Academic common room
Rejected - and it feels personal
rapthisup · 26/02/2021 20:17
Hello, longtime lurker but first-time poster here.
I've done casual work for a few years in a professional services type of role (keeping this vague as it's a very small world). When I applied for a permanent job and got turned down I asked the recruiter for advice. She said that doing a specialist masters would give me a better chance. I've just done one in her department and I excelled - got a distinction, won a prize, been invited to write an article. I've also been doing some work in the department. I was encouraged to apply for this and have been told I've done well.
This person advertised a role in her field. I meet all the essential and desirable criteria, and I've a lot more to offer besides. I didn't get shortlisted. How would you approach this? Would you ask for feedback or would you cut your losses and walk away? It feels personal and I'm devastated.
MedSchoolRat · 26/02/2021 21:46
Ask. With great big Bells on. ASK.
They may have decided they would only interview 3-4 candidates and you were the weakest of 4-5 best. You can't know without asking, though. By knowing what they others had that you lacked, you have a chance to get the missing skill/experiences.
rapthisup · 26/02/2021 23:58
Thanks but I don't have a chance to get missing skills unless I have a job. It's a catch 22.
My first post might not have made clear that I have numerous years of experience and skills in a relevant field. I was told that I couldn't be considered for a permanent role without the masters - I'm not a new graduate just starting out. My age may be a factor here.
Viviennemary · 27/02/2021 00:03
I'd look elsewhere. Even if you do ask there is no guarantee they will tell the truth. If it's your age I'd say they are very unlikely to admit it. Hope you find something suitable soon.
rapthisup · 27/02/2021 01:25
That's my feeling too. I'm very sceptical about feedback.
I'm not getting interviews and half the time I don't even get rejection e-mails. It's tough out there but even tougher if you're older. I will have to give up on the idea of working in this field soon because I need to earn an income.
DrGilbertson · 27/02/2021 16:19
Does your Masters university have a careers service? They were great for me (post doc in my 40s) at telling me how to rewrite my CV and how to write job applications
I imagine that it's not that you aren't good it's that the application didn't tick the boxes required.
SarahAndQuack · 27/02/2021 19:58
Sorry, I can't tell if you've posted in the wrong section or if I'm just misunderstanding - are you applying for a permanent academic job or a permanent professional services job in academia? If it's the latter, I definitely think you could approach her for feedback if she'll offer it, but it doesn't automatically sound as if it's something personal? Could be the first time you asked what you could do to help your CV she mentioned the MA because she knows most candidates don't make it to shortlist without. You obviously aced the MA, but it could still be that the MA is the absolute minimum you need to stand a chance of being shortlisted, rather than a guarantee?
I'm really sorry it's so rough. I'm not in the same position but an equally annoying one, and I relate!
QueenoftheAir · 28/02/2021 11:12
It's not personal. IME of academic recruitment, there can be over 50 and up to a 100 applications for a good full-time permanent job.
You don't have to put your DoB on your CV, if you think there's an age discrimination problem.
rapthisup · 28/02/2021 13:34
Thanks for your perspectives.
@DrGilbertson I've had a few appointments with uni careers advisors. They suggested improvements to my CV and discussed how to display competencies in the application.
@SarahAndQuack I'm not in the wrong section. As I said, I'm being deliberately vague because it's a niche role and I don't want to be ID'd. You're right, the MA is a minimum criterion. I fulfil all the essential and desirable criteria. Plus I have qualifications and achievements that permanent staff in that department don't have.
@MedSchoolRat I'm 50.
@QueenoftheAir I did have to put my DOB on the application form. I've always looked younger than my real age and maybe it came as a surprise.
SarahAndQuack · 28/02/2021 14:16
Sorry, I hope I didn't annoy you by asking. I was just trying to understand if it was academic, or professional services in academia, or something else. I get now that it's either academic or professional services in academia and you're worried if you say which it'll be identifiable.
All I can say is, I've fulfilled all the essential and desirable criteria, and had the minimum qualification, for loads of jobs I've applied for. I know for sure, because the feedback I've had has made a point of saying so.
And I've still not got the job. It's really rough but I'd never assume it's personal just on the basis of what you've said.
FWIW I'm 36 (and never put my DOB on application forms because I've always been told it's not the done thing any more). I know plenty of friends in their late 30s/early 40s in the same boat. It's a bugger.
MedSchoolRat · 28/02/2021 16:57
I don't understand why you wouldn't ask why you weren't short-listed. My guess is they limited to just 3-4 people they wanted to interview & the others had .. something you still lack. There is discretion at the screening stage to subset for extra features. Anyway, you know nothing without asking.
I interviewed 2x for jobs & didn't get them in last 4 months. Each time, they said the winning candidate had specialist subject knowledge (fair enough, I did/do lack that). Still, I got to interview with people I've never met, institutions that don't know me. age mid-50s. My blunt lack of ambition may be interpreted as odd, but I've never perceived my age to be directly relevant otherwise.
rapthisup · 28/02/2021 19:43
I'm not going to ask for feedback because when I've done so previously, the responses are - to use a polite word - bogus. For the last interview I was told that I shouldn't have discussed my degree in one answer, even though it's highly relevant to the role. I shared the feedback with a careers advisor. He asked me to describe the question and my response. He also concluded the feedback was - polite word - bogus. There was no mention of gaps in my training and experience. You believe that interviewers will tell you the truth. With respect, I think this is naive.
SarahAndQuack · 28/02/2021 19:53
Well, I'm sure sometimes interviewers struggle to find something to comment on. It's boring constantly saying 'you were dead good but someone else was better'.
But how on earth would a careers advisor know better than the interviewer what was 'bogus' and what wasn't?
rapthisup · 28/02/2021 20:00
They would know what sounds authentic and what doesn't. You don't need to be a careers adviser to know this!
Do you believe that interviewers always tell the truth?
QueenoftheAir · 28/02/2021 20:34
You sound a bit sceptical or cynical - even bitter OP - all I can say is that I've been on academic selection committees over the last 20 years, for posts from a one-year teaching only contract to Director of a famous Institute.
Speaking for myself, I've always been genuine - I want to get really good colleagues, who'll be good to work with.
It's a process where candidates reveal themselves in ways that perhaps they don't realise.
Sometimes, it's a question of "fit" or that there was a person just that bit specifically more suited. It can often be about 5 people who are all excellent, and but one person is just a better fit. Not that the other 4 were below par.
rapthisup · 28/02/2021 21:03
Sceptical? Cynical? Yes.
Bitter? It's going that way. Apart from the degree I've also paid for CPD and done the usual research seminars/conferences/presentations. However much I've done, I'm told that X or Y attribute is still lacking. But the people who get appointed to these jobs don't have X or Y and they don't have other attributes which I do have.
You are right to say that it's about being a good fit. This is why I think feedback is to some extent fictional. You can't state this directly.
SarahAndQuack · 01/03/2021 08:07
Do you believe that interviewers always tell the truth?
No, of course interviewers sometimes don't tell the truth. Sometimes it's really obvious ('we, er, wanted someone with expertise x and you don't have it but, um, we hired the internal guy who also doesn't ...'). Sometimes it's really unclear. Sometimes you know it's a kind lie ('you were excellent and the fact we ended up hiring someone with three times your qualifications who didn't burst into tears mid-interview is total coincidence').
We all know sometimes interviewers lie.
But I don't think careers advisors are often very good, TBH. They're mostly experienced with undergrads and postgrads. I've had the most ridiculous advice on the rare occasion I've asked. I would always trust actual specialists (even those who have vested interests) over a generalist.
MedSchoolRat · 01/03/2021 08:41
Nope -- I still don't get why you refuse to ask for feedback.
Because it's just so upsetting to think about any more, since you're 100% sure they will lie to you, feed BS back, and your job prospects are actually dire with anyone/everyone, and you can't handle facing that? Because it's so infuriating to realise that getting the MA was a waste of time?
I would want to know how they shaped the lie.
A sample of 2 means nothing about what will happen in future job interviews (or feedback from them).
I don't understand how not asking for feedback makes OP feel more "in control" of what happens next.
17thEarlOfOxford · 01/03/2021 08:46
However "bogus" the feedback ends up being, surely it's more informative to read it than not to see it? Whether or not it's factually correct, it will tell you something useful about how the interviewers perceived you.
SarahAndQuack · 01/03/2021 09:29
YY, I agree @MedSchoolRat. I get the temptation not to ask for feedback and just to put your head in the sand, because I expect we've all been there. You know it's likely to make you feel a bit bad (or bloody awful). But it's like not opening the electric bill and hoping it'll go away.
BlueSoop · 01/03/2021 09:41
In my experience when an academic job is advertised they ALWAYS have a preferred candidate. Often it’s an internal candidate who they want to bring on board permanently. Other times they have an candidate from another university suggested by a close colleague, and they pick them to strengthen links between the two universities.
The only way to get a job in academia is to be “in”. You need to be working somewhere and have a boss that pushes you for job opportunities and puts a good word in. Often your boss has to offer a sweetener - employ my ex student and I will sign up to do a joint project with you. It’s an old boys club. If you don’t have a boss who’s actively promoting you and trying to get you a job, you have no chance on your own.
This is why I left academia, because my boss didn’t like me much and wasn’t pushing his friends to give me a job, wasn’t selling himself to get me in somewhere, so basically I had no chance. They know who they’re going to hire before they interview anyone, the interview is just a box ticking exercise to make it look fair and comply with the law.
rapthisup · 01/03/2021 10:00
Spot on. With regard to this vacancy, I knew as soon as I read the ad that it had been written with someone in mind. I won't be in the least bit surprised to hear she has been appointed.
This makes the above comments about feedback redundant.
worstofbothworlds · 01/03/2021 10:09
Hmm, I've had jobs where I did have an "in" (postdoc where my new boss really liked one of my PhD advisors work and by extension mine) and jobs where I didn't (first lectureship where they first sent me a rejection email by accident!).
We've recently recruited brand new lecturers with no connection to our department, and extended the contract/made permanent internal people, AND we have failed to extend the contract/make permanent one person who had been on precarious contracts for 10 years (though there were reasons, they weren't huge reasons, just cumulative reasons and some very long standing reasons). Fortunately that person has moved elsewhere in the Uni so hasn't had to uproot their 10 year residence.
CeibaTree · 01/03/2021 10:25
But if you could tell from the job description that it was likely written with someone in mind, then there's your answer. No feedback needed. I used to work in university HR admin years ago and I always thought the recruitment process was so unfair - basically wasting people's time by opening up recruitment to everyone when there was clearly someone in mind. I felt especially bad for people who'd taken unpaid leave from a temping job to attend an interview for a job they had no chance of getting.
By the way, the application that the recruiting panel gets to see has all personal info like name and d.o.b removed, so I don't think you can blame this on your age.
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