I should have suspected something might be up from the fact that I was invited immediately for an in-person interview several states away without even the slightest phone conversation, which had not been the norm thus far in my 6 month long job search. There was ALWAYS a phone interview before the invitation (boy could I relate to Clay from Cleveland's complaints about phone interviews!)
Of course I accepted the offer of an actual in-person interview. The position was actually a level higher than what I would have expected for a new grad with very little experience but still that didn't raise my eyebrows. I promptly made my flight arrangements and did the requisite research on the department, university, etc. I worked on my presentation and finally the day came when I flew into the small airport an hour from the small university town somewhere in the Midwest.
Two colleagues from the department picked me up at the airport (I was only expecting one of them) and they seemed overly excited to be taking me to dinner at a local chain restaurant before heading off on the hour drive to the university. Again, it occurred to me that maybe this excitement over a chain restaurant might not be a good sign. But what was I to do by this time? And they were nice enough.
So the cast of characters I encountered began there.
The first, I couldn't decide if he was gay or not, but I quickly realized he seemed the most like me--somewhat alternative and liberal, and if I was offered the job, we'd be friends. The second I was sure was gay (don't ask why, it would be too obvious then who I'm talking about if he ever read this), but married and in denial. Oh well. Still two nice men.
I was dropped off at my hotel, where I barely slept, going over my presentation and notes for the next day most of the evening.
The morning began with committee interview after interview. Then the assistant dean and the dean. Then a tour of the facility by a very fake-smiling yellow-dyed brush-cut with a million earrings.
I continued to be surrounded all day by the following:
- the immaculate woman in the perfect suit who smiled perfectly at all times
- the ancient/experienced woman with long gray hair that looked like it hadn't been cut in 20 years
- the young, sneering, and silent woman dressed in all black who refused to make eye contact with me at all
- the lumberjack (yes, he was wearing flannel and he was about 6 foot 8, complete with full bushy beard)
- the disheveled woman in the moon boots (though there was never any snow the entire time I was there)
- the old man who was retiring (and looked as though as soon as he was out of that interview he would be officially retired--in sprinting position waiting to run out the door)
- the nondescript others who now have faded into oblivion
The best part of the day, I must say, was my presentation. I was asked for my "powerpoint" to which I replied that I don't use PPT, but do my presentations from the web.
Lots of bored looks, talking, sneering--there were some polite attendees, to be fair. And the final insulting question from the 20 year gray haired woman, to whom I replied the only thing I could "You're right," instead of getting defensive and getting into a battle over my choices for the presentation.
No wait. The best part was actually when they took me to lunch after my presentation. NO ONE SPOKE. I mean they did NOT talk to each other. At all.
I was sure I must have bombed my presentation horribly and they were all aghast at having to even bother continuing to go on with me one more minute. Of course, later on, I asked the man who would have been my best (and only friend), some oblique question that lead him to say "Oh, you did fine. Any of us would have done the same thing."
By then, I knew SOMEthing was wrong. And how would I fit in here? They kept calling me the girl from New York. As if I was from NYC (not). Okay. I was from the BIG CITY apparently.
I did not get the job. Saved by the fact, I think, that I couldn't hide that I'd take the job and run as soon as I had enough experience to go someplace else. But the story of all those different characters is fun to tell, and I was flattered to be asked for an interview for a position I really wasn't ready for at the time.
I'm sure they were all nice people. Really. But then why have I seen 3 ads for positions there, since I interviewed? For the same position I interviewed for, besides.