?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Sauntering Vaguely Downward [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

Serious Business | Flickr
Bounty Information | Wanted Dead or Alive: Mad Scientess Nanila
Deeds of Derring-Do | Full of Wild Inaccuracies and Exaggerations

Things you should never, ever say in an interview: #1 [20110325|08:53]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
[Tags|, , ]
[the weather today is |headdesk]

Most of my student interviews yesterday went quite well. One of them, however, was excruciating. I always try to make the students comfortable before I start questioning them on technical aspects of the lab. Here is how the bad interview started.

Me: "So, what did you think of the lab? Did you enjoy it?"
Student: "I hated it."
Me: ...

Now, I appreciate honesty. Some of the students have admitted to being less than thrilled with the repetitive nature of one part of the experiment. However, they are usually quick to point out that they enjoyed another part of it, or that they liked doing the data analysis. It is wise to qualify a negative response with positive aspects when you are speaking to the person who is determining your mark. It is wise when you are speaking to someone who is determining whether or not you will get a job. In fact, it is wise in just about every interview situation I can think of, except perhaps with a mental health professional. How on Earth do you get into university without figuring this out?
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: bryangb
2011-03-25 09:26 (UTC)
Sometimes it almost feels as if, with the last government desperate to meet the ludicrous objective of getting 50% of teenagers into further education, they reintroduced the pressgang to ensure the numbers were met.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-03-25 09:34 (UTC)
Er, I think that's a pretty big extrapolation from a single anecdote. It takes A/A/A* grades, an interview and a separate entrance exam to get into the physics course at Imperial, which is always oversubscribed.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: bryangb
2011-03-25 09:36 (UTC)
Sorry, perhaps I should have said - it's based on multiple anecdotes from students & college staff who I've known over the last decade or so. It was also slightly tongue-in-cheek...
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: anthrokeight
2011-03-25 09:58 (UTC)
Several of mine told me famine was unpersuasive and boring. Which in addition to bad strategy sounds kind of pathological.

My feeling is, here anyway, that they often feel they are paying tuition, which means they are paying for customer service, which means they expect to enjoy the experience above all. Poor sweet fools.

Hello entitlement.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-03-25 12:01 (UTC)
I didn't really get the sense that this student felt entitled to have a good time on the physics course. I just got the sense that this person was pretty miserable* and wasn't making much effort to do something about it...like quitting and finding something else to do before receiving a third-class degree in a subject they weren't enjoying.

* Even by British standards. Which is impressive in its own way.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: pbristow
2011-03-25 13:12 (UTC)
"* Even by British standards. Which is impressive in its own way."

Thankyou for that insight. =:o}
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-03-25 15:49 (UTC)
Misery in this country is practically an art form.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: anthrokeight
2011-03-25 16:15 (UTC)
Hm. Depression? Like, Trip to School Counseling Servies, if Imperial has Such a Thing Depression?

Or just Olympic Grade Misery?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: pbristow
2011-03-25 13:11 (UTC)
A student with no social skills? Say it ain't so! =:o} Does he/she/it/sie/whatever show other signs of being clueless about etiquette?

I did most of my learning about how to avoid pissing people off well *after* university. And I wince at the memory of some of the blunt ways I've addressed interviewers in the past... Though to be fair to myself, they were usually people I'd already decided I didn't want to work for, so I had no incentive to postpone the moment where they realised they didn't want me either! If I've spent an hour plus X amount of petrol getting there for an interview that reveals in 3 minutes that I won't be taking the job, then at that point I figure a free and frank opinion on how much the proposed job appears to [suck/make no sense/bear no relation to the advert I responded to*] might at least prompt them to slightly rethink their approach before wasting anyone else's time and money.

*(delete as appropriate)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-03-25 15:55 (UTC)
Most of the IC physics students I've encountered have had a modicum of social skills. This person did seem to be exceptionally nervous, so I tried hard not to be intimidating during the interview. It didn't help - I still got a lot of "I don't know" (followed by little attempted effort at understanding) responses.

I hear what you're saying about job interviews, but the lab interviews are required of all students. It's meant to balance out our marks, because some people are better at expressing themselves in writing and others verbally, so they get two different opportunities to prove that they know the material. So I don't think the interviews are going to be eliminated just because the occasional student can't cope with them. Additionally, even if this student hadn't been nervous, I don't think the interview would have gone well, because the lab notebook and summary were also less than spectacular.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: cosmiccircus
2011-03-25 13:46 (UTC)
Unfortunately, they'll probably learn the hard way - and be even more miserable!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-03-25 15:57 (UTC)
Lordy, I hope not. Much more misery than that would make me start thinking the person was suicidally depressed.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: grrr_arrrgg
2011-03-25 15:37 (UTC)
Would this be the same student that graphed likeability against mass?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-03-25 16:00 (UTC)
There is a non-zero probability that this is the case.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sekl
2011-03-25 17:29 (UTC)
Is this a case of Mummy-Thought-I'd-be-Perfect-for-this-Job?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2011-03-26 17:02 (UTC)
I can't really tell. Whatever the origins of the desire to study physics, they clearly weren't sustainable.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: tdj
2011-03-27 02:31 (UTC)
Students who are discovering that their major isn't to their interest go through several stages, and anger is one of them.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)