Weird Hiring Practices

Jonathan writes:

A new trend I’ve noticed is that you write a recommendation for a PhD student, and then the school calls you with a list of questions to answer. They go down the list of questions mechanically and you just answer them out loud. Presumably the nice faculty member on the other side of the phone takes notes on what you say, probably including the most significant phrases.

I also have a weird hiring experience to share. When I was interviewing for academic positions, prospective employers would phone people from my department and ask questions as to what my personality is like and whether I’m a nice person.

That was a big department and they called a couple of people I’d had no interactions with. Those kind colleagues did all they could to sell me to the prospective employers pretty much sight unseen.

It was very weird to be approached by strangers who’d say, “I’m sorry, are you Clarissa? I was interviewed about you today. I said you had a great personality. I don’t know you, but I’m guessing your personality is good.”

Then, I’d start trying to prove to the kind stranger that I did, in fact, have a great personality.

So the lesson of the story is: make sure that everybody at your current department is aware of you and can say something positive about your personality.

6 thoughts on “Weird Hiring Practices

  1. i only ever had one uni ever do this, but they cold called RANDOMLY some faculty member out of the directory (turned out to be in math) who just totally coincidentally did know me, but only by a complete fluke. Otherwise I’ve no idea what s/he would have done.

    I think they do this because presumably one only sends letters that are good, but that if they get the recommender on the phone then they might say something that they wouldn’t necessarily put in writing.


    1. “i only ever had one uni ever do this, but they cold called RANDOMLY some faculty member out of the directory”

      -That’s exactly what they did. Just called completely random people. I’d only been at that department for 1 semester at that point, so it isn’t surprising that many people simply didn’t know me from Adam. Good thing they were such nice people who lied on my behalf. 🙂


  2. And if you are a grad student of Facebook, accept Friends request from everybody in Academia. My department is conducting a search for SLA in a language that is not Spanish. One of the candidates, however, graduated from the same place I did. We knew each other pretty well for a while. A year ago, I saw ze was on Facebook so I sent a friend request, which ze never accepted (and accepted many other in that time period). Well, guess whose CV I just saw applying for the job? I really don’t care, and I have very little input on the search. But somebody else may be more vindictive.


    1. I won’t go into details but I’m confronting a similar issue right now. It’s a great struggle not to be vindictive. I think I’m winning the struggle but we’ll only know for sure tomorrow.


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