The ‘short list’

In the first month or so after I was laid-off, I was so certain I would find the most wonderful next job any second. I heard about an executive director position for a local start-up non-profit and yeah, it sounded PERFECT! I sent my resume and got the phone call: CONGRATULATIONS, YOU ARE ON THE SHORT LIST!

Of course, I went shopping, bought an executive director-type dress that said I-mean-business-with-a-bit-of-flash. That was what I was going for anyway.

The big day came, I’d prepared for the interview-by-committee — look out non-profit world, here I come.

Walked in, 10 minutes early. Wow, there are a lot of people here. Hmm, one, two… seven, eight… 13, 14… By the time official introductions came around, I counted 19. And that’s what they call a “short list?!”


Best yet to come.

We marched around the place, got the tour and talk. Then — the interview. I mean, interviews. There was a sort of traffic light, green you got up and you had five minutes for PLEASE PICK ME. Yellow, time to shut it. Red, you got the hook.

It was grueling and tense. One guy wept. Seriously. Some had memorized. Others tossed off degrees like they were throwing out bags of peanuts to the adoring crowd — masters, PhD.s, one was a marine biologist (!).

Short list.

Beware of the short list.

More stories to come.


3 responses to “The ‘short list’

  1. I relish the good ole days when I could brashly talk my way to the top of the line with: You don’t need to interview anyone else, I’m the best person for this job! ‘Course that was before email and online applications and when a job was listed in the paper you marched to the address, resume in hand. Sigh. The good ole days.

  2. The academic job market is a bit different than the real world. You have to keep your sense of humor. When I was searching for a tenure-track position, I was usually up against 100 or so competitors. I used to have a great collection of rejection letters on fancy stationary from some of the finest institutions in this country and abroad (my wife threw them away). I once had to do a conference call interview with an overseas university. Given the time difference I ended up sitting naked in bed, all these faceless people asking me questions and no way to see their reactions. It’s usually months later before you get a polite letter that between the lines seems to say: “Did you seriously think Prestigious University would hire someone with your pitiful credentials?” or literally “We are happy to announce we hired so and so and not you!”

    The magic short list number is three that are brought in for campus interviews. You have to be “on” for two or three days. You talk to everyone from the custodian, every member of the department up to the Dean and sometimes the Provost. They may watch you teach a class. The climax is the “Job Talk” where you explain why your research is cutting edge and the greatest advancement in knowledge since Newtonian physics. Then you go home and wait hoping the other applicants screw up. And then there’s the “diversity factor”. I seriously thought about changing my name to Running Bear.

    When, after five years, I finally got a permanent position. I wrote to UNLV where I was still on some kind of short list and politely rejected them. It felt so good! Two months later they still sent me a rejection letter! I almost wrote back to say “you can’t reject me….I already rejected you!”

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