How did I forget that?

I’m a little brain-dead this morning, but at least I’m remembering to note that it’s MAJeff writing this. I’ll be better once I have my coffee, I hope.

I spent all day yesterday immersed in job hunting materials. Prepping files for submission, organizing application materials, creating individual files on disk and hard copy for every school. You know, that nasty ol’ administrative side of job hunting, the kind of work you just have to grind through all at once, rather than waiting, but that has to get done in order to avoid complete chaos.

This weekend a friend was over for my dinner. I was actually lamenting that I had not yet, in several years of teaching, had the opportunity to teach Introductory Sociology. (It’s not just because schools want someone who can teach it, but I think it would be a fun class.) He was looking at my vitae and saying I hadn’t yet taught any general ed classes. I listed off several, and got to “Social Problems.”

“That’s not on here,” he said.

“I’ve taught it at two schools. Oh crap, what else did I screw up?!”

Thankfully, that’s the only class I omitted. I think I caught all the typos, and I haven’t omitted any schools. I did have to remind myself of a few of the “professional service” activities I’d done so I could include those when I was editing it last month.

Omitting a class or two on the list of courses I’ve taught is actually pretty minor, especially with the list of classes already on my vitae.

At the ASA conference last weekend, a friend was was telling me about her job. She does a lot of the administrative side of things, including hiring, at a community college. Her favorite letter was one declaring how excited the applicant was to have the opportunity to work with graduate students at the college. At the community college without graduate programs. That’s pretty much a circular file application, I would guess. Others told stories of applicants sending cover letters to a completely different school than the one they were applying for.

Let’s hear your job-hunting horror stories. I don’t have any big one’s yet. (I can’t think of any from previous job hunting experiences, but I’m sure I screwed something up.)

They say misery loves company. What stupid things have y’all done or seen that just made you laugh?

And now, I’m back to job hunting (and dissertating).


  1. Donovan says

    Thanks a lot, MAJeff!

    I’m still an undergrad, but having a hell of a time with my own atempt to get into the education field. I’m running into the old problem. No experience means nobody wants to hire you for the entry level job. I try to emphasize my experience as a teacher in the Navy and as a college tutor since my second semester, but to no avail.

    But really. It’s nice to know that my misery has but begun. I guess I’ll go down to the mall with my sign: “Will explain the uses of the comma for food.”

  2. says

    Everyone seems to fall foul of the the old “can’t get a job without experience, can’t get experience without a job” canard. Volunteering is a way out of this, but of course it isn’t easy to get a job that pays the rent and allows you the free time.

  3. Carlie says

    Advice: Practice what will happen if everything gets screwed up during the presentation, although since you’ve taught so much already you’re used to it. My advisor did this to his students, doing all sorts of sabotage to the slide projector (yes, I’m old) and such to get us used to the possibility. I thought this was overkill, but in not one, but TWO different job talks the machinery went all wonky, one a slide projector and one a laptop interface malfunction. The fact that I transitioned to using the chalkboard to illustrate without missing a beat was tres impressive to the search committees.

    My best mistake: I had been carefully coached not to reveal personal information during an interview, lest it bias the committee. I went on one interview, was met at the airport, me all bedraggled and tired, was told we were going out for a particular type of food, and I blurted out “Great! I love that, but I never get to eat it because my husband doesn’t…..” (trail off, insert many mental swear words) Was then enthusiastically asked about family, at which point I had to bite the bullet and admit to the two kids as well, all within the first 5 minutes of arrival.

  4. Quiet Desperation says

    Sent a resume to a chip manufacturer for an EE position. Got called in for a day of interviews lasting 13 hours. Got called back a week later for 13 more hours of interviews. Didn’t hear anything for two months until I got the form rejection letter. Found out later from a friend at the company that they hadn’t even had a particular opening at the time. WTF?

    I violently cursed them and their entire industry, and the tech bubble burst about a week after that, moving their stock from over $300 to below $20. Much of their upper management team has since been indicted on one charge or another, some of them felonies.

    So, the moral here is that I have vast, spooky powers, and people should be nice to me. ;-)

  5. John C. Randolph says

    Haven’t ever had much trouble job hunting per se, but there have been a couple of jobs that I needed to bail out of because the organization in question was highly dysfunctional.

    The worst of them was AT&T Wireless back in 1995 or so. Hands down, the most Dilbert-style environment I’d ever seen. I was required to attend a meeting to explain AT&T’s process for developing processes. I kid you not.

    I’ve also encountered a handful of incompetent headhunters, several very good ones, and one who was a sleazy, lying little weasel.


  6. MAJeff, OM says

    Got called in for a day of interviews lasting 13 hours. Got called back a week later for 13 more hours of interviews. Didn’t hear anything for two months until I got the form rejection letter. Found out later from a friend at the company that they hadn’t even had a particular opening at the time. WTF?

    I’m still waiting on a rejection letter from a job I interviewed for 7 years ago. And, I knew the professional staff and Executive Director. A couple years ago, at a conference, I walked up and said, “Still haven’t heard, did I get the job?”

  7. JBlilie says

    I’ve done at least 6 in the last 10 years. It is always a terrible and depressing experience. All those NOs! but, as I’ve said many times: it only takes ONE yes.

    Practice makes better (perfect doesn’t exist).

    Spread applications far and wide. I’ve gotten into good jobs by some weird routes (by my cv.)

    Be sure to exercise and take time to relax with a good bottle of favorite libation at least once a week.

    Best of luck.

  8. says

    The “auto correct” function of the MS Word spell-checker got me on Los Angeles. Changed it to “Los Angles” somewhere in the process.

    I was a bit pissed. But at least it was just one resume that went out the door before I caught the error.

  9. John C. Randolph says

    Found out later from a friend at the company that they hadn’t even had a particular opening at the time. WTF?

    Here in the valley, that’s not at all unusual. Google does that now, and many companies that are going through rapid growth will interview candidates who sound promising without having an open requirement. If they like you enough, they’ll create a position for you.

    For most of the jobs I’ve ever had, I’ve been the first person in a newly-created position.

    The main bit of advice I’d give to anyone interviewing for a job is: never bluff. If you don’t know an answer, say so and describe how you’d go about finding out. If you can get away with bluffing, it’s not a job you want in the first place. If you can’t pull it off, you’re toast anyway.


  10. Epinephrine says

    Way back when I was in high school I handed out about a hundred resumes, trying to get a summer job. No bites. Several weeks later I got a letter from one of the companies, explaining that they’d like me to phone them about a job, and that they would have contacted me earlier but I hadn’t included a phone number. 99 wasted resumes, and they actually took a while to print on a daisywheel printer. (at least I didn’t have to type them all myself!)

  11. Bart says

    Oh the joys of job hunting! Whilst I was finishing up my PhD, I was making some half-arsed attempts to find an industry job. Half-arsed because my heart wasn’t really in it. Nothing came of it and I resigned myself to getting just any old job, not even necessarily within the sciences.

    Then I got this email out of the blue from a prof at my uni asking if I wanted to do a couple of months of postdoc’ing for him. Ok then, why not, can’t be that bad. A year later, and I’m still here but the money has now definitely run dry so I’m out of a job again (soon anyway).

    So again, it would be tempting to get any old crappy desk job just as long as it’s a permanent contract and pays enough to fund my “extracurricular” interests (and there are quite a few). But again I seem to have been lucky because, before I’ve even started posting lots of job applications, a visitng researcher at our lab has talked to a colleague from back home, and now there seems to be a good possibility for a 2-year post-doc position in Mexico for me.

    I’m still uncertain whether I hate chemistry or not, but doing it in Mexico surely beats doing it in rainy Norfolk, UK (it was pissing it down this morning and my shoes and trousers are still wet). If I do end up going, the practicalities will be a nightmare. I’ve lived here (UK)for almost ten years and you can accumulate A LOT of junk in that time (I certainly have, and no, I’m not just chucking it, it’s my junk and I’m attached to it! :) And I’ll have to buy out my mobile phone contract (another 8 months to do). And I’m not even mentioning leaving all my mates behind… No, I’m not making up excuses to decline the offer… :-)

    Oh well, gotta go where I’m wanted I suppose… Good luck with your job hunt MAJeff!

  12. Mold says

    Keep trying and have all your options open. Avoid living in Whitest Whitesylvania-Pennsyltucky if you want a professional position.

    Work in the evilbig city to gain the reputation that allows you the luxury of choice of location.

    Family is not a deal-breaker. The little sprats wiil tie you to the job besser than nearly anything else. Just don’t expect co-workers to cover you for every family event.

    Remember past is prologue. Any bad experiences with archtypes in the past will affect your chances. After years of dealing with religio-crazies, homeskoolers, JesusFreaks, and KKKristians…I will go out of my way to avoid hiring anybody that even has a hint of these behaviours. Let’s just say lawsuits grow like weeds.

  13. says

    @MAJeff #6

    I’ve had something similar happen. A college/fraternity connection got me a great interview. I was on the verge of having to move (my roommate got married) and there was no way I could remain in the area because my job didn’t pay enough to support an apartment on my own. This interview came up in my hometown, near my fiancee, and as a series of interviews and phone calls over two months dragged on, I realized that I was not going to get a straight answer. My connection finally dug around and found that they had hired for the position less than a week after I interviewed. It really screwed me over, because the company led me to believe that I was this close and it was a done deal, so I didn’t seriously hunt elsewhere. I ended up moving jobless and further in debt.

    I later ended up doing some contract work for the place, where I described to another minion my dreams of destroying the life of the guy who had strung me along. I wanted to remove his job, his dignity, his home — I was raging a bit. I’ve calmed down since then, but I had used the two intervening years to plot out this guy’s utter humiliation.

    I’m all better now.

  14. Flex says


    I’ve been lucky enough to never get a job through an interview. The current job, one I’ve had for the past 15 years, was given to me because, as the supervisor told me later, I had put designing and running LARP’s on my resume (as a lark). He reckoned that anyone who could design and run LARPs could work as a project engineer in the automotive industry. (Note: I am an electrical engineer, so I do have some other qualifications. ;) )

    But many years ago I got some very good advice from a much older comptroller friend of mine. When looking for a position, ask if there is a part-time opening where you could work at much lower pay and without benefits in order to earn some income, with the caveat that you can leave as often as necessary for job interviews.

    He said that everytime he got his foot in the door this way, he got an offer tendered to him within two weeks. For he was able to show his quality of work.

    Many years ago, when I was a contract employee, I used a similar tactic. After agitating for a couple months for a permanent position, I finally started interviewing at other companies. I didn’t hide the fact I was interviewing, I advertised it, and went on interviews during working hours. (I didn’t get paid for those hours of course.) Within a couple weeks the company I was contracted at made me an offer.

  15. says

    Travelled a long way to get to an early morning anesthesiology job interview. I was a little tired and so got a cup of coffee in the waiting room.

    I had just finished spilling the entire cup on my shirt and pants when the door opened and they called me into the interview room…..

    I think it was tough for them to take someone with a big wet spot in the front of their pants quite as seriously.

  16. Brian Macker says

    Has sociology gotten any better in the last 30 years since I took it. Back then it was pretty much voodoo. The class was more of a platform for poorly supported opinion than any kind of science. I can’t remember even one fact or scientific law that was of value from my sociology class. I do remember one flawed idea, social contract theory.

    The class was more of a platform for a particular political slant than anything else. Different branches of the sciences are suppose to be consistent with each other and it seemed like sociology was building bridges to failed theories in the other branches.

    For instance, from Wiki: “Also, members of the Frankfurt school (most of whom moved to the U.S. to escape Nazi persecution) developed critical theory, integrating critical, idealistic and historical materialistic elements of the dialectical philosophies of Hegel and Marx with the insights of Freud, Max Weber (in theory, if not always in name) and others.” So here they have build a whole crazy fabrication in their own field that is consistent with Marxian theory, which is failed theory, nay a bad hypothesis from another field.

    Back in the day it was about the misuse and misinterpretation of statistics, bad economics, the assumption that social outcomes were due to bad actors and not other factors like unintended consequences, or subcultural differences. Always and everywhere an inability to control for variables.

    It was also a field that would spawn some of the most nutty offshoots that would then inspire later nutty fads like “whiteness studies”. It was more political masturbation than science.

    All in all I was very disappointed in the state of “science” in this area. That is till I found others like Popper and Hayek who actually had something rational to say.

  17. Steve LaBonne says

    From the other side of the desk: I had some experience reviewing applications back in a previous life when I taught at a liberal arts college. Don’t remember any blatant howlers, but there were certainly quite a few that made hardly any mention of teaching, showing that the applicants were not thinking at all about what kind of school they were applying to. Naturally those didn’t get very far.

  18. Grimalkin says

    I’ve always done fairly well at the resume/cover letter stage, but I have real interview issues. When I was job hunting recently, I had an interview with this non-profit. Everything was going really well, they seemed enthusiastic about me, I was confident, it was all going so well. Then the interview was over and I could leave. So I go to the door and somehow manage to LOCK IT. I don’t even know what I did, something to do with fiddling the handle the wrong way. So I panicked, trying to figure out how to unlock it and get out – all the while, they were sitting there watching me.

    I didn’t get the job.

    The next interview I had, I did pretty well through the interview, but my knees buckled when I went to get up after we were done. I ended up on the floor.

    I got the job ;)

  19. speedwell says

    I’m not job searching now, but back in my temporary secretary days, I was always the one they called in for special projects and troubleshooting (read: “we can’t afford tech support and three other temps have already been run off by the system my brother-in-law with an MBA set up”).

    I was called in to a small insurance office in a forgettable Midwest town about 12 or 13 years ago, where the boss told me his two existing secretaries were quite fine in other respects, but could not “do correspondence.” Could I find out what was wrong? Well, sure, I said, and I sat down with the first gal to analyze how she was going about it.

    She grabbed a legal pad filled with the boss’s handwriting in longhand. It looked OK. So the boss couldn’t type, no sweat; his handwriting was fine and he was not more than usually illiterate. She sat down and fired up her computer, and opened Excel (the accounting spreadsheet program). OK, financial analysis was what she did all day and that was how she was used to starting up her computer, I got that. I waited for her to open Word. She sat there. I told her to go ahead. She began to fiddle around in Excel, adjusting cell boundaries. I asked her please to just begin typing the letter. She gave me a resentful look and sighed, and began to type… one… word… in… each… cell……

  20. speedwell says

    OK, left out the pertinent part. I was apparently patient and kind enough with the ladies that the boss got me on contract to do the word processing and brochures, and to teach them (they really were good gals) how to use Word and PowerPoint.

  21. Kero says

    I’ve never had a great deal of trouble getting interviews (always been very lucky in that respect), but I’ve had some really awful interviews. Most recently, I had an interview with a journal publisher. Nothing about it went well. It was raining, so my suit got soaked. A woman on my train fainted, so I was late to the interview. The interviewer didn’t know what role I was interviewing for, and the person from the department who actually knew what the job was had double-booked and was at a meeting at the other side of London. This is before I even start talking about the journals themselves…

    I’ve an interview later this week, so I’ll be watching this thread to see if I can get any new tips.

  22. Kate says

    While I do not work in education I do, as director of a department in my company, have the “joyful” task of pre-screening applicants who have made it through the initial first screening and phone interviews as well as conducting the initial and final interviews with the few who make it through the screening process.

    I think the “best” (worst?) I’ve come across in the last month would be:

    1. The “gentleman” who’s answering machine message for his main contact number begins and ends with a barrage of very filthy swear words.

    2. The young lady who thought the best way to show she was serious was to draft her own contract for employment and present it to me at the outset of our initial interview, stating that she was a very serious person and that I need to take her “contract” seriously if *I* want to be taken seriously.

    3. The young man who asked me repeatedly: “When can I meet the guy in charge of the department, so I can *really* have my interview?”

    ….Then there are the hand written resumes, the resumes with no contact information, the cover letters which have nothing to do with the position the person is applying for and the people who show up to interviews in jeans and t-shirts…

  23. BaldApe says

    I have held a few very different kinds of jobs, but the one thing they all have in common is that I did not get them from an interview.

    I lived around the corner from the store manager of the grocery store I worked in. I was hired by the school at which I student taught (on the insistence of my cooperating teacher- I wasn’t even interviewed by the principal)

    Of course I have interviewed for jobs, but I have never been hired that way. I think I’m too blunt in interviews.

    I currently live about an hour from the school at which I have taught for 11 years, so I applied in my own county. Turns out I know the person in charge in HR, so I thought I had an “in.” Didn’t get a call for an interview after a couple of weeks, so I emailed to see if there was something missing in my file. I got a “Your file is complete, thank you for your interest in ___ county schools.”

  24. Noni Mausa says

    As a professional writer, I thought I had one job in the bag. They needed an editor / writer for a local magazine serving retired and elderly people. I’m a youngish retired person, a good writer, know a lot of people in the target group, and was not dismayed by the otherwise insufficient salary, (~$20k) because I have other income.

    I brought a beautiful resume and color copies of tear sheets of my best work, bound in a display book I use for such interviews. I thought the interview went well, though the interviewer seemed a bit dodgy. He kept my portfolio for further evaluation, he said.

    Three weeks later, I had still heard nothing. I called them, and only then was informed that they had hired someone else for the senior citizens’ editor / writer job — a college sophomore. Fuming, I asked for my portfolio. It was finally found in a recycle box. A few months later the magazine went under — quelle surprise.

    HR people jerk job hunters around, and I swear sometimes they do it as a training exercise, or to fill up their days so they look busy and useful. And like the kids of Jewish mothers, “They never call, they never write,” leaving people hanging and wasting time and speculating what might be happening in those smug ******’s offices. Not that I’m bitter.

    Sometimes I wonder how much this treatment further depresses already worried jobhunters, and contributes to other bad outcomes in the job market. I think if it were studied, it would be found to have significant effects, not all of them external to the profit structure of business.

  25. Tom says

    Stupid job hunting decisions? Well, about 5 years ago, I walked into a recruiting station…

  26. co says

    Let’s hear your job-hunting horror stories. I don’t have any big one’s yet.

    Just make sure not to put extra apostrophes where none should go! :)

  27. Mr P says

    About 10 years ago my (then)supervisor (hi Ken)asked an applicant why he was leaving his current job. The answer was something along the lines of ‘they are downsizing and keeping the best 10 employees and getting rid of the rest of us’
    He didn’t get the job….

    As for myself, I have been pretty lucky. On my 4th major job in 20 years, never been unemployed for too long and never been interviewed where I wasn’t offered at least some position in the company.

    Mr P

  28. says

    Years ago when I was interviewing for teaching positions, I had a close encounter of the weird kind with a hiring committee at a community college. Most of the hour-long interview was over, and I felt I had successfully pulled off the ten-minute mini-lecture on the assigned topic, when the committee asked me to solve a math problem. Unlike the mini-lecture, whose topic had been given to applicants in advance so that we could prepare, this question was out of the blue and required an impromptu response. And it was a problem that couldn’t be done. The committee watched closely as I started to work the problem at the board. It was a limit problem and I had been specifically instructed to use l’Hopital’s rule to solve it. But l’Hopital’s rule took me nowhere (the limit was a quotient of radicals, which did not simplify successfully). It didn’t take me long to catch on, whereupon I began to chuckle.

    My impulse was to say, “You guys are goddam bastards, aren’t you?” What I actually said was more along the lines, “I’m afraid l’Hopital’s rule fails to resolve the limit. We should instead use some algebra to combine the radicals.” The committee chair interrupted me and told me that I had done enough. I could sit down again.

    Apparently the committee members wanted to see whether the candidate would catch the problem with the technique or burst out in tears after this abuse (especially on top of a grueling one-hour cross-examination). I was pleased they hadn’t trapped me. But I didn’t get the job.

    A couple of years later, after getting a faculty position at a different college, I discovered that my office partner had been through the same kind of interview at that first college. He said, “Yeah, I don’t know what they were looking for, but it obviously wasn’t me.” I knew what he meant. That college (or at least that math department) was cruel and unusual. I never did, however, figure out why. Maybe they wanted the bawlers, the ones they knew they could break.

  29. John C. Randolph says

    All in all I was very disappointed in the state of “science” in this area. That is till I found others like Popper and Hayek who actually had something rational to say.

    Hayek was an economist and, to some extent, an historian. I wouldn’t describe him as a sociologist.


  30. Karen says

    I’m in the middle of a heinous job application process myself – you have my sympathies. I graduated from college (undergrad) a few years ago, and spent the past few years getting my married life settled and starting a small business. Surprise, surprise – I absolutely HATE it!

    I’d always figured that I would go teach when I got the business unloaded, but it’s suddenly a terrible time to be looking for a teaching position. It’s even worse because one of my degrees, geology, only qualifies me to teach Earth-Space Science. In Florida, that’s about the least rigorous science class taught in our high schools – I took practically every science class offered in my high school EXCEPT that one, because it’s more or less a remedial course. So now I’m taking the physics and chemistry subject area exams, and will be subbing in the meantime.

    ARGHH! =)

  31. Noam Zur says

    Well… a bit of a tough one for me on this forum, as I work (now) in the arts, specifically, in music, more specifically, I’m a conductor.
    And believe it or not, even we have job interviews. My current “favorite” nightmare story is from about two years ago when I got an email invitation to audition and interview in Berlin in one of the opera houses. So I arrived in the city on the evening before, then came to the opera house the next morning, to find out that not only nobody knew of any audition or interview, but that in fact the orchestra wasn’t there at all that day! When I finally got someone in one of the offices who knew there gluteus maximus from their elbow, they told me that I should have gotten a confirmation.
    I showed them my email (which I had printed out, thoughtfully, just in case), and then I was enlightened that this particular establishment only sends out official information by snail mail, and that it was my own fault for having arrived without confirming with them that I had to be there that day at all.

    On a note that maybe more people can relate to, so to speak, on this blog, when I was in college I worked my way through school fees etc. by taking on night shifts at the helpdesk of an international ISP (as it then was).
    After I had done that job for almost three years, was basically the leader of the night team and in charge of educating all the newbies into the system, I was asked to stay for another hour after a double night shift (6PM-9AM) for an interview with the 3rd VP at 10. That’s when I got fired for “having been there too long without moving upward in the company”, while all this time they knew I was still studying towards my BA. 7 years later, that office now has shrunk to two people… mismanagement at its best!

  32. says

    My best “bad job interview” story is probably the one where I was suckered by a candidate’s resume into prompting our hiring committee into inviting him for an interview. “Dr. Superstar” had me snowed, until he showed up for the interview and proceeded to demonstrate how completely unsuited he was. It was the most awful (and weird) interview I’ve ever sat in on.

  33. Valis says

    About five years ago I answered an ad in the paper for a job as a lab technician. Phoned the company and made an appointment, the person started giving me directions to their premises when it dawned on me they were only two streets away from my house, literally a few hundred meters! When I pitched up for the interview, turns out they were in the business of explosion prevention! I got the job and have spent five happy years so far blowing things up, and getting paid a lot of money for it. Oh, I’m also now the Lab Head. And the joy of not having to commute to work is indescribable ;-)

  34. negentropyeater says

    About 15 years ago, I was job hunting. I had sent some CVs and that was just before the summer holidays. So you know in Europe, nothing much is going to happen in August.

    Then there was this friend, and we really wanted to go to Myanmar together in August. I was young and adventurous, so I said, heck with the job hunt, off to Burma ! I had arranged anayway that my contact was at my parent’s home, so I said to them, I’ll call from Myanmar once in a while (those days, no internet nor cellphone anyway), to check if I’d received anything that needed urgent attention.

    We land in Rangoon and after a few days we had found this driver to take us around the country, there wasn’t anything else anyway. Just before we left, called home (not that easy), and my Dad goes, someone from Malaysia called, they want to see you for an interview.

    I said “Malaysia”, but how come, I didn’t send anything that side of the world, but anyway, that’s not too far from where I am right now, I’ll call and see what’s this about.

    In the end, I interrupted my holidays, flew to Kuala Lumpur (they had wired me a return ticket back to Rangoon within 3 days), but then I was thinking on the plane, “how am I going to do this, I’m just with shorts and T-Shirt and back-pack, if I have to buy a suit and shoes and shirt and tie, and then throw it away, what shall I do ?

    So I landed in KL, there was this driver to pick me up and bring me straight to a meeting room, and was thinking all the time, what about my suit ?

    I arrived in this meeting room in this skyscrapper, with a whole team of people around a table to interview me, all dressed in suits and ties, and I was there, standing in my shorts with my backpack. I was so nervous so I started explaning my dress and asking, shall I go and buy a suit first ?

    And then this guy, goes : “don’t worry, we’re not here to hire a suit, it’s what’s in your brain we’re interested with”.

    And I smiled, relaxed, everything went well, got the job, flew back to Rangoon, and finished my holidays with my friend.

  35. lettucequeen says

    I was in grad school and needed to earn a little extra money so I answered an ad in the local paper to be an assistant for an old lady (light housework, getting groceries, etc). I went to the interview and the lady seemd pretty nice at first but it got weird really quick. She wanted to know more about me but whenever I brought something up she countered it with something horrible that had happened in her lifetime.

    Me: I’m from the UK
    Her: I once hosted soemone from a foreign country but he later died of kidney disease
    Me: I like animals
    Her: I had a dog but it jumped out of my car and got hit by a truck.
    Me: I have a fiance
    Her: I had a husband but he got electrocuted in the basement of the school you are going to and nobody found him for 4 days.

    She also wanted me to organized her freakishly large collection of interior home design magazines. The ‘interview’ took three hours and I was late for my classes.

    Honestly I think the old lady was just lonely and was using the newspaper to get people to come and talk to her. I didn’t get the job (thankfully) and that ad stayed in the paper for months. It’s sad, but it was still the worst interview I’ve ever had.

  36. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

    I once had an interview with a previous supervisor. He’d been my manager at the company where I was working until a few months prior, when he moved to the company where I was now interviewing (at his request). Not really a horror story, just odd because he insisted on going through the standard interview script even though we’d just recently worked together for two years. Still, it was a very positive interview.

    And no, I didn’t get the job. *grumbles*

  37. John C. Randolph says

    #22 Kate,

    I wonder if that woman takes a marriage license form with her if she goes on a blind date?
    I’ve seen people overplay their hand before, but wow.


  38. Naked Bunny with a Whip says

    I have vast, spooky powers, and people should be nice to me.

    *gives QD a backrub*

  39. says

    I’ve got some experience behind the hiring desk, as well (including three hires just yesterday). From that side, I can say that I haven’t had a lot of crazy (or simply unfortunate) folk, although I do see lots of amateurish applications and resumes. That happens when people dropped out of high school thirty years ago to go to work in a mill that just shut down. They just don’t have that functionality.

    Unfortunately, those are often the people I have to turn down the most quickly, because our operation produces product for two groups: units for the customers and paperwork for the government. If you can’t handle the paperwork, no dice. Aside from that, I don’t even care if you have experience in the field (though I like to see that), as long as you show a strong work history with good recommendations. Hell, I’ll even take a not-so-strong work history, as long as you look like you have potential. My work history was brief and disjointed when I started with the company I’m at now, with a long stretch of unemployment. I started at literally the lowest rung of the company, and through a temp agency, at that. In the space of five years I moved to management, more than tripled my income, and directly supervise more disparate functions than anyone else in the company (because I’m the only person to have done them all). Given my experience, I like to give people a shot if they look like they just need that one opportunity to do something. I haven’t picked wrong yet.

  40. Sven DiMilo says

    Jeff: Good luck, man. The academic job search is an extended torture. There are always active threads on the process and its cruelties over at The Chronicle, and there is useful advice sprinkled in there among the whiny-baby complaints and rants.

    As a veteran of both sides of the process (I am now on my fourth–4!–Assistant Professorship, have also done many unsuccessful interviews, and have served on 3 search committees, chairing one), my best advice is to be yourself. There is so much you can’t control, and the final decision as often as not is based on particularly specific departmental needs or desires: specific courses that need teaching, or a senior faculty member’s desire for collaboration, etc. My philosophy has always been to show them who I am honestly; if they want me, great, because what they saw is what they get, no bait-&-switch; if not, not as great but so it goes.
    Many people may not realize the extra shit that goes with an academic job app. Not just the CV, references, and (carefully tailored) cover letter, but also Statements of teaching philosophy/goals/interests and research plans, and sometimes even more (Professional Development Goals, for example); plus you usually need to solicit letters from your references instead of just sending their contact information. If you get to the interview stage, there is usually, these days, a phone interview for the short list, and then the shortshort list go to campus for the in-person interview, usually a 2-day affair of endlessly repeating half-hour meetings with faculty, deans, students, and assorted other personnel, then the Job Talk and sometimes a Teaching Demonstration on top of it, plus meals with the search committee, social events…it’s exhausting and demoralizing.
    All I can say is that sometimes it all pays off and you get a job.
    I’ll spare you my stories of woe, but I will note that once I was working up a simultaneous pile of applications and switched cover letters; I ended up getting the job at one of the places that got the wrong letter. Mistakes are not necessarily fatal.
    That said, I’d watch the apostrophes!

  41. tim Rowledge says

    I’m pretty sure that every time I’ve actually looked for a job and got it, the whole thing was a disaster. Mmmm… no, not quite – my very first post-school job during the summer between A-levels and university was as a road sweeper and that was a surprisingly pleasant job.
    All the good jobs have come from someone tapping me on the shoulder (literally in the cases of IBM and An Un-nameable Directorate) and saying “you’re coming to work with us, sonny”. It got to the stage where I simply don’t look any more.

  42. s1mplex says

    Once, I mistakenly included a non-pornographic photo of a half-naked Jesus with my resume… I got the job!


  43. Asteranx says

    When I was looking for internship positions in college the initial batches of resumes I sent out had the wrong phone number on them. It wasn’t until the second batch that one of the companies I had contacted actually emailed me to ask if I knew I had the wrong number on there.

    I suppose I should be thankful they hired me anyway – they must have been desperate.

  44. Hairhead says

    I’m an employment counsellor, so I’ve got a lot of stories, but I’ll liven up the thread by telling the story of how I *left* a job.

    Back in the 1990’s I was a counsellor for an immigrant-serving agency. I was the only full-time male employee there, and I later found I had been hired because the Federal government, which provided many of the grants for the agency, had noted that there were 36 full-time female employees, and no male employees, though the agency was charged with serving all members of the public.

    The boss was a middle-aged (I don’t want to call her feminist, for reasons recounted below) divorced woman who definitely gave preferential treatment to women. Unfortunately, PB (PsychoBoss), who was white and Anglo, hired almost exclusively immigrant women, bullied them, and encouraged them to abuse and bully each other. This kept them all divided and backbiting and made for a crazy workplace.

    I was very, very good at my job and I managed to get along with everybody and did not participate in any of the office politics. So of course, my co-workers began coming to me for private counselling sessions because I maintained strict confidentiality. This confidentiality bugged my power-tripping PB, but she was too smart to ask me to violate my ethics. She began to threaten me with discipline because I was helping too many of the other programs. I had her put the threat in writing, then copied the threat to all of the other program managers, noting that I would no longer be able to help them.

    Well. You can imagine what was going on in PB’s head; she took her revenge by beginning to fire people to came to me for help. The stress began to get to me.

    In December of 1993, I became aware that PB and HT (her Toady) had me on their list; of course I was dynamically effective at my job and very well-liked, and so nearly invulnerable to them. Still, as she was the boss, I knew she would find a way to get rid of me eventually, so I took matters into my own hands and first arranged for a paid stress leave.

    At the end of three months, I called PB about returning to work. She asked me to come into the office at 4:30, just before they closed. I turned up, with a friend. PB made me wait until after 5pm, when she thought there would be no witnesses. Then she marched into the room with her own witness, HT. PB glared at my friend and asked what he was doing there. I said, “He’s my witness, PB.”

    At that point she lost it entirely. She drew herself up, pointed her finger at my friend and SCREAMED, “I am the Executive Director of the (Blank) Immigrant Services Society and you will leave this office or I will call the police!” My friend didn’t move, so she started again, at top volume.

    “PB, I’m resigning.” She continuted to yell. “PB, I’m quitting.” Yelling goes on. “PB, I’m leaving . . “, at which point HT, smiling so widely her head was about to split in half said, “PB, he’s quitting.” PB stopped and glared at me.

    “I’ll expect your resignation letter tomorrow morning.” The rage was literally flowing out of every pore of her body, her eyes were snapping, the mouth was twisted and ready to spit.

    “No,” I said, “I will go to the printer at the front and I will type out my resignation letter now, and make a copy of it.” PB charged down the hall, I followed, after telling my friend to come after me and stay within three feet of me at all times. I sat down at the secretary’s work station and started my letter.

    PB sat on a chair opposite, arms crossed, fuming. I finished the letter. “I expect this letter to be reproduced without any additions or deletions by you,” I said. PB snatched the letter from my hand and then demanded an “exit interview.”

    PB asked me, in the most hostile tones imaginable, whether I had taken any keys with me. Or files. Or forms. Or phone numbers. The questions went on for several minutes until said, “PB, the only things I have taken with me are the love and respect of my clients and all of my co-workers, except for you.”

    Well! If her eyes could have radiated laser beams and burnt me to ashes on the spot . . . she was clearly beside herself with rage. And it was as I left the office for the last time a moment later I had a sudden revelation: that PB had wanted to hurt me, to destroy me, and had been looking forward to the exercise, and when I thwarted her, thwarted her completely, she was consumed by frustration. I realized then what a sick person she was, and how naive and willing-to-look-at-her-positive-side I had been for so long. It was a learning experience.

  45. Kristin says

    I’m currently searching for a part-time physics instructor to teach a course for me while I’m on sabbatical (I’m also chair of my department). We posted the job online, and I’ve received many replies – from people in other states and even other countries! Let me be clear – this is to teach one college class, for one semester only! We are a state college, so the salary is pitifully low for part-timers, and we are in a part of the country with a very high cost of living – essentially, the salary would barely cover the rent on a half-way decent apartment.

    Many of the folks who applied are fresh out of grad-school. They are very proud of their research experience, but my school is a teaching college – we don’t have research facilities for physics! They would find that out if they just looked at the school’s website – we have 2 full-time faculty in our department (including myself), we have no physics major, we offer no physics courses higher than freshman physics.

    By far the “best” correspondence I’ve had so far has been from some gentleman from another country. He keeps calling me Mr. and Sir. I even gently told him that my name, Kristin, is a female name. But he still called me sir! I’m sorry, but anyone trying to find a job in the US should learn that it is rude and insulting to call a woman “sir”!

    I also received a resume (emailed) from someone who scanned in his resume and sent it as a pdf. But before he scanned it, he scribbled in some additions! So it’s mostly typed, with some barely-legibly written info at the bottom. Oy!

  46. says

    MAJeff, please tell me you got someone else to proofread and copyedit everything you intend to send out. Nobody catches all their own typos. I proofread for money and I know perfectly well I don’t catch all my own typos.

    The kind of mistake you tend to overlook is the kind of mistake you tend to make, because it’s the kind of mistake you overlook because it’s the kind you make because it’s the kind… etc.

    Or, as I tell clients: The best brain surgeon in the world couldn’t operate on her own brain; all else aside, the angle’s all wrong.

    And good luck with the hunt. I’d rather drink ground glass and ipecac than job-hunt.

  47. Azdak says

    When I applied for the job I’m currently in, my cover letter was addressed to Mr. when the person doing the hiring was female. And I can’t blame a built-in language bias, either — I did have her full name and I don’t know many guys named Alison.

    Fortunately, the friend who was forwarding it via email saw the error and corrected it for me.

    The sad thing is, I must have proofread that letter for half an hour. Pro tip: if it’s important, always get someone else to proofread it for you.

  48. crossbuck says

    I had a thrilling day at a large chip maker some years back. After having interviews which ranged from an inconsequential bull session to going to the company cafeteria with a guy who asked me questions without once ever raising his eyes above his shoes, the last interview of the day took the cake. I was ushered into a conference room, where a group of interviewers was led by an executive who kept his back to me the entire time, but fed questions to his subordinates to ask me. About that time I had serious doubts I wanted to work in such an environment, and I was glad I wasn’t hired, no matter what the reputation of the company.

    Second was an interview with a state agency around 1991 where I was asked dumb and insulting questions having little to do with the job I was being interviewed for The straw the broke the camel’s back was the question, “How would you keep a virus from getting on a computer system?” – How do you answer this question when you don’t know what level of access you have to the system in the first place? It would have been immaterial in my case as I was interviewing for a mid-level programmer position and wouldn’t have had the access necessary to download a virus onto the system. (I had a friend who worked there who told me what the job entailed) After he dodged my request to be more specific, and I answered the question using my own experience on my computer system only to be told, “no, that’s not the right answer”, I told him I wasn’t there to answer stupid, pointless questions and walked out. Nowhere in the interview was I even asked about my programming capabilities or experience. Later, I found out from a friend who worked at that agency that the interviews were a waste of time as a candidate was already chosen before they even posted the position.

  49. --PatF in Madison says

    Way, way back when I was sixteen, my father, who was from the very, very old school, insisted I learn something about cars before I learned to drive. So I learned to change a tire and put in oil. Then he made me learn drive a stick shift. It wasn’t much, he said, but it was useful. He also made me promise to carry a heavy duty car jack since the jacks provided with cars were utterly worthless. I have always done that.

    Eleven years later… I was interviewing for my first job at a college. I was having lunch at the faculty club with a couple of department members when I glanced out the window. There was my car…with a flat rear tire.


    “I’ll have to change that later.” I remarked. The department members said to go do it now if I wanted to. There was some time. So I took off my sport coat, rolled up my sleeves, got out the great big jack and changed the tire in about ten minutes. Then I washed my hands and went back to lunch.

    Everything else was fine and I got the job. I have always wondered if being able to change a tire in the middle of an interview helped in getting the job.

    Unfortunately, it turned out I hated the place. I eventually left angrily burning all of my bridges behind me.

    However, I still have that jack.

  50. cactusren says

    When I applied to grad school, my undergraduate advisor apparently mixed up some of my letters of recommendation. So the school I currently attend got a letter full of references to another institution (which was my advisor’s alma mater). Fortunately, my current advisor knew my undergraduate advisor quite well, and thought the whole thing was funny, so I got accepted here anyway. I was flatly rejected from the other school.

  51. says

    I was living in Boston for several years, in the middle of which I changed careers.

    I had gone to school (UMass Amherst) and graduated with a degree in Food Science. Lots of fun: a combination of engineering, cooking and chemistry. However, it turned out that work in the industry here in the North East was very limited – and the pay fairly horrible. So, I managed to jump onto the IT/IS Development band wagon just in time, and after a few years experience, I was ready to look for a better job.

    While looking, I was actually jobless. I guess I was lucky in that I was single and childless, but at the time, the cost of living in Beantown and having no income was very unsettling. Less rationally, I was freaking out – the job search was desperate.

    At one interview (a return trip), the person I met with was actively hostile towards me. I think he might have been in upper management, and was extremely skeptical of software developers in general – accused me of being willing to job hop in the hopes of getting another 5K in salary. “What kind of person does that? It’s stupid…”

    I don’t remember him knowing much about development beyond what a project manager might have heard: language (VB, Java, etc), type of output (DLL, COM component, windows executable, etc). But I do remember that he challenged me on everything I said, and seeing as I only had 2 years of experience and was fairly young, it was scary.

    I never got a callback (no surprise) – but I felt good at the way I handled him. Didn’t get too obviously rattled, interrupted him when necessary, hit all of the talking points I’d wanted – and was very professional in the process.

    It was one of those nightmare interviews you hear stories about.

  52. Qwerty says

    I was a theater major and I remember that our school had to hire a new professor for the acting classes. For unknown reasons they let us students participate in the hiring process. So, several students had an opportunity to interview the candidates. I only remember one candidate who was from Southern California. We decided he wasn’t the best candidate partially based on the fact he wore a Disney character pin on his lapel.

  53. Science Goddess says

    After I had worked for the Navy for several years, the head of the Hematology department left. I knew that they were going to hire from within, so I brought my CV to the Commanding Officer. I had the creds, pubs and experience for the job.

    The CO LAUGHED in my face. When I asked him what was so funny, he replied that I was a WOMAN! I couldn’t possibly have that job. This was in 1996, not 1896, just for your info.


  54. Die Anyway says

    MAJeff, just keep your wits about you at the interview. My worst blunder was at an interview for a systems manager position at a large hospital. After a few technical inteviews with various IT staff members I was ushered into a director’s plush, spacious office. As we began talking he called his secretary to bring in some beverages. Shortly, she walked in with a tray of cold bottled water and a variety of soft drinks. I was overly impressed and made some stupid comment that seemed as if I were a bumpkin that just fell off of the turnip truck. I left thinking I might possibly have a chance due to my technical qualifications but knowing that looking like a rube was not going to go well in my favor. I didn’t get that job.

  55. Schadenfreude says

    Gotta love academia – the faculty job search generates great horror stories for just about everyone who embarks on it.

    I was teaching some classes part time at a small liberal-arts university, that I was really hoping to land a faculty job at (sound familiar???). But they had no openings so I applied for what was out there and got a number of interviews. The chair of my dept realized I was going to leave, so he railroaded a faculty search through the dept. The students, Dean and Chair all really liked me and wanted to hire me. But the rest of the faculty exerted their influence in the end because when it came to a vote, I was not the candidate they made the offer to.

    In the meantime, I had dragged my feet at some of the other places I interviewed at because I really wanted to stay where I was, and I think it cost me at least one offer.

    as an adjunct who’d been very publicly courted and rejected,
    I was still committed to teach there for that spring quarter. This story has been played out over and over again – I have never heard of someone in my situation ever getting the offer. Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?

    The good thing is that I did get another faculty offer, at a place where I feel really appreciated. So when the department that turned me down asked me to keep teaching there as an adjunct for the following fall quarter (because their new hire did not want to teach the more advanced courses that I had taught!), I really enjoyed saying no.

  56. Darby says

    This may or may not be useful, but it is a) very common for prospective employers / committee members to Google candidates that they’re going to interview, and to look at any of their social-network pages, but b) this is totally “not done” because it can access information they’re not supposed to have, like age and marital status. And they may not do it until an interview is set up, because what’s the point?

    Bottom line, don’t have stuff online you don’t want a new boss to have seen or read. You won’t know they did it (if they’re good), but you won’t get the job.

  57. usagi says

    Thank you for your application. After reviewing the 400 responses…

    Thank you for your application. We’ve hired Eric Bentley for the position… (Those of you not in theatre, he’s one of the foremost scholars of the 20th century, and I’m quite sure he didn’t submit his resume blind for that position)

    The thing that drove me crazy back in the (pre-Internet) day was that it cost money to do academic applications. You were talking $3.00 to $4.00 a pop by the time the postage went on to the cotton envelope, and then you get those sorts of replies.

    The ones that bug me currently are the schools that fly you in for a day long interview, all the way up the chain to the President, and then you never hear from them again. I’ve decided I don’t want to work for anywhere that treats their potential employees that way.

  58. Phizzy says

    Well, now that I’m in month 24 of my ‘temporary’ unemployment, I’ve moved from the “no experience? no job – no job? no experience” bracket into the “no job? no job” bracket.

    My best horror story has to be the HR woman who called to accuse me of making up my university because she had never heard of it and, apparently, couldn’t be bothered to JFGI.

    I’m rather convinced that my résumé almost never gets past human resources to the people who actually understand the prospective job’s qualifications.

  59. maxi says

    Oh MA Jeff, I feel for you. I’ve just finished an MRes and trying to break into scientific publishing. Finally, after weeks of applications for various editorial assistant positions, I got an email! Yay! They have sent me a test paper to proof read. It all seems pretty straight forward, I like proof-reading documents, however I’m now driving myself mad rereading and double checking every comment and correction.

    Aaaaaargh! I can do this job I just don’t like jumping through hoops. And if this is the pre-interview then what is the interview going to be like? [shudder]

  60. Interrobang says

    When I was looking to get into my field, technical writing, I kept going to these interviews and being told, “We really think you’d be happier in marketing writing.” (Oh really? Obviously you don’t know me from a hole in the ground, because I hate marketing writing.) On the other hand, if I did go to an interview for a marketing job out of desperation, I’d get told, “We really think you’d be happier in IT or academia.” Gee, thanks, guys.

    The worst interview I ever went on was with the only conservative IT recruiter in Toronto who berated me because my outfit wasn’t conservative enough for his liking. (I’d worn a black pants suit and a pink blouse and maybe a little too much jewelry, but this is Toronto, and half the IT interviews I’ve been on in Toronto, the person interviewing me has a nose piercing or visible tattoos.) The second worst was being told by the HR person, “Well, I don’t really know too much about the job you’d be doing. We just want someone who really knows FrameMaker [a really high-end, hard-to-use page layout and desktop publishing package] to come in for six months and get our documentation into FrameMaker and teach everyone else on staff how to use it.” I also found out at the interview that they were offering $12/hr and the contract was non-renewable. In other words, we’re looking for a highly-skilled gullible rube who is willing to bust their ass for half a year to put themselves out of a job. No effing thank you…

    The only academic job I ever had, I got with four days before the start of the semester. I think if I pro-rated out what I was earning for the lectures (you weren’t paid for prep time et cetera) versus the amount of time I spent on the job, I was making something like two dollars an hour. Yike.

  61. Alison says


    I’m in a similar boat — 24 months of shady employment through temp agencies, and a strong conviction my resume generally gets thrown out the window at the first stage. If anyone JFGI they might take me more seriously…

    Although, maybe that doesn’t help. I seem to be trapped in the dichotomy of the “oh you have a Masters” — you are overqualified; “oh you don’t have experience in this field” — you are underqualified.

    My personal favorite is being passed over for a position due to never having used a very specific computer program that should be pretty easy to train a person to use when the job was straight data entry…

  62. Phizzy says


    I got one of those responses just a week or two ago. It was more less, “You seem extremely qualified and no doubt you could learn to use our equipment very quickly. However, we don’t feel like training you and you would probably cost too much anyways.” I felt like writing back, “Hey guys! I’ve been out of real work forever, you can pay me in monopoly scrip if it gets me back in the system.”

  63. says

    Ouch yeah, that is a familiar feeling.
    Speaking of JFGI, I was recently thinking about annotating my resume with explanatory notes. I am starting to figure being considered a wacko is more consideration than I am getting now.

  64. Phizzy says

    I hired a consultant to rewrite my résumé at the beginning of the year and the biggest changes he made were those annotations. There’s probably an entire page added in describing my school and the lab I worked in while I was there. Not to mention a few attempts to detechnify my project descriptions.

    And after all that time, effort, and money, the response rate only went up 20-30%.

  65. JoJo says

    I’m rather convinced that my résumé almost never gets past human resources to the people who actually understand the prospective job’s qualifications.

    A couple of years ago I wanted someone with an accounting MBA or a CPA for a job. I told HR about my requirements. After a couple of weeks with no applicants being presented to me, I went to HR to see if there was a problem. I was told: “None of the people responding have the necessary requirements. Look at this guy, he claims to have a BA in accounting from some university I’ve never heard of and says he’s a Chartered Accountant, whatever that is.” The university was the University of Winnipeg and a Canadian Chartered Accountant is the same thing as an American Certified Public Accountant.

    I ended up hiring that guy. I also told HR that they would not be screening applicants for any of my jobs any more.

  66. John C. Randolph says


    The sad thing is that the chances of that HR drone getting canned for incompetence are pretty slim.

    The best HR people I’ve ever met were both at Apple. One was the VP of HR, and the other one was the recruiter who managed my interviews for the job I got there. He did an amazing job of arranging for me to see everyone I needed to see so that I could get an offer before they went on their holiday break. That included my prospective boss, all of my peers, one of my bosses peers, a manager and a director from a different department, and the VP of the department I joined.

    I saw all these people within three days of telling him that I really needed to know before the new year whether I would get an offer, because of another offer that I had to reply to.

    There are good HR people out there. That recruiter is now a director, and from what I hear the people working for him follow his example.


  67. John C. Randolph says

    And after all that time, effort, and money, the response rate only went up 20-30%.

    I think anyone with a marketing background would tell you that increasing a response rate by that much is quite an achievement.


  68. Phizzy says

    I think anyone with a marketing background would tell you that increasing a response rate by that much is quite an achievement.

    That’s probably true, but my 20-30% is probably not that accurate. I think the only real change in the number of responses I get can be attributed to the intercession of some of my former colleagues. Why I take those out of the picture, I’m probably back to my usual 2% response rate. But then I look like I spent a bunch of money on something that didn’t do me any good.

  69. says

    Take this advice (philosophy) with a grain of salt. It has always worked for me, but it may be particular to the jobs I’ve been interested in, demand, geography, etc.

    I am a huge fan of the strict 1 page resume (which provides technical detail) and the single page cover letter (which expands on the resume, and lets you display a bit of personality.

    In my view, the goal of a resume is to get your foot in the door – and interview. The competition for a job is usually stiff, and if faced with a stack of multi-page resumes, it’s very easy to skip over the obnoxiously long stuff. However, a single page with just the right kind of information usually stands out, and gets you noticed.

    A nice paper stock helps too.

  70. John C. Randolph says

    This discussion reminds me of an incident quite a few years ago that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. I got a call from an in-house recruiter at a company called SHL Systemhouse looking for a software developer for my particular speciality. She told me that they needed to see me right away, and they’d cover my travel expenses.

    So, I drove from Dayton, OH to the DC suburbs for the interview. When I get there, the people who were supposed to interview me were out of the country, so they sent stand-ins to interview me for them.

    The interviewers were fine, interviews went well, they recommended hiring me. The people I would have been working for got moved in a re-org, one to singapore, one to Zurich. The position I was applying for vanished in an organizational musical-chairs game. Oh well, shit happens, no biggie. I had other things to do, anyway.

    The problem though, was that SHL Systemhouse owed me for my travel expenses. After three calls over about a month to the recruiter asking about it, they sent me a check for exactly half of what they owed. (Half. To the penny.)

    I then called the recruiter and left her a voice mail message to the effect that SHL would pay me in full, or they would find it very hard to ever recruit someone in my specialty again (it was a small community, and most of us knew each other.) I got the check for the remainder of what they owed me by fedex the following day.

    I later learned from a friend who had worked there that SHL had a deliberate policy of never paying any bill until they were threatened, and then paying half of what they owed. It seems like a lot of the vendors they dealt with would just forget about them at that point, since 50% is what they would get from a collection agency, anyway.


  71. Josh Hayes says

    Well, two quick stories:

    The first is, whilst in my first post-doc I applied for a teaching gig at a nearby college, interviewed, was told I was their number one choice, and shortly thereafter got a letter from them which began,

    “Dear Dr. Hayes,

    The best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley.”

    It turned out the funding for the position had disappeared and, alas, so had my job. Ah well.

    Story the second: a bar in the same town where I did that post-doc had a policy of giving you a free drink for every rejection letter you could produce. Since I was an academic, I had a number of — folders full of them. When I plunked the first one down, and the bartender paged wonderingly through it, I granted them mercy: “just give me an open tab for tonight.” It was worth it.

    Making it into an academic career requires a lot of things, but the most important thing is, you have to be lucky. For every job there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of perfectly well-qualified applicants. You just have to get lucky enough to get a couple of interviews, at which point your innate brilliance and ineffable intellectual horsepower will get you the rest of the way. Right?

  72. Kero says

    Maxi: Could be worse – every time I’ve had to do a proofreading test, it’s been at the interview, watched over by the beady eyes of a HR bod. At least you can do it on your own time and at your own pace!

  73. maxi says


    Eeek! Now I’m really worried!

    I received an email from another publisher now, and a second test. A harder, tricker test. It came as a PDF, I copied it into word to edit it, and now it won’t justify! Crumbs.