My Experience Being Interviewed Part 4: What Happens When the Job You are Interviewed For is Different to the Job Advertised

Leading up to the interview

They say that a job interview is as much a chance for the applicant to showcase themselves as it is an opportunity for the workplace to showcase themselves. There may be issues in moving from PhD to post-hoc and the job market may not be fantastic, but universities still have to convince applicants to work for them.

This particular story is about a job I applied for at a large Australian university that did not showcase themselves well. I had been resilient through my failed job applications, used what I had learned from these failures to improve myself and showcase my experience and passion. This lead me to applying for a post-doc position described as a 40/40/20 breakdown. The research was half post-doc and half independent research. It was a perfect set up. I applied and I scored an interview. I prepared as thoroughly as I could. In the first 2 minutes of the interview I realised I was completely wrong about everything.

Making the wrong first impression

The interview panel included people I had not seen on the university website. Maybe the department website was out of date, that’s fine. Then the first question I was asked was “Why did you apply for this job”. I showcased my understanding of the job, the department, and how I fit in. I talked about grants and a 3-year research plan. I spoke to the skills I had and how they could contribute to a post-doc project. The response I received: “well… we are offering a full-time post-doc position. You might have some time for independent research, but that’s on your own time, not ours. Teaching is a maybe if we are short-staffed”.

The job advertised was not the job being offered to me.

I made it to the second round of interviews

The next question was “so what do you know about this project?”. I had no idea. I drew on where the industry was headed and what I knew of the staff members research. In the end I wasn’t too far off the mark and, somehow, was invited into the round two interviews. I was told it had come down to myself and one other person. The round two interviews were much more organised than the first.

What I learnt

Ultimately, I walked away confused and deflated. It left me wondering whether I would take the job if I received an offer. But ultimately, I learnt that while planning is important it’s not everything. We need to be able to adapt to the unexpected and be flexible in how we approach stakeholders – a one size fits all will not always work. I learnt that a lot of this could have been avoided if I reached out to the head of department and asked for more information about the position. It was a poor interview process, but ultimately, there are things on both sides that could have been done to avoid it.

In the end, though, I received a job offer from another institute, the interview process with them was amazing and extremely professional, and I have been unbelievably happy there ever since.

~ Chris

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