The Horror! The Horror! | Confessions of a Community College Dean

The Horror!  The Horror!


When I put out the call for job interview horror stories, I thought I might receive three or four.


Alas, terrible behavior is an infinitely renewable resource.  The outpouring was dramatic.  That said, though, the stories fell into three main buckets.


The first includes tales of generally boorish, clueless, or disingenuous interviewer behavior.  


The second includes stories of inappropriate comments about a candidate’s appearance, whether derogatory or flirtatious.  These stories, of which there were many, came mostly from women.


The final one is about poor institutional decisions, whether ghosting a candidate after a full-day finalist gamut – been there – or reorganizations launched spontaneously in the middle of searches.  Those aren’t primarily about individual behavior, though, so for today I’ll focus on buckets one and two.  And in the spirit of a learning exercise, I won’t share any names.  


If you recognize your own interviewing behavior in any of these, please take a moment to reflect.  You can do better.  If I didn’t believe change could happen, I wouldn’t bother blogging in the first place.


Some from the first bucket:


“When I was applying for a teaching position after a few years’ experience at a cc, some of the folks who came to my teaching demonstration brought grading with them.”


Don’t do that, people…


“Walked into an empty office. When someone came along, no one introduced or welcomed me, just told me where to sit & that the chair would be in shortly. During the interview, the chair noted that someone else from my institution had applied & openly speculated about why he did.”

Boundaries matter.

“At lunch, everyone talked about recent violent crimes in the area; at the interview, a faculty member noted how nice it was to talk to someone who was intellectually engaged; the search chair insisted on driving me two hours home instead of bringing me to the bus stop, but the trip took four hours because they drove about 40 mph on the highway and we had to stop for dinner in between.”


That’s an impressive number of red flags in a single visit.

Two separate people mentioned a provost who asked the candidate, in all apparent earnestness, what the deans had said about them.

“I had a campus interview for a student affairs job where it was less of an interview and more folks wanting me to take sides in a feud for which I lacked context.  At one point, someone stormed out and slammed a door.  I met with the person who would be my supervisor, and they cried, seemingly from exhaustion.  In my interview with the next highest level person, they told me that queer people don’t normally work out there because they’re ‘histrionic.’”

Where to start?

“Many years ago I interviewed for a director position.  The schedule was amended after I flew in, with an early (6-6:30 am) breakfast meeting added with a Board of Trustees member who administered a personality test.”

Self-awareness is not evenly distributed.

As bad as those are, the ones in the second bucket are worse. 


“I was interviewing to be an administrator on a campus where I had been a faculty member.  In a one-on-one conversation with my would-be supervisor, he paused and said “Now I love babies as much as the next person.  Babies are wonderful.  But, you’re done having them, right?”

I can confirm that in all the interviews I’ve had, I’ve never been asked that.  

“A PI for a post-doc asked if I would be comfortable regularly sharing a hotel room with him (allegedly due to limited outreach budget and wanting his lab to be involved in community outreach).  He also asked about if I was married and whether it was a happy marriage.  By the end of the interview I was certain I’d rather leave the field than take that position.”



“One of the VPs asked me ‘How does your husband feel about you working full-time?’”


I’ve never been asked how my wife feels about me working full-time.


“[T]he interviewer who looked me up and down and volunteered that there’s a Weight Watchers on campus…”

No, no, no.  Nooooo!!!!!

My gratitude, and condolences, to everyone who shared their stories.  If you’re an interviewee, at least know you aren’t alone.  If you’re an interviewer, and you don’t see what’s wrong with any of these, please reach out to HR post-haste.







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