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Two months ago I was notified that I did not receive a full-time position. I was also informed of who was hired and why. Two weeks ago I was called for a final interview with the president of the university. I think this is odd. Does anybody have any ideas of why I would be invited for a final interview when the decision about who is being hired has already been made?

The chair of the department in the USA institution is the one who notified me, and everyone else, about who is receiving the position and why.

Any chance this might be a fake interview so the university can say they followed protocol? Does this happen in academia?

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  • 8
    Fascinating question. Good luck, and please let us know what happened!
    – Dan Romik
    Dec 12, 2021 at 3:10
  • 18
    "I was also informed of who was hired and why" - That is rather unusual. Did they say why they told you this?
    – J. Mini
    Dec 12, 2021 at 11:36
  • 5
    A country tag would be helpful. @J.Mini, afaik, this would be the norm in Sweden.
    – Carsten S
    Dec 12, 2021 at 13:14
  • 4
    Just a tip: if you are using your real name to post - don't...
    – RedSonja
    Dec 14, 2021 at 7:30
  • 4
    Can you not just ask?
    – copper.hat
    Dec 14, 2021 at 19:43

8 Answers 8

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Another possibility than those mentioned by Anton Menshov is that there is another position that might be open. In such a case it might be quite different from the one you applied for, especially if you have some special skills. It might be one that the president has the authority to fill without a search.

Follow it up. It might be a unique opportunity.

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  • 1
    Absolutely could happen. Something similar happened to me. They called me to recommend me to apply to a related position at a different university - which I got. Dec 12, 2021 at 18:32
  • 3
    Shouldn't they at least mention the reason for the interview? It seems strange not to do so and keep the OP in the dark.
    – camden_kid
    Dec 13, 2021 at 16:43
  • 2
    @camden_kid perhaps they cannot or do not want to put the reason in writting Dec 13, 2021 at 17:41
48

The possibilities would vary from

  • the miscommunications between university administration and the department and/or HR employee making an appointment by mistake

to

  • the chance that the person who was initially offered a position ended up rejecting it for some reason. And you [and potentially several other runner-ups] are being called up for the next interview round.

Can you ask about it? Sure. Can you simply go for an interview and find out about the situation there? Definitely, especially if it is a video interview or an interview that does not involve traveling. Both strategies are viable and have their advantages and benefits.

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If you are asked to attend for a final interview, presumably there is some position on offer that they think you might be suitable for (unless this is an administrative mistake). This can occur when another candidate was initially selected for the position but then can't take the position for some reason. It can also occur if they hire a candidate or the position you previously interviewed for, but then identify another position where they think you might be suitable. In any case, you can certainly contact the adminsitration and they will be able to tell you what you are interviewing for, so that you can prepare adequately.

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I was on the hiring committee for a university position a couple years ago. People withdraw from offers fairly often and for a number of reasons. We had a woman that was our top candidate who we offered the position to. In her last interview, after accepting the position I might add, she said she could only work here if we found a position to hire her husband for as well. We refused and she withdrew her acceptance. It was late enough that we couldn't contact the runners up had to start the faculty search again the next year.

Accepting on the condition that your spouse is hired is fairly common in academia as we have a few couples hired in our department for just that reason. They likely have the same position or a very similar one available that they are offering you.

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My situation was similar. I applied for a position at a university. I was told that they liked me but decided to go with another candidate.

A while later, they reached out to me again and told me that the other candidate was not working out and they would like to extend an offer to me. It had been sufficiently long that I had forgotten a lot about them - so I requested another interview. After talking with them, I decided to take the position.

They did not tell me who the other candidate was, but considering the university's transparency ... you can look up on their website who has been hired to what position ... I could have figured it out had I been motivated.

I have no idea if my situation is the same as yours, but it seems likely. Regardless if you are curious why not ask the President at the interview. I think the President should be happy to explain the unique circumstances that caused the University to give your application a second chance. However, if the President bristles at that question, this would be to me a strong hint that the opportunity is not good.

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I suspect they could trying to comply with HR rules where it might be required that 3 candidates are actually interviewed for every position offered. If they interview you they can tick the boxes to say they followed the HR process. Alternatively maybe the other person offered the job did not take up the position so they're still looking.

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Summary of all the answers:

  • Another position opened. There's a separate role, and they think you'd be a good fit from the first interview.
  • First candidate did not work out. Despite the interview going well, the new candidate wasn't able to do the role, or had some fatal character flaw that made them unworkable.
  • First candidate resigned. The job environment wasn't suitable for them and they decided to pursue another opportunity.
  • First candidate wanted extra accommodation. For example, hiring their spouse. Whatever they asked for wasn't possible to accommodate and was brought up last minute.
  • Appointment by mistake. For example, there was a communication issue between departments, they overlooked a key piece of information, or the full hiring process wasn't followed.

You definitely would not be unreasonable to ask the reason of what happened, as there are lots of possibilities. Do drop back to let us know as I'm sure we are all curious.

-3

Some time ago, I was offered a job by a multinational engineering company. I had done a phone interview and attended a set of in person interviews and tests.

Two weeks later, they called me again and asked me if I would be interested in taking an initial phone interview. I asked them why this was, given that I had already been offered a post - this was something of a surprise to the lady on the phone and she said she would look into it and get back to me.

She never got back to me, and I never heard anything further about the job offer.

I took this to be a useful red flag about this workplace and moved on.

In short, it probably doesn't hurt to ask - at the very least it means you can turn up to your interview appropriately prepared.

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    This is the opposite situation - the employer told the OP that they were not selected for the position they applied for, but is now inviting them to another interview. Your situation clearly indicates the employer made a mistake - they made an offer and then did not know they had done so - whereas in OP's situation there is nothing indicating the employer has made any mistake.
    – kaya3
    Dec 13, 2021 at 11:21

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