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Thursday, September 24, 2009

does this seem weird?

A reader writes:

Recently I applied online for a job as a librarian at a local career college. The college is part of a chain and this is a new local branch that just recently opened. I got a call today from the dean asking me to come in for an interview and something about the whole situation just does not feel right.

When I spoke to him, he stressed that they need someone ASAP and wanted me to interview today! I told him that was impossible and agreed to come in tomorrow after work. He then kept saying how much I would love it there, as if I had already been hired. He also asked me to bring my drivers license, social security card and college transcripts for the interview. I have never been asked this before.

I'm interested in the job but this whole thing seems incredibly rushed and weird. What do you think?

I'm a big believer in trusting your gut, at least if your gut has a good track record. So I'd go into this with some healthy skepticism.

Let's break this down:

* Same-day interview request: Unusual but not totally unheard of. Being a jerk about you not being able to come in that same day would have been over the line, but it doesn't sound like he was. (Hopefully he also gave some acknowledgment that he knew this was very last minute and appreciated that you made tomorrow work.)

* Constantly saying how much you would love it there: Odd. Yes, you want to woo the candidate a bit, but this sounds over the top for someone he hasn't even interviewed yet. Plus, what does he know about you that makes him so sure you'd love it? This would rub me the wrong way too. He's either desperate or inept at hiring, or both. I'm guessing both.

* Asking you to bring your driver's license, social security card, and college transcripts: Driver's license and social security card -- premature, and you should avoid giving out your social security number until you're actually hired, because of identity theft. It sounds like he's hoping to hire you on the spot and have you start filling out new employee paperwork right then and there. But your college transcripts? Who keeps copies of those lying around? You have to order them. This makes me think he doesn't know what he's doing and just assumes it's a normal thing to ask people to bring to their last-minute interview. I'd recommend handling that by saying, "I've never been asked for that before and don't have any copies on hand." Maybe he'll get the hint that it's not typical.

So, so far we've diagnosed him as desperate and inexperienced/inept. Those things aren't necessarily the kiss of death in this situation, but they're definitely signs that you need to do a lot of probing. At your interview, ask about the rush. ("It sounds like you're in a real hurry to fill the position. What caused the rush?") You should also find out why the last person left. And you should absolutely find out if you'll be reporting to this guy or to someone else. If someone else, this guy's oddities may be a non-issue. If he's the manager, ask a ton about his management style, expectations, how your performance will be evaluated, etc.

Please write back and let us know how the interview goes. I have a feeling it's going to be an interesting story no matter how it plays out. Good luck!


Lance said...

As someone who worked as a librarian for a career college, this might relate to their accreditation or pressure from their home office. I do not hold an MLIS (library degree), but had some years of experience in a university library. I ended up getting a job at a similarly described career college only because they needed to fill the position to keep their accreditation. The job has its positives and negatives, but the entire system lost it accreditation eventually anyway. Approach with caution, but it could be a positive experience, or at least additional resume experience.

The Office Newb said...

One company I applied to sent back a questionnaire that asked for not only my college and high school GPA, but also for my SAT score broken down by category.

I don't know what my scores from 10 years ago on a test that is no longer given could possibly tell them, but whatever.

Dustin said...

If you're actively seeking work, you'd better have college transcripts just lying around. It's not going to bode well if you have to delay while you order them, wait two weeks, then find out that your request was lost, they sent them to your old address, whatever. If you don't have them around, generally you can get an "unofficial" copy and provide that with the explanation that you will be (soon) providing an official, sealed version, if you really weren't expecting to have to provide it.

But, yeah, the rest of it is weird. Sound's like Lance's explanation is the most reasonable one. I'd be wary, but there's a lot of people out there right now that would do some not-so-nice things to be in that same position.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

For academic sorts of positions, they often ask for copies of transcripts as part of the application package.

TheLabRat said...

Am I the only one who finds it amusing that the career college is applying the same recruiting techniques to their would be employees as they apply to their students?

I attended a career college briefly for medical billing. I befriended a couple of my teachers in the process. When I finally figured out what a huge mistake it was to attend the school in the first place, I asked both of them about working there. But reported the same thing; just of a much of joke as an employer as they were as a school.

Grain of salt and only two particular people from one particular school and all that but there it is.

Anonymous said...

just throwing in that at the 3 universities where I worked as a librarian - yes they will ask for transcripts - if you plan to stay in a university/academic library setting keep them on hand.

Anonymous said...

I was called on a Saturday night by a head of a career college for an interview Monday morning at 11. It was supposed to be a professional librarian position, but when I got there, at 10:50, I sat waiting for 30 minutes, then was given a job application, like for a staff job, to fill out. When I finished that, I waited another 10 before the interviewer showed up (11:40 for an 11:00 interview.) He did not know that my MIS degree was the same as an MLS, couldn't tell me about their collection budget, then handed me off quickly to an academic dean who couldn't answer any of my previous questions, gave me a tour of their new facility, not yet completed, and couldn't answer basic questions about the computer setup in the new library. It was rushed and unprofessional and I never heard back from them at all after this interview.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone, I'm the one who asked the question. It got a lot weirder. When I spoke to the dean yesterday, I told him that I had the transcripts at home and would bring them to the interview. When I got in today, I had an email from him (sent right after I left yesterday) asking me to contact the school I had attended and have the transcripts sent to him. He also stressed that they needed someone ASAP and wanted to know how soon I would be able to start. The whole thing just felt really rushed to me. Plus, when I talked to him yesterday, he kept making comments on what a nice voice I had! Since I am currently employed, after a lot of thought, I emailed him and withdrew my application, telling him that I would not be available to start as soon as they needed someone. Which is true-he was wanting someone in less than two weeks! He emailed me back and was very nice about the whole thing.
The last time I had a bad feeling like this about a job was during an interview. I ended up taking the job against my better jusgment and it ended up being a disaster.
I just wanted to let you guys know what happened and let you know how much I appreciate all the advice!

Anonymous said...

As an Executive Recruiter for the Career College industry, my experience is that these guys tend to move VERY VERY slowly....but that being said, I have worked on a couple of Librarian searches and I think that perhaps this school understands how difficult it is to find a "good" Librarian as well as there could be some pending accreditation issues as one responder mentioned....if you'd like to call or write me, perhaps I not only know the school but the person you are interviewing with, and maybe with that knowledge I can provide you with some specific insight....thnx,

Scott Jones
Jones Lukas & Associates (JLA)
Specializing in the Placement of Career College Professionals
2153 E. El Moro, Suite 10
Mesa, AZ 85204

Coming soon:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'd just like to second that in the academic world asking for transcripts is normal. Some of the online applications I've filled out have wanted you to attach them to your application. It's kind of a pain to assemble in the first place, but very typical for employers in this field. (Salary schedule placement will sometimes depend on this information, especially for k-12 teaching, and at the college level there can be accreditation issues with people in some positions and what degrees or coursework they need to have.)

dustycrown said...

Employers don't think about how expensive it is to order transcripts for interviews (mine are $10 for undergrad; $20 for grad school). I have a scanned version of my unofficial transcripts on my computer that I can email, fax or print out as needed. I'm happy to cough up the $30 to get transcripts when I'm a serious candidate, but not for an initial application (to an employer who may or may not even acknowledge receiving it).