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Dear Dr. Schellenberg

August 22, 2011

Dear Dr. Schellenberg,

I understand you are somewhat of an expert in the archival field. Let’s talk job etiquette.

Obviously this is a terrible job market. I’m really not picky. I’m willing to move almost anywhere that has at least one decent restaurant and to be able to live the lifestyle I’ve grown accustomed to (i.e., eating regular meals). So imagine my surprise when I see the perfect job opening only a few weeks after graduation. Never mind that this town doesn’t even get its own craigslist; there is at least one Thai restaurant and I could probably live in a mansion with a few acres of arable land for what I pay in rent now. A few weeks later I’m having a phone interview, being told that prospective candidates are being brought in within the next few weeks and I’m on my way to my mansion! After sending off some lovely thank-you notes, I waited. For four weeks.

At this point, I’ve slogged through a summer of part time jobs and freelance work. So one day I’m sitting at one of my desks/cubicles/workstations and I realize that I actually did interview for a real job and what ever happened to that Thai restaurant? So I send an e-mail to check in. A few days later I get the response that the position had been filled and there were many qualified applicants. It was pretty clear that if I hadn’t “checked in,” I probably would have never heard from them again.

So Schelly. Give it to me straight. In the archives world, is this even within the realm of appropriate employer behavior? I realize that I shouldn’t expect a response from every job that I apply to – that most of my lovingly crafted cover letters go into some void somewhere and get eaten – but to get no response after a phone interview? For a month? Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Aggravated in the Archives

Dear Aggravated Archivist,

There is much informational value in your inquiry. I am unsure what you mean by “craigslist” – is this a new method of appraisal?

Regarding your inquiry, this is quite rude. They put you in a real pickle! I am assuming this organization has a terrible handle on its own records management and may in fact still be using Jenkinson’s manual. You are likely better off not working for an institution such as this. Make sure to thoroughly appraise each job opportunity and avoid putting too much sentimental value on ethnic restaurants.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. holly permalink
    August 22, 2011 2:56 pm

    ha! i had this happen recently too, but as i discovered during the phone interview that the job wasn’t exactly what the description said, i didn’t care too much.

  2. August 22, 2011 11:09 pm

    Yeah same here had this happen to me a few times. I can understand not getting back to everyone who applies to a position, but if you have an interview I think it’s only right to get back to them.

  3. LJD permalink
    August 23, 2011 8:07 am

    Yep, you aren’t alone. Had a phone interview July 1, sent my thank yous, and not a peep back from the committee. (I would say I’m still “waiting to hear,” but I obviously gave up waiting a long time ago!) Unfortunately, this seems to be a pretty common occurrence.

    Holly’s comment that the, “job wasn’t exactly what the description said,” is also disturbingly common. I keep finding out relatively late in the process that these “dream jobs” I’m applying to are “temporary,” “conditional on funding,” a “project position,” … These words never appear in the position descriptions though!

    Nowadays my bar is set very low and I’m just thrilled when someone actually appears to have GLANCED at my resume OR cover letter before a telephone interview. I console myself with the usual “Well, if they don’t have their act together this badly then I definitely don’t want to work for them…” but, of course, I’m so desperate I’d probably jump even if red flags were waving in every direction 😦 Luckily my colleagues (at the paraprofessional position I’m trying so very hard to get out of) and partner would probably talk some sense into me, but as the time drags on… sigh.

  4. Earthling permalink
    September 18, 2011 1:03 pm

    Two things: 1) this is pretty much the norm. Some places are extra nice and let you know when you didn’t make the cut, but there’s no incentive on the employer’s end to notify you. Radio silence. I tracked statistics on every job I applied to: the majority never wrote back to let me know I wasn’t considered.
    2) This whole “well you wouldn’t want to work there” consolation line is worthless these days. We all want to work in our chosen fields, even in the most dysfunctional organizations around. Stop parading that line around like it means something.

    • mfraser permalink*
      September 20, 2011 11:55 am

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I would like to clarify that I definitely don’t expect to hear back from every job that I apply to. I actually never expect to hear back at all. But I do think that it is reasonable to await a response if you take the time out of your life to schedule, prepare for and interview with an institution. Maybe this isn’t the norm, but I do think it is a reasonable thing to ask.
      I definitely agree that “you wouldn’t want to work there anyway” is not useful advice for today’s job seeking archivist. Wouldn’t you love to live in a world where you had the power or luxury of turning down a job that you know is underpaid for an institution that is dysfunctional, unethical, or incredibly understaffed? Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. I have and will probably continue to accept positions that are far from perfect. What I wanted to do when I wrote this post was to use humor to feel just feel a little less powerless when I do have to vie for and accept these less than ideal situations.

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