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Monday, March 27, 2006


My last interview today was in the 12th floor of Wilson hall. This was the first interview I've had that actually felt like an interview, where my thinking and abilities were being judged. This was the second Russian I spoke with. Lets call him Dr. S.
After I sat down, Dr. S reached into a back corner of his office on top of a filing cabinet and began to pull out a variety of objects one at a time. The first was a rock.

He placed it in my hands and asked me to tell him what it was. "Its a rock", I suggested. "Uh, it has some quartz in it?" I added, venturing into unknown teritory. "Yes," he responded noting the sparkles from the rock. He didn't leave me hanging for too long. "This was dug out of a mine over there," he said motioning out the window into the distance. "The ILC may be built on this. It looks ok, right? Pretty sturdy?"

The next item was a circular metallic ring. "What's this?" asked Dr. S. "Uh, a copper ring?" I replied. "Ok, but tell me about it. Why is it darker on the outside than on the inside?" "Oxydation?" It was an ok answer but showed I'd never seen such a thing. He explained that it was a connector between pieces of beam pipe. It had been heated to expell outside gas and the outside was in contact with the air and so turned black whereas the inside was in vacuum.

This carried on for about 10 items. I think I got one of them right. I tried to ask questions and at least show interest. He then asked me about the various research projects I'd done 6 years ago that I barely remembered the details of. I told him about the solenoid problem and then he asked me how fast the fringe fields fall off, which I couldn't answer.

I did get to explain a few things I understood and felt glad to be challenged and have my ignorance of the field out in the open. I know I wasn't as sharp as I can be, but hopefully I said at least a few useful things. Tomororrow I give my talk.


Nani said...

How very interesting! I think all interviews should be done in such ways. I guess it might be annoying to some because it might suggest authority-subordinate or power relations between the interviewer and interviewee. Some interviewees might even see it as an insult. But aren't you tired of predictable, formulaic interview questions, such as: "what are your strengths/ weaknesses?" or "where do you see yourself in five years?." What I despise about these questions is that the answers are usually self-claimed, self-reflective. It is like asking: "Do you think you are a good, hardworking person?" And who wouldn't say "yes"? I don't even know, actually, if these questions are still asked today.

My point, however, is that an interview should be more than "I need a worker on the part of the employer and I need a job on the applicant's side," but whether or not the interests and concerns of the two parties match. It is like going to school to learn, not to get a piece of paper that says I graduated.

I am aware that this is a privileged point of view of mine. Real-life circumstances prevent and obstruct meaningful processes of hiring, looking for jobs, going to school.

Blah blah blah.

Having said all that, I wish Boaz the best luck in his job searching.

Boaz said...

Thanks for the comment Nani.
I think that part of the reason why I get some difficult questions is that the work I've done is very theoretical and these are somewhat practical jobs. They want to know if I can actually do something useful.
But this was one of the more interesting interviews I've had.