Finally an interview, but can't make the date :(

(23 Posts)
SaveMeTheWaltz Wed 24-Aug-16 19:49:32

ECR in a humanities subject. Applied for a teaching fellowship at a university that I would love to work at, and got an email today inviting me for interview. Hurrah. Except I am abroad on a family holiday on the day of the interview. Panel are not willing to interview me on a different day (and to be fair, why would they, when there is an oversupply of highly qualified and underemployed people competing for work), or conduct a Skype interview.

What really grates is that I could make the interview dates originally specified in the job advert (and purposely keep that week clear). If I had known that they would interview the week that I am abroad, I would have saved myself the time and effort of submitting an application (which was written while postnatal and sleep deprived with a baby hanging off my boob and 4 year old clamouring for attention). Grrr.

purplepandas Wed 24-Aug-16 19:54:12

Aggghhh on your behalf Saving. I don't have any wise words as you seem to have explored all of the options. What a total pain. Well done on getting the interview although I know it is still v annoying that the dates have moved etc.

fabulous01 Wed 24-Aug-16 19:58:18

They are unreasonable. My advice is to go back explain situation and say that if they don't appoint to keep you in mind. You just never know whether others may be on holiday or don't want the job after the interview.

trafalgargal Wed 24-Aug-16 20:00:12

If you are in Europe would it be worth flying back for the day for it ?

SaveMeTheWaltz Wed 24-Aug-16 20:01:33

Thanks Pandas, I appreciate the sympathy.

SaveMeTheWaltz Wed 24-Aug-16 20:05:03

Fabulous, they have said that if they don't appoint they will come back to me, so I guess there is always a chance.

Trafalgargal, I did consider that, but baby is still breastfed which adds a layer of logistical complications that I don't have the energy to deal with - don't want to risk leaving him behind in a hot country for a full day with the possibility of bottle refusal.

Dancingupthewall Wed 24-Aug-16 21:29:55

I appreciate your frustration, but if you knew what difficulties we face trying to get 5 busy people's diaries to coincide for the day that an appointments committee takes. I'm on standby for a committee for a TF post 0.5FTE for a year. I have to keep a day free in my diary at the start of term, in case another senior colleague really can't make it. It means I have to reschedule some core teaching, and rearrange a couple of PhD supervisions.

We now have to do everything by the book, with proper selection procedures & committees. When I was an ECR, jobs like teaching fellowships were far more likely to be awarded on the nod/whim of the HoD.

If you can., it's worth flying back for the day.

impostersyndrome Wed 24-Aug-16 21:50:42

What a shame. Could you be interviewed via Skype? We've done this before for a candidate who couldn't get away from abroad for some reason.

haybott Thu 25-Aug-16 07:20:48

We regularly interview by Skype for temporary positions. TBH it would cost a fortune if we didn't as our postdocs almost aways come from abroad.

I do think Skype interviews/presentations put candidates at a slight disadvantage compared to face to face interviews/presentations but we try to set up the interview questions (same for all interviews) to help with the Skype format.

deathtoheadlice Thu 25-Aug-16 07:27:52

I think it might be worth pointing out that if you weren't breastfeeding you'd fly back for the day. That points out that there is a gender issue here and they may be more accommodating for a Skype interview. They should be willing to make this reasonable adjustment to ensure that they give you the opportunity. If you think it's unlikely that they won't appoint, this could make the difference for you.

OverlyLoverly Thu 25-Aug-16 07:28:51

If you are just Europe I'd fly back if it's cheap. How old will the baby be?

shovetheholly Thu 25-Aug-16 08:09:57

Oh no!!

DH and I had an argument discussion about this recently. A candidate couldn't make a job interview, DH's position was that if they weren't willing to come back off holiday they didn't want the job and that there was a long shortlist of people who did. I pointed out the gendered nature of this and the difficulties faced by women with primary childcare responsibilities.

I do think it would be better if you flew back because the kind of assumption that DH voiced but will never do so again is quite common. You can explain the situation to them and ask if they will pay your expenses, while explaining that the breastfeeding is an issue. You may find that the Skype option suddenly comes back onto the table when the cost of a flight is considered wink.

haybott Thu 25-Aug-16 08:10:58

I agree about pointing out the bf issue - if anyone from the Athena SWAN committee is on the panel, they should be keen to make a reasonable adjustment for you in such circumstances as this would look "good" to mention in their next submission. (On the other hand, sadly, mentioning bf may put dinosaurs off you if they are prejudiced about academics with babies.)

I would not fly back leaving a bf baby in hot country unless the bf baby takes bottles. Many wouldn't - they would hold out for me and this led to severe dehydration risk in very hot weather.

haybott Thu 25-Aug-16 08:11:58

Sorry many -> my children

SaveMeTheWaltz Thu 25-Aug-16 09:02:31

Thanks for all your thoughts, these are all really useful. If it was just me and DP on the holiday, or if baby was older, I would be happy to fly back for the day. But baby is only 3 months, so still really tiny and I would"t be happy leaving him in another country. He will in theory take a bottle of expressed milk, but I haven"t left him for a full day yet, so not sure how that would go and don't want to risk it. Agreed that this would be so much easier if I was a man!

I'be also looked at flights, it would cost around £500, and would have to fly back the night before the interview as there are no morning fights. Airport is nearly 2 hours from holiday accommodation and DP and children would have to drive me, so quite disruptive to their holiday too. Could potentially fly back with baby and find someone to look after him while I am in interview, but interview is a few hours away from where we live, so this has logistical problems too.

I am inclining towards just letting this opportunity go and spending the year completing publications (have two book contracts, one of which needs to be fulfilled by December). I would, however, quite like to be able to make it clear to the interview panel that my inability to fly back is due to breastfeeding rather then an unwillingness to interrupt my holiday (jobs might come up in the ext year or so and I don't want to be remembered as the one who couldn't be bothered). Would an email be an appropriate way of doing that? And if so, should I direct it to HR or to the head of the search committee?

haybott Thu 25-Aug-16 09:04:23

I would direct to both HR and the head of the search committee.

Bountybarsyuk Thu 25-Aug-16 10:56:07

Why don't you do the Skype interview?

My feeling having sat on a few panels, is that the interview isn't the clincher, the CV/pubs usually are, the interview is just there to screen anyone who is truly boring (if a teacher) or off in some way. If you are pleasant and knowledgeable in the Skype interview, you may be in with a chance.

I don't think I've sat through a panel without a Skype interview lately at least to lecturer level, so many people from around the world it's inevitable they can't all fly into the UK for a given time on a given day.

shovetheholly Thu 25-Aug-16 11:04:41

I don't think they're offering the Skype option bounty. Which is strange and frustrating for the OP given it's the obvious solution.

SaveMeTheWaltz Thu 25-Aug-16 11:13:09

They haven't formally ruled out a Skype interview, but the HR person that I spoke to yesterday didn't seem that keen. I'm wondering if i should push for one due to special circs of breastfeeding etc. Have never done a Skype interview before and am worried that it might put me at a disadvantage, although it would be good to get the experience. Also worried about logistical details like patchy internet reception at the very rural property that we are staying at.

DramaQueenofHighCs Thu 25-Aug-16 11:21:08

I'm not being helpful here probably BUT.... So am I right in thinking they advertised one set of dates for interviews and then changed them when you got the interview? Surely this isn't faor of them either and needs pointing out? (Even if the advert said 'provisional dates' I'd say if it was a week or more either way then it's still naughty of them, no one can expect you to put your life on hold just in case you get an interview! If I was on holiday I certainly couldn't afford the extra expense to travel to an interview and back.)
Have you told them that you deliberately kept the week specified in the job advert free?

Bountybarsyuk Thu 25-Aug-16 11:39:36

Sorry, I misread the OP to say they would do a Skype interview. It's very strange they won't do one, this is very typical for fellows/lecturers/teaching posts where I work. I would ask for one, I don't really see what you have to lose (except the internet connection).

Or just give it up as a bad job, but email both HoD/recruiting academic and HR and explain that you did keep free the dates specified in the advert, but due to the change in interview dates, you can now no longer attend, due to being out of the country, and needing to breastfeed every few hours (so can't fly back). You feel very positive about the job and would love the opportunity to interview, either by Skype or immediately on your return.

They may say 'no' but there is an issue of equality here, plus you did save the dates given in the advert, so they may rethink (if they have any sense/Athena swan training/sense of fair play).

Dancingupthewall Thu 25-Aug-16 12:03:39

I'd push for a Skype interview. For permanent research&teaching (ie standard) lecturer contracts, we always fly people over, whatever the cost. We would expect them to be available for this. And we pay their expeses, take them to dinner etc. If we want to appoint someone, we want them to accept the offer.

But for a short-term TF position, I don't think we would, even though we do pretty much gold standard for permanent posts.

So contact HR and say that the only reason you're not able to attend is the breastfeeding situation & you would hope that they'd make a reasonable adjustment in this instance.

As for an advertised interview date - well, all I can say is that IME, this is always notional. As I say upthread, I'm currently rearranging my diary for the possibility of a series of selection committee meetings: shortlisting then interviews & presentations. If the chair of the committee, usually a Dean, has other more pressing commitments (a meeting with the VC or a DVC) then my diary has to adjust to hers. And so on.

One thing - when does this TF start? And what arrangements will you make for childcare &BF then? When we have a TF post, it's always because we need someone now to cover essential teaching - neither we, nor the successful candidate, can have the luxury of negotiating a start date.

If I were you, I'd have a clear strategy & be prepared to mention it if asked. As much as I try to be a good feminist academic, a TF post where I need specific teaching covered, to an existing timetable, I'd have a concern about your situation. For me, it wouldn't affect my decision if you proved to be the best fit for the post after the recruitment exercise. But I would be concerned, and would raise it - rather awkwardly & reluctantly - in any post-offer conversation.

It would be different if it were a permanent lectureship: we regard those (at my place anyway) as long term commitments, and initial negotiations about start date and paid hours/teaching timetable restrictions etc are more flexible. For a TF, they are generally not flexible.

arclight Thu 25-Aug-16 20:58:30

Absolutely request the Skype interview and do not rely on HR to be helpful, so go directly to head of department or head of search committee (cc-ing HR contact).
We have had Skype interviews for both post-doc and permanent lecturing posts in the last year, and certainly in one case the Skype interviewee got the job.

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