Skype Interviews and Silence

Let’s talk about a real epidemic in zoology jobs.

Back when I was still in uni I managed to get an interview for a research assistant position with orang-utans in Borneo for a year, on the Gunung Palung Orang-utan Project.

I was super excited and nervous, and it was my first ever Skype interview. It was also the most intense Skype interview I’ve had, and I’ve had a few since. It went on for over an hour. Despite all that, I felt it went well. I wasn’t packing my bags and booking vaccinations, but I wasn’t crying and refusing to leave my room either. It was a fairly respectable performance, I thought. If I hadn’t gotten the job, I hadn’t embarrassed myself either. The project manager told me that since he had to be back in the jungle quite soon, I should hear whether I’d gotten to a second interview within a few days. This was early enough in my job seeking that I believed him.

Of course, I never heard from him again. He’s still a contact in my Skype directory. I can see when you’re online, Brodie.

While I have since forgiven Brodie, this definitely isn’t an anomaly in the life of a zoologish. I would be here for a while if I compiled a list of applications I’ve sent that I’ve never heard back from (but one day I might). Some are upfront about this (due to the volume of applications blah blah blah), some sent acknowledgement of your application and then disappear. It’s not really okay, but I’ve learned to be okay with it. The post-interview silence is a whole other thing, and it does wind me up.

It’s happened on one other occasion to me, when I applied to an Expedition and Volunteer Intern position with Blue Ventures. This was a London office-based position which isn’t usually my thing, but I have an immense amount of time for Blue Ventures as an organisation. I’d be excited to work for them and for what opportunities it could open up for me. Frankly, they’re such a big name player in the marine conservation game that I wasn’t anticipating ever hearing back. But I did, and I was offered a Skype interview. I was told I was one of seven at this stage, and would be invited for an in-person interview if successful. I was the last applicant interviewed and so I should hear that same evening, or the next day at the latest.

I finally followed up with a phone call nearly two weeks later. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting “Oh yeah, we did want to hire you actually, sorry we forgot to mention that!” but I wanted to reiterate my keenness because I do think they’re a great charity. And yes, I also wanted to point out they’d never gotten back to me.

My engineer brother and lawyer father find this silence shockingly rude and offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t blame Brodie or Blue Ventures. I blame a world where wildlife research and conservation are underfunded and undervalued, and so the people working there are overstressed and overstretched. I hope, though, if I ever find myself in a hiring position, I remember where I am now and take the time to send a copy and pasted two line email to let people know where they stand.

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