interested their own research. But by now, I've worked out what's going on: they're all trying to use the central funding to provide them with a free postdoc!

Needless to say, I wasn't offered the position, nor would I have accepted it if I had been. To add insult to injury I was never officially told I hadn't got the job, just left hanging.

The happy ending is that I quickly found a tt position elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

this post is full of win.

Anonymous said...

My absolute favourite: a colleague was interviewing at Famous U in a group that the chair and high mucky mucks of the department did not appreciate. The chair was to take the candidate to dinner one evening but had forgotten that the candidate was there to interview. After asking him about his area of work the chair said "Oh, you should apply here, I think we have a position in your field, but you are probably better off somewhere else". Needless to say, my colleague did not end up there.

Anonymous said...

My favorites from a variety of interviews:
1. I go to dinner with a group of four faculty members. One sits down, looks around, says "X isn't coming?" The chair says no. The person gets up, leaves, and does not come back. After that, the remaining four start to argue about whether "X" should have been invited, what the consequences would have been, etc. Apparently X got really drunk at the last dinner and so was not invited this time. The fight gets heated enough that another person leaves. Down to me and two, including the chair. Neither says anything to me for the rest of dinner, spending the time talking to each other about "X" and the two that left.
2. At another place, I go to dinner with two faculty members, one of which is very quiet and shy. The other one orders three saki bombs and starts asking me questions like: "Will your husband let you move?" "Does your husband know you are interviewing here?" (note that I flew in for the three-day interview) and my favorite: "Is your husband okay with you teaching a bunch of young guys?" After dinner, the guy tries to hug me and rub my back in the parking lot as I wait for the other faculty member to unlock his car and take me to the hotel. On the way to the hotel, the shy faculty member explains that I should worry about the other guy as he really isn't around all that much, now that he has tenure.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting collection of tales.:) I have a few of my own.

1. In 2003, I was interviewing for a postdoc position at a very highly ranked school. During lunch, the whole group, under the PIs leadership, only talked about dogs. I don't know what is it about people who have dogs, they cannot stop talking about them. I was silent for the entire lunch, since I am really really reaaaalyyyyy not interested in dogs and know nothing about dogs. I just couldn't bring myself to say anything on the topic, and they did not change the topic at all the whole time. I did not say one word. I didn't get the job and I felt it was on the account of being preceived as too shy/not nice/fitting in etc (I was told that the professor doesn't like shy people). I am not shy, I just don't have anything to say about dogs.

At a subsequent interview at a different institution, the story repeated almost identically. Professor incessantly talking about dogs. This time, having learned my lesson, I did talk about dogs enthusiastically, mimicking interest and pretending I cannot wait to be able to have a dog (if that's a requirement to have a job, I'll really get one LOL). I was offered the job and I turned it down. Not because of the dogs, but someone in the lab wispered in my ear (don't come here!!!) and the secretary told me "do you REALLY wanna come here?". Not good signs:))

Anonymous said...

2. In 2004, I was interviewing again for a postdoc position. The PI (female, childless) met me for dinner the evening of my arrival in town. The first words out of her mouth as we shaked hands were literally: "Hi! Nice to meet you! How was your trip? Good. Do you have children?". I tried to deflect the answer to this illegal (and sensitive to me, since I felt persecuted during my pregnancy and afterwards) question by saying "isn't it sooo hard to raise children these days?" Meaning that either yes, I have and it is hard to raise them; or no, I don't have any because is hard to raise them. She understood the latter and proceeded to tell me with an expression of utter disgust on her face: "Ugh, I don't even know how can THOSE pregnant women work on the microscope with their huge bellies" I was speechless and I decided there and then I'll not work for this lady (to be polite lol). Her graduate students next day asked me persistently whether I had children, as they walked me from building to building. And they didn't accept my vague answer, they pressed the matter "i know, i know, but do YOU have children?" I had to confess I did. I guess the PI was on a strict mission not to hire anyone who had children. Since I decided that I'd rather be jobless than work for her anyway, I had a wonderful relaxed interview and talk and starting from other faculty witnessing the talk, I was eventually offered a TT position at the same instution (different department) for the next academic year. When I arrived for my TT, the intial PI apologized for not offering me a position. I wouldn't have taken it anyway, why work for someone who would fire me as soon as she found out that I did have a child.

3. During my TT interview at my current institution, where I found out they only had two women in the history of the department, and one of them left under unfriendly circumstances. That is only relevant to explain the mentality of some older faculty. One of them asked me during the interview: "so how do you think you can fit in a department with only male colleagues?Are you a sensitive person?". Later, as I arrived for my comeback interview, I requested to meet with a faculty member that I thought I could collaborate with when I start my position. I walked in the door and he greets me: "what are YOU doing here?? did you come here with your husband??"
I swear I'm not lying,as unbelievable as this reaction was.

I have to mention that nobody has ever waited for me at airports for any of the interviews. I had to rent cars or take the limo. For one of the interviews, I used the limo to come in and my flight was too early for the limo to take me back to the airport and nobody offered to take me. I emailed a student association and offered to pay for someone to take me to the airport 1h away (found someone this way). I didn't think much of it, but I see others here complain about it.

Anonymous said...

On my first post-college job interview, an employee stopped in to ask the interviewer a quick question. When she left the room, he actually called her an "uppity b*tch," then went on to tell me that she would be my supervisor. I didn't take the job.

Anonymous said...

I was a TT assistant prof on the search committee. We were interviewing a senior person in the field. He was unable to talk about research with any of the female faculty on his schedule. No matter how much I tried, he simply couldn't do it. He kept steering the conversation to beer, of all things (he's a bit of a connoisseur).

In the faculty meeting to discuss the candidate, another senior (male) faculty member who advocated for him said that the candidate was just shy around women, and after a few years, he would be less so. I argued that female students didn't have a "few years" to waste to be able to talk to their professor. He lost the vote, but it was still close.

Anonymous said...

OK, I was interviewing for a postdoc position in the town where my father lives. The postdoc was not tied to a particular grant, so was a great opportunity to get two years of research under my belt before I went for a TT position.

A woman had gone missing in the town a few weeks before, and my father actually called the department in the afternoon to check on me. He swears he was just going to ask the secretary about when my schedule ended, but she quickly put him on hold and transfered the call to the faculty member's office where I was. Luckily, that prof was a _great_ guy and was more touched by the concern of my father than making a judgement on me. He told me years later that he didn't mention it to anyone else.

My father did make up for it later that day. He lived in the same neighborhood as the dean (new to the school) and had run into him while taking a walk. He invited him over for dinner, and the dean and I had a great conversation over barbecue. Not only did I get the job, but the dean told the dept. if they wanted to make my position a TT position in 2 years, he would make the resources available. I went on to be one of the most productive faculty members (publications and grants) in that department until I left years later.

This was my first introduction to "who you know" being as important as "what you know".