Sunday, November 28, 2010


I think I have walked into a job-hunting disaster in the making.  Way back at the very beginning of this academic year's job cycle, I applied for a job at Random-Ass University.  I applied only because it was the start of the cycle and I was fearful that this year would have so few openings that to neglect any was to hurt my own career in an immediate and scary way.  I was unimpressed with the job, the location, and even RAU itself to a degree.  The job, to be perfectly frank, makes only a modest amount of sense for me at best.  Let me see if I can explain.

So, I'm a pseudologist.  In real life, there are many sub-disciplines of my field, but for the moment, let us hew to Mark Twain's parsing of pseudology as comprised of Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.  (Statisticians reading this blog, please don't jump down my throat.  It's all in good fun.)  Let us say, for hypothetical purposes, that I am a Damn Liar.  Well, in that case, RAU is in search of a good Damn Liar who moonlights as a Statistician, wears funky purple hats on Thursdays, can sing the entire Englebert Humperdinck songbook from memory, and only dates transsexual Latvians.

(My metaphor is clearly inadequate to this task, but one can only ask so much of a pseudonymous blogging identity, you know?)

Point being, it's not that it's impossible for me to fill all the desired criteria, given the proper circumstances.  However, the odds of that happening are really, really unlikely.

So I was pretty much shocked as hell when RAU got back to me and requested a telephone interview.

What in heaven's name am I supposed to say to these people?  Is there any way for me to sound enthusiastic about trying to re-package myself as the ideal candidate?  I mean, jeez, I don't even like the location of RAU, and I'm applying to jobs in some pretty out of the way and not-so-hot places to live.  And, without casting any aspersions on Joey Jojo Junior Shabadoo who fits the job description to a T and is no doubt reading this blog with rising indignation, I don't want to be that candidate.  If it didn't seem positively absurd in the current job market, my preference would be to tell them candidly on the phone
  • that I am a far cry from what they're looking for;
  • that I have not the slightest intention of morphing into a purple-hatted, Humperdinck-singin', Latvian transsexual-datin' Statistician for anyone;
  • but that if they want me as I am and the ideal candidate has yet to appear, then they are welcome to consider me on my own genuine merits.
In a perfect world, I would then burst into a chorus of "I am what I am" with full backing orchestration.  So come take a look/Give me the hook/Or the ovation...

Ahem.  So, I really have no fucking idea what I'm going to say when this interview rolls around.  A part of me honestly wonders if the entire telephone interview isn't RAU's passive-aggressive way of saying "Fuck you for wasting our time; now we can waste yours!"  Do schools ever do that?  Is it conceivable that they would go to this trouble for someone who is almost certainly an outlying candidate, rather than an obvious short-lister?  I feel kind of like RAU is pranking me with this whole business.



  1. I can pretty much guarantee that RAU isn't pranking you. What I'd be willing to guess is that one of a couple things is happening.

    1) No one combines all three things effectively, but there are people who can do one in impressive looking ways. They are interviewing you because you're one of those.

    2) The person who had the most influence in writing the ad isn't having as much influence in choosing interviewees; the other folks on the committee have other things in mind, and something else you do sounds interesting.

    For the interview, do what you'd do for any interview. Look at their curriculum and be prepared to talk about how you'd add, what else you'd have to offer, what your research is about, and how it contributes, etc. Don't misrepresent yourself, but play up your strengths.

    I wish you a pleasant conversation with them. Remember, it's also your opportunity to interview them. Ask them about their students, about the community, and let them tell you about their wonderfulness. Or not.

  2. Wow--I was about to post nearly the exact thing that Bardiac wrote. In my experience, Bardiac's #2 is very common. Prep by knowing something about them. And get yourself mentally prepared to sound like a good colleague over the phone. I tend to advise interviewees to put off asking any very difficult, awkward, or challenging questions until once you get the job offer.

  3. Hey, I had one of those! Remember that even if it turns out that you match none of their criteria, it's still good practice for interviewing and arguing for your work. You might even be able to bring them over to your side!

  4. WHOO INTERVIEW! I say, as someone who's 0/40 so far this job season. No matter whether you're being interviewed because of Bardiac's A, B, or my, super-paranoid, C, elaborate intracommittee revenge plans, it's still an interview, and a chance to talk about the ways in which your work is totally awesome and beyond reproach. Everyone needs a conversation like that in their lives. Keeping my fingers crossed that it goes well--and perhaps that they reveal that they're really interested in your habit of wearing purple ties.

  5. I think I fell victim to one of ajnabieh's C's a few years ago! It was awful. But I'll bet that that's not what's going on here.

    Just interview as well as you can. If you get an offer, 1) it might be your only one (sorry, but it's true--I say as someone who wound up at a school that she wasn't interested in, but whose only offer it was, and that turned out to be a good fit), and 2), if you have others, it could be a bargaining chip. Don't put yourself out of the running.

    Congratulations on the interview!