Sunday, January 9, 2011

Jonah from June Lake With the MLA Interview Topper.

I'm no where near as popular as darling Darla; I just had one interview at the MLA this weekend.

But I prepped for it, big time. I read everything about the position I could find online. I learned about the philosophy of the college, examined the kinds of courses they need covered. I even learned a good deal about each of the committee members I was told would be at the interview.

I'm staying at a shithole in Pasadena because it's 50 bucks cheaper than a downtown MLA hotel, and my girlfriend drove me in with plenty of time to spare. I was dressed in clothes I cannot afford, and I left myself plenty of time for the elevator ride to the XXth floor.

I knocked at 30 seconds to 11 am, and was ushered into a very nice suite full of friendly. People. 

But wait, I'm hearing the names, yes, yes, yes, but who's this 4th person?

Damn that Glen!
"Oh, this is Glen," the search chair said. "He's been our visiting assistant professor these past 2 years, and he knows more about this new position than anyone else."

Ok, fine, I guess.

They started by talking about the position, and Glen was a big part of it. He went on at length about the duties, most of which he's been doing. There's an easy repartee among the group. It's clear they work fairly closely as each has something to add to another's explanation. It was actually a very helpful and thorough 10 minutes where the sketchy job ad came to life with some real detail. I took notes throughout, and was even more interested in the position.

At this point the chair said, "Glen, why don't you step out now." 

I looked around; Glen smiles, $50 of hair product and a linen suit like you might wear if you were going to a wedding in Morocco. He came over, reached his hand out to shake mine, and then disappeared out into the hallway.

I am surprised by this and turn to the search chair who says, "Oh, Glen is also a candidate for the job. But since he knows more about the position than the rest of us, we asked him to come along so that all the candidates would benefit from his knowledge."

"And he left the room..." I started.

"Oh, yes," the chair said. "It would be poor form for him to sit in for the interview."

Everyone smiled. My throat tightened. I don't recall much after that.


  1. You should drop an anonymous note to their HR department: that's beyond the pale, ethically, morally and, IANAL, I'm pretty sure, legally.

  2. Welcome to Shithead U, where we'll either openly inform you (with a wink and a nod) that we'll be hiring our internal candidate; or, we're so heartless and callous that we're going to introduce the guy we're kicking to the curb to his replacement.

    How much money is getting wasted by this scenario? Remember to multiply by several factors to accommodate multiple interviewees.

    Yet, it's SOP in most disciplines.

  3. AARRGGHHH, Jonah. I hope you were able to at least crash a hosted reception (if MLA has any) and get a few free drinks.

  4. Before I had my t-t job, I hated being in this position: interviewing for a job I clearly knew shouldn't take, and yet it was my only interview. I hope you get more offers, elsewhere, at places where people still have a shred of human decency, from where you can look back at this experience and say, "Thank goodness I didn't get THAT job." I hope you realize that, if you take this job, it's only a matter of time before they start doing things like this to you?

  5. Keep the suit and count yourself lucky.

  6. That was a really dirty thing they did, Jonah from June Lake. I agree with Ahistoricality, a word to their HR dept is certainly warranted.

    But, yeah, these are not the douchbags you'd want to spend your working life with anyway. Who knows what other stunts they'd pull.

  7. The more i think about this, the more pissed i am. If they're going to hire their internal guy, slick suit and all, and they're going through the motions to make it look like they searched, then it's fucking fraud, and it cost YOU and others who cant fucking afford it a lot of money for them to carry out their little show.

  8. That's revolting. You paid money to be there and they did that?

    1. Letter to HR department.
    2. Every horrifying interview I do, I think "well, at least I know what it's like when THAT happens now..." It's cold comfort, but it is a bit of comfort.

  9. Just to put a different spin on this...I interviewed for a position that I thought I didn't have a have a snow ball's chance in hell of getting. Not only was it a small department that had ONE opening and over 100 applicants (35+ interviews), most of the applicants were current adjuncts and one of them was actually the brother-in-law of one of the department chairpersons. I got this information while sitting in the waiting room with one of the other applicants, who happened to be an long-time adjunct. He described the proverbial "golden boy" brother-in-law as having high ratings with the students (which was true, but I later found out that his classes were a big circle-jerk of learning nothing and being a "buddy", but I digress). If this long-time adjunct was discouraged, then you can imagine how I felt. He explained that he was only interviewing because if he didn't, they would think he wasn't interested in teaching and may lose the adjunct position. He said it also let them see his teaching demonstration to keep him on longer. It is common practice at this school apparently to do that.

    I was from another state, little experience teaching, and coming from a position "in the field" (which I had only been in for about 6 years), not academia. I did my teaching demo, but left there knowing that I did not get the position. The days turned into weeks and then a couple of months later, 2 weeks before the semester was to begin, they offered the position to me. Yes, I was their first choice.

    On my second day of meetings to prepare for the semester, one faculty member informed me that I was NOT his first choice (the "golden boy" was), all the adjuncts from the area were upset and wouldn't talk to me (except the one that sat next to me in the interview waiting room), and the department head (brother-in-law of the "golden-boy", who was from a different campus) also made sure to "welcome" me with a cryptic word of advice that any weakness would be my firing and "golden boy" was ready to step in.

    I am no longer in that position and ironically, the "golden boy" never was hired as a full-time faculty, even though there were several openings in later years due to retirements. So, the moral of the story is, do not be too discouraged. They may LIKE the guy, but know that he's not going to be what they really want in the long-run. Good luck to you!

  10. Don't always fear the inside candidate. In our hiring at my school, the last 2-3 people have won out over a number of great insiders. Our Dean loves new folks. It's not always a bad sign. Good luck, Jonah.

  11. Maybe there's a legit explanation for this fucktardedness. Maybe not. If they offer you the job, have a heart-to-heart talk with the hiring committee chairman or the dean before you start working there. Like Froderick said, you should expect to get fucked there eventually. Maybe they were all between a rock and a hard place themselves. Maybe they had a good reason for behaving that way. But still. Ugh.

  12. I know that it's really hard to say no when you are offered a job, but interviews really should be for BOTH parties to suss out whether they are right for one another.

    I once accepted a job even though everything about the interview experience screamed to me that they were assholes I didn't want to work for. I lasted all of 2 months, and I swore I would never do that again.

    You don't want to work for assholes like this because look how they treat people. Yes, it was an expensive way to find out, which sucks.

  13. In a year or so I hope to be the "inside candidate" but there is no way I would want to sit in the interview with a competitor for the position!!!!

  14. Please contact HR and cc the note to the college/university lawyers.

  15. Are we all reading the same post? Are any of us under the impression that there are NO inside candidates for jobs?

    Devil advocate style, I like that they brought Glen to the interview because he appears to know a good deal about the position that is being filled.

    And, when it came time to actually interview the candidate, Glen was asked to leave. I'd suggest that seems above board and quite candid. If only all departments were this candid.

    I understand the worry about what an inside candidate MIGHT mean, but this example strikes me as being as benign as one could expect.

  16. @Wisconsin Will...I assume that pretty much everybody in my field gets hired based on some kind of insider connection, and whether or not I'm in the room with that Insider, s/he is out there.

    I'd just rather not meet him.

  17. Question for Jonah from June Lake:

    Did you stay at that really crummy motor lodge across from Pasadena City College? When I was doing Forensics years ago, we would stay there every time we hit PCC. It's the early-1960s place that is mostly one story and has the Western motif.

  18. My first impulse (and probably my final conclusion) is yes, this is absolutely awful and possibly illegal and you probably shouldn't take this job even if offered (and, if they invite you to campus at their expense, you should think carefully about the value of the time you'll spend, or at least have a *very* frank conversation with the person who extends the invitation, and perhaps with Glen himself, before going).

    I can think of a few possibilities that might make the situation marginally less awful, or at least suggest some good intentions lurking somewhere in the awfulness:

    --Glen himself is quite openly and, so far, successfully, on the market (which might explain his attempt at spiffiness, especially if it exceeded that of the other participants), and the department compensated him for his help with the interviews by paying his way to the MLA.

    --They're trying to be aboveboard about a situation that is, indeed, frequently hidden.

    --They'd be just as happy to hire Glen to a TT position without a national search, but university rules won't allow it (very likely, and an indication of the general fuck-upedness of academia in general, not this particular department or university).

    Also, I've been an unsuccessful inside candidate for jobs at least 3 times, and in 2 cases I was teaching the classes targeted by the search at the time of the search (but no, they didn't pull me into the search). I was also ABD, and in one case my ethnicity didn't match the ethnicity of the authors I'd be teaching (not a requirement, of course, but let's just say that the occupant of this position, which tended to turn over frequently, usually contributed a good deal to the diversity of the department, such as it was, so they were hoping for a two-fer. The person they eventually hired was, indeed, a two-fer, and also had a Ph.D. in hand, and more publications than I -- so fair enough). So there were some reasons I didn't even reach the conference-interview stage, and I appreciated the clarity of the message sent by that decision. In the third case, I held the Ph.D. but hadn't published much, with the same result; in that case, since one major reason I hadn't published much is that I'd been teaching a heavy load of service courses for the department in question, I would have appreciated the chance to compete, at least at the conference-interview level. On the other hand, if they were pretty sure they weren't going to hire me in the end, I'm just as glad they didn't get my hopes up (and there were also several other non-TT folks in the department who could have been viable inside candidates; I'm not sure how many of them applied, or got conference interviews; I know none of them were finalists).

    I think one of my main concerns (besides the general ethical tone-deafness of this all) would be that the members of the hiring committee don't have a clearer idea of the position and what it entails. Unless you and Glen are in a pretty unusual subfield (and/or this is a department with a single person representing another field tacked on -- it happens), I'd worry about how isolated the position is from the work of the department as a whole, and/or how fragmented the department may be.


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