Yesterday's thoughts about questions we can't ask job candidates reminded me of the horrible questions I've been asked on job interviews. Three stand out, from least to most horrible:
1. "You are planning to wear something that looks professional for the interview, aren't you?" This question came from one of my helpful colleagues about a week before the biggest interview of my life. My answer was something like, "Um, I've been dressing professionally every day. At least I think I have."
2. "What are the disadvantages of taking seven years off between the Masters and the Ph.D.?" Well, um, let's see: here I am at the age of 39 applying for my first tenure-track job...but on the other hand, my life has been rich in real-world experience that will enrich my teaching blah blah blah. What I really wanted to say was, "What are the disadvantages of going straight through school from kindergarten to the Ph.D. without taking a single break for breathing or living or having a family?" But that would be rude.
3. "Do you believe in Satan?" This came from a member of a search committee, who, fortunately, did not allow me to answer; instead, she named a member of the department I would be joining and said, "That man is the spawn of Satan." And she meant it.
It's just as well that she didn't give me a chance to answer because what could I say? My candidacy was already doomed because of my unprofessional garb and my unconventional career path; how much damage could I have done by disagreeing? "Spawn of Satan? I don't think so. Maybe second cousin once removed on Satan's distaff side, but I don't know about Spawn of Satan."
Nevertheless here I am. I got the job. I still suffer from the delusion that my wardrobe is fine, and I make no apologies for taking a few detours before finishing the Ph.D. The Spawn of Satan doesn't work here anymore but I understand he's doing quite well in his new endeavor. "Some careers just can't be explained," says one of my wonderful colleagues, and she's right. So instead of explaining, I think I'll just enjoy.