I just had an interview for a role that was a perfect fit for me. This is a research role in a University. During the interview, the professor who was making the hire commented on how my skills in computational modelling was a close fit to his research project including the amount of upper division quantitative units I have taken; in my undergraduate program I took two math and two physics units every semester.

  1. Of the remaining two other guys in their 50s, one was constantly berating my Alma Mater for being slightly lower ranked than this current University.

  2. He also berated my average GPA without taking into account the level and load of the units I was enrolled in.

  3. In addition, he was constantly berating my long term career goal while also putting down Elon Musk and the national research group of the country I did my undergraduate in.

  4. He even went as far back to nit-pick my grades in middle school.

  5. There are no standardised questions asked by the two other interviewers aside from the professor making the hiring

At some point the professor who was making the hire had to rebuke this old man who was on the panel.

Throughout the interview, I politely yet logically articulated my argument as to why his views were flawed.

To be honest, I was shocked at how the interview turned out given the culture in academia and research.

Is there anything I should do in the future if something similar comes up? How common is this?

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    This sounds like the Peter principle, with enough time, everyone rises to their level of competence +1 ... What can you do? difficult - they pick the interview panel - what you can do is what you did : respond calmly, logically and clearly... – Solar Mike Feb 12 '18 at 10:34
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    What does the age of the "other two guys" (presumably, professors or researchers of some kind) have to do with anything? I'm particularly wondering about the sentence "this old man who was on the panel". – user9646 Feb 12 '18 at 10:35
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    This seems like more of a rant than a question. If you'd like to make it a useful question that others could benefit from, I think it could be shortened to 2 or 3 sentences, to the effect of "how should one behave when a member of an interview panel seems to be acting rudely?" – David Ketcheson Feb 12 '18 at 10:46
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    I don't know what "berating" means as you've used the term. What you consider berating might have been innocuous to others. There's no way of knowing with actual quotes. Also, a 50-yo male is not an "old man". That also didn't help me sympathize. – Nicole Hamilton Feb 12 '18 at 12:35
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    Maybe because culture in academia is not the same in every country? – Quora Feans Feb 12 '18 at 14:08

You have nice and professional and less nice and less professional people in every field, you unfortunately met one of the less nice people. The fact that other members publicly rebuked him shows that you are not alone in your interpretation that his behavior was not OK.

The important (and very hard) thing to do is not to stoop to their level, and you seem to have achieved that.


Usually, the hiring process is managed by not one person, but a committee. Therefore, those two other guys including that old man, given the fact that they have access to your enclosed information, are also in the hiring committee.

If someone criticizes your CV during an interview, usually not trying to find excuses is the best. Maybe you should point out some other feature of yours which makes criticized thing not so important.

Committee members are people. Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe one of their favorite candidates was eliminated 5 minutes ago. Maybe they have another thing in mind. Maybe one of them just plain did not like you. Maybe they're playing good cop bad cop routine. Those are all possible.

If you dwell on the tone of the comments rather than focusing on answering the questions, your concentration will drop and the remaining part of the interview will be worse.

Q: Is there anything I should do in the future if something similar comes up?
A: Concentrate on answering the questions in a plain and simple fashion.

Also, I would like to point out that your tone in the question when addressing them is not the politest. So, maybe we will see another question like below:

One of the candidates wrote very rude sentences about me in an online QA site. Should I consider him despite the good background?

  • +1 To me it also sounds from the question that OP got (and still is) quite emotional about the interviewers remark. Best way to handle this is stay calm and at the same time not getting rude yourself. – Petey Pete Feb 12 '18 at 12:41

What can you do? difficult - they pick the interview panel and that is something you cannot control.

What you can do is what you did : respond calmly, logically and clearly.

If the other two can over-ride him then you may be lucky - it does, of course, depend on what they were looking for.


Generally speaking: staying professional, not stooping to their level, and being focused on upselling your existing skills and experience -- as others have noted -- is strategy #1.

But also: Be prepared to walk away. This is a last-ditch option that should be in your toolkit somewhere, someday. It doesn't sound like it was needed in this case, because 2 of the 3 committee members were giving you a fair hearing. But if you were being outright abused by everyone involved, and it was obvious you couldn't get the position (and it does happen), then walking out to save your dignity is something you have every right to do. Like many things, I expect that mentally preparing for this as a self-defense skill, which hopefully won't be used, will make you more comfortable, relaxed, and self-confident in future interviews.

As an anecdote: I have exactly two moments of professional regret, and they both involve not walking out when I was being unnecessarily berated by employers -- one during a hiring interview, with three people, when the dean who was the sole the decision maker belittled and cursed at me for no good reason. Beyond, that, I've probably wasted time on being "positive" in interviews that were clearly not going to be a good fit.

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    Thank you Dr Daniel. As a fresh graduate, I have very limited experiences with the hiring process and despite this I've always thought that professionalism in the hiring process was at least scared. I will keep your valuable advice in mind. – Academia.jpg Feb 12 '18 at 14:12
  1. Stay calm and professional - whether they are doing so intentionally or not, they are testing and observing how you function when faced with adversity. Escalating or counterattacking usually means you failed the test.

  2. Figure out how closely you'd have to work with that person if you decide to take that job. Don't take jobs where you have to work closely with people you dislike.

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