Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A job interview at the University of Pennsylvania that never happened

So you would think people who work in a college career center who know better.  I had sent a resume for a job at the University of Pennsylvania's career services office. A few weeks later I received a call to schedule an interview. When the day arrived I used vacation time and drove two hours to Philadelphia. I parked and got to the career services office about ten minutes before the scheduled interview. However there was no receptionist, and I noticed that the staff members had offices beyond a partition; there was a waiting room for the students.  So I stood there for a minute, contemplating what to do, when an older lady appeared from the rear area. She introduced herself as one of the members of the career staff, with a smile and a British accent, and said that members of the search committee would be with me in a few minutes. Then she disappeared back behind the partition.

So I sat in a chair in the waiting room. And I waited. And waited, And waited some more. About 20 minutes past the scheduled interview time the British lady came to the reception area, saw me, and frowned.

"They didn't come out yet?" she asked.

"Um, no," I replied. I remained polite and smiled, trying to look upbeat.

"Let me go see what's going on," she said, and disappeared back behind the partition.

I sat and waited another 15 minutes. I had nowhere else to go, so I figured I see this through to the end.

The British lady appeared again.  "You're still waiting?" She looked somewhat perplexed.

"Yes."  I wasn't sure what else to say.

"Okay. I'll be right back."  She scurried back to behind the mysterious partition.  Interestingly, there weren't any students in the waiting room. I did see students walking in the hallway outside the office.

I sat there and waited another 20 minutes. Now it's nearly one hour past the scheduled interview time. I think to myself, time to take the hint. I walk out and back to my car and drive the two hours home. A total waste of time, not to mention a wasted vacation day.

In retrospect, if I had the chance to do things again, I would have walked back there behind the partition and asked everyone what the hell is going on.  Then I would have left.  For some reason I was just too polite in those days.

Interestingly, a year later I saw an ad for the same job at the same career center. I sent in my resume, and a few weeks later received a call from the British lady about scheduling an interview.

"You don't remember me, do you?" I said.  "A year ago I was there for an interview for the same job, but I waited for an hour, and no one came out to interview me.  No one even came out to apologize or tell me what was going on."

"Oh," the British lady said. "Well, we're more organized now."

So I pretended to be cheery and scheduled the interview for the next week. Of course, I didn't go, nor did I call them to cancel.  I doubt if anyone there cared, though.

I'm better off, probably. I would have to move down to Philadelphia for a job that had a salary that was only minimally higher than what I was making in the job I had at the time.  So in this case things worked out for me.

Still, the world would be a better place if people treated job candidates with more respect. Especially at a college career center. And a place like the University of Pennsylvania, which is supposed to a leader in the field.

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