Want to know what happened at one of my two interviews at the MLA convention in Los Angeles last week? I sent these two emails to the Chair of the search committee after the convention.
Dear Prof [Blah Blah],
I am writing because I was present yesterday at the [blah blah Hotel] for a scheduled interview for the position of [blah blah] at [blah blah College]. However, much to my dismay, after following your instructions to the letter, I discovered the hotel did not know the room number and had no record of anyone from [blah blah College] at their hotel.
Though your actions betray a stupendously indifferent and callous attitude towards job candidates who travel thousands of miles and spend hundreds of dollars to meet with you, perhaps you can imagine my disappointment. Moreover, neither you nor anyone on your staff has tried to contact me since yesterday to explain this unprofessional and, frankly, despicable behavior.
Have a nice day.
THEN THEY REPLIED WITH SOME LAME-ASS EXCUSES AND “HEARTFELT APOLOGIES.” BUT I AM SIMPLY NOT HAVING ANY OF THAT. I AM DONE. HERE’S WHAT I WROTE BACK:
Dear Prof [Blah Blah],
Thank you for your message. I am glad to hear the search committee did not intentionally stand me up on Saturday in LA. However, your explanation is still vexing from my point of view.
I arrived at the hotel a few minutes before 11AM and inquired at the front desk. They spent more than five minutes with me going over their registration logs and various handwritten notes. They claimed to have no knowledge of anyone from [your school] staying at their hotel. And they had no room under your name.
I paced the lobby next to the front desk for a few minutes with my cell phone hoping I would receive a call. My phone number is, after all, available on my CV. No call came.
Shortly after 11AM, I picked up a house phone in the lobby and explained my dilemma to the operator. She connected me to a supervisor who said he had no record of you, or anyone from [your school], at the hotel. He said, “another candidate called us this morning looking for the same room. If you find out where they are, please ask them to let us know so that we can inform any other callers.”
You say that you tried to rectify the problem when you discovered it on Friday. Nevertheless is seems odd that the error had not been corrected by Saturday.
By your account, you sent someone down to the front desk area to look for me. Perhaps this is so, but I assure you I was in the lobby next to the front desk until 11:20AM. I don’t know how I could have missed your emissary if he really made a good faith effort to find me. Secondly, I remain completely bewildered by the fact that it did not occur to you or anyone on the committee to contact me via the simplest and most direct means: a phone call.
Finally, after I left the lobby at 11:20AM, I went directly to check my email. There was no message. In fact, I still had not heard from anyone from [Blah Blah] twenty-four hours later. Since I presented myself at the hotel for an interview at your invitation, I don’t know why it should be my responsibility to contact you when it seemed that you did not really want to interview me after all.
I am providing such detail about my experience on Saturday because I plan to file a formal complaint with the MLA. I am not doing so out of a sense of personal disappointment, though I certainly am very disappointed. I am doing so in the hope that this does not happen to anyone else.
As I’m sure you know, these are very difficult times for job seekers in academia. Many of us invest a great deal of time and money preparing for and traveling to interviews for positions that, statistically, we are unlikely to get. To not be hired for a position for which one has interviewed is one thing; to find oneself pacing a hotel lobby waiting for a search committee’s call that never comes is entirely another. I hope other candidates can be spared such indignities.