An Open Letter

Dear Persistent Administrative Assistant (in department I have no relationship with):

Sorry it took me (2 whole days) so long to answer your email.  I looked at my calendar and am not able to meet with your faculty candidate on Monday afternoon as you requested in your first email, because I have a previously scheduled meeting. I am also not able to meet with your faculty candidate, whose CV I have now looked at and that has no cross-over with my work AT ALL, on Monday morning as requested in your second email- because that is when we have lab meeting. I do not know the candidate, I know nothing about your search, I am not affiliated with your department and I have no idea why you are asking me to meet with this person. So, I guess that answers your third email – I have no time on my schedule on Tuesday to meet with this candidate.

My apologies for being cranky, I’ll have to learn to be more direct so we don’t get three emails in next time.



8 thoughts on “An Open Letter

  1. Why do they want you to meet with the candidate? Bizarreness? I guess my assumption would have been that there was some connection I couldn’t parse out (though the assistant should identify it — i.e. also a vet, a woman, or someone who specifically requested that they meet with you).

    But, maybe this kind of thing happens to you more often.


  2. While this admin assistant is clearly tone deaf, you can’t blame them for you being on their radar. Some faculty member in that department is the one who tagged you. It takes admins who have recently joined the world of academia a little while to learn that when they don’t receive any response from a faculty member, it should be interpreted as “Thank you for your e-mail, but I am really swamped, and really can’t do X”, and that it is not useful to send another e-mail with the subject line “SECOND REQUEST: PLEASE RESPOND”.

  3. Now, now… Be nice to the staff. You never know when it will pay off in the long run.

    For all you know, the candidate might have asked for an appointment with you. Or his or her boss thinks your work is so cool that seeing you would help recruit the candidate. While you might not be affiliated with the department, being asked to help your institution in that way is not out of line. Nor is it out of line for you to just say “sorry, I’m not available. ” or to ask why they want you.

    I disagree with Comrade P, too. Nonresponse to email these days is just as likely to mean the recipient missed the first ones. That is the case for many of us who get too much background crap in our inboxes. I tell students that they cannot assume I remember their committee meetings if they email reminders and I have not responded.

  4. You people are not reading carefully. DrdrA screwed up by giving a time conflict excuse..twice. What was the admin to think? To find another time, of course. Gotta just say “no I’m notinterested in meeting your candidate” right up front.

  5. A friend of mine went on a bizarro job interview during which they pulled out ‘the woman’ in the chem dept for show and tell. They had nothing to talk about.

  6. Bike- Yes, it was my mistake not to tell her up front that I didn’t want to meet this candidate. That just sounds so impolite that I have a hard time doing it (maybe that is an XX thing?)- so I dodged 2x with the I have no time excuse. Mistake, I recognize.

    Jim- I’m normally 100% for meeting seminar speakers, job candidates etc etc etc. – and I’m pretty open to requests from where ever. However, the number of meetings/appointments lately is out of control- there is a limit to how much time I can devote to this, and still be able to keep my lab running. 🙂
    I believe that this is the first time I’ve turned someone down.

  7. “I believe that this is the first time I’ve turned someone down.”

    Then you aren’t saying no enough! Practice makes perfect. As your career takes off, people will ask you for more meetings etc. You have to remember to limit your desire to please others in order to keep your program at the level where you are someone people will want to meet.

    Also remember that there’s an old axiom that if you want something done, give it to someone who is already busy, because the people who aren’t are not busy for a reason. This means that you are sending the message to people around you that they should ask you to do things. This is actually good for you… but only if you are judicious about why you say yes. Just learn to say no firmly but nicely. This is especially important advice for women in science, because they will get asked to do things to be the token woman.

    And, btw, this is definitely “do as a say, not as I do” advice! 😉

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