The Art of the Uninterview


It is a commonplace to say that in order to get a job you have to know someone. Hence all the job hunting advice about the importance of networking. So while I knew this was true (and therefore bumbled about LinkedIn for awhile), I didn’t really know it. You know? Lately, however, I’ve been following up on job leads sent to me by friends (thanks, guys!). This usually means that I wind up on the other side of a friendly phone call that’s 50% informational interview, where the person is explaining to me the details of a yet-to-be-posted job opportunity and I’m trying to figure out if I’m interested (LOL, as if I’m going about turning down job opportunities), and 50% initial screening interview, where the employer is attempting to determine whether I seem like a relatively capable person with whom he or she might like to work. I genuinely like these chats. I get to ask questions pretty freely and get a sense of the work environment. It’s all very low pressure. One thing I don’t often get from these conversations, however, are concrete details. Since these are often unposted jobs, the actual job description might not exist yet. This can be great in the sense that, theoretically, the official job description might then be written around your skills and qualifications making you, in effect, an inside candidate. The downside is that it’s hard to get a good idea about what exactly a job entails when the duties are constantly in flux. This has led to some confusing interview questions asking if I would be able to work on Project Z before anyone has explained just what Project Z is and how I would be expected to contribute. It can also be difficult to figure out which experiences and skills to stress without having an actual job description in front of you. I sometimes wind up misjudging what exactly a hiring committee is looking for (“No, I no longer want to do Y. Wait, you mean you’d want someone to do Y? Well then, of course I’d be eager to continue doing Y!” Yikes).

I had another one of these uninterviews this week (real interview to come). I have some mixed feelings about the position. I liked the person I talked to, who I think would be great to work with. The position itself is another academic affairs job, but it is less than glamorous (as opposed to all those other super sexy academic affairs jobs out there?). It could potentially be a stepping stone to a better gig, a way to get my foot in the admin door, and it offers some good opportunities for professional development, but in the meantime it might be slightly painful. I can’t tell yet. The job is part conducting research and working on some really cool projects in areas that interest me and part administrative. As in answering phones, keeping schedules, secretarial administrative. I’m organized; I could do such things, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the thought of being Dr. Administrative Assistant didn’t hurt the ego a bit (would it be worse than being Dr. Unemployed? Presumably not). I know that part of the reason for this is because it’s an alt-ac (para academic? Take your pick) job where I would be interacting with some faculty and a lot of university administrators. It’s one thing to essentially start over in an entry-level position in a radically different field, but to do so in the midst of your one-time peers? Ouch. However, I must remind myself that the girl who was willing to take an internship¬†must also willing to explore all avenues, so I shall be writing my cover letter with enthusiasm and will worry about these things if and when I need to.

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