Nightmare Interview: Private University Edition
I don't know if I'm just lucky but I have so many experiences with nightmare interviews! This time everything but the interview was terrible. My last post about a nightmare interview experience was fairly typical besides flying to a different state and getting wanded for weapons. Today's post is about everything leading up to and on the day of was terrible and the interview itself, though long, was the glimmer of hope in an otherwise ridiculous day.
I used to think academia was the place for me. Hob knob with intellectuals, ambitious students and professors while swirling glasses of bourbon around in finely furnished houses talking about things normal people couldn't even comprehend. This idea is seriously outdated and fantasical. But I applied for jobs at different universities including my own alma mater thinking if I could just get my foot in the door in an administrative position then I would have a fast upward trajectory in my career path.
Most application portals are outdated black holes that I don't hear back from. Then one day I got a reply from an elite university that I didn't even consider as an undergrad because the tuition and admission requirements seemed so unattainable. This time all I had to do was answer 10 or so questions and see if I made it to the next round. The job sounded like your basic administrative job so I put a salary range slightly higher than my current one. I figured if they were raking in so much money they could pay me more or I wouldn't want to work for them any way.
After about 2 weeks or a month, really, I get a reply. Invitation for an in person inverview! Did we mention it's 3 hours with 3 different people? Yikes! It seemed a bit much for the position but I figured I'd come this far. Let's see where we go from here.
Because I'm a master over planner I decided to figure out the parking situation by going there the Saturday before for a test run. They had a couple parking garages and meters that were further away so I opted for the parking garage. I walked to the building and admired the immaculate campus with shiny new cars and students radiating privilege.
The traffic on the day of the interview went from bad to worse as construction clogged the back roads as well as the highway. Google maps kept whisking me off the highway only to get right back on at the next entrance ramp. Every time it gave me a diversion from the highway I took it. The drive that took me 40 minutes on Saturday took an hour and 20 minutes. I was still on time but barely.
I speed walked to the building trying not to break a sweat. I was massively overdressed compared to the student body and professors. I felt some side eye but ignored it. I went to the bathroom to make sure I still looked put together. No one else was in there which was good. I didn't want to make small talk or meet one of my interviewers in there.
All three interviews were very enjoyable and intellectually stimulating. More like conversations even. At the time I thought it was a good thing. We were able to talk like adults and only pepper in some of the requisite questions before moving on. This probably kept me from fully selling myself but in the moment I didn't care. I even told one of them that I was writing a book. It was the best interview experience for a job I realized I didn't want.
I left feeling really good and tricked myself into thinking maybe I would get the job after all. I called my husband, a new post interview ritual, and told him all about it and how much fun I had. He was convinced I would get it and in the moment I was too. I wrote my thank you notes with little tidbits from our separate interviews to jog their memories of me. I checked my email with fading optimism as the days passed without reply. Then I received a call which I unintentionally ignored because my phone was on silent. The voicemail was very neutral. I couldn't tell if it was good or bad news. Eventually I got an email back after trying to call back a couple of times. I was not selected.
I was a little sad but knew I was better off in the long run. I would be doing administrative, executive assistant, support work and these were the type of jobs I wanted to avoid. I enjoy using my brain and can't deal with too much rote work. I had more autonomy in my current role and I didn't want to sacrifice that either. Even if I would be getting a slight bump in pay. Also the traffic around this campus is a nightmare.
Another factor was the type of people this university attracted. Even though my interviewers were cordial I could imagine others being less easy going. The whole place reeked of privilege. I overheard snippets of conversation about private vs public school and listings in the school paper for on campus houses for a cool 400K to 500K were unsettling to say the least. I didn't feel comfortable on campus or like I ever would. I felt like to blend in I would have to hide my true self and I didn't want to do that. So I continued my job search.