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I live in country "A" (in Europe) and, a couple of months ago, I bought a round trip flight ticket to the US, for family reasons (not tourism). A couple of weeks after I bought the ticket, I was invited to a job interview for a postdoctoral position in country "C" (also in Europe) by a university.

This interview was scheduled a few days before my planned travel back from the US to country "A." The tone of the email they sent me was such as to make me think that there was no room for moving the interview by a few days (or even by a few hours...). They just told me the date, hour, and room. In my experience this is unusual: I have been invited to interviews from institutes in other European countries (both tête-à-tête interviews and Skype interviews), and I was always given a few alternative dates from which to choose. Bear in mind that Europe is not a country--and is not the US, there are very many different ways to communicate, which caused my uncertainty in how to interpret their message.

Perhaps, if I would have explained my situation, they would have understood and re-scheduled the interview...or perhaps they wouldn't have bothered, whatever their reason might have been.

So, instead of asking the university to re-scheduling the interview, I have bought a new one way ticket back from the US, so that I could make it on time for the interview. (I am not asking judgement of this action)

I am very interested in this job, and I think I should let them know what I have done to make it to the interview. (I am not asking whether I should let them know it or not. I am asking opinions on how to let them know it to obtain a positive effect; if you believe there are not, please, go to the bottom and read the tags to this question: I repeat, this is not in the US and I am not American.)

What is the most elegant way to let the recruiting committee know--on the day of the interview--the what the applicant (me) has done to make it to the interview? (this is the question)

[I am literally marking as useful all of your answers, however opinions from people from different European countries are very appreciated. The reasons being the different nature of social interactions compared to the anglosaxon world.]

[NOTE: I believe now the question is precise, I would appreciate if you answered the question, and not judge everything else]

[NOTE 2: I have changed some tags in this question, with the hope that future commenters or "answerers" could benefit from it. Remember this thing: what is normal or not in your country might be non-normal or normal in another country. E.G. in the US it would be extra rude for the interviewer to ask the candidate a question about his/her family, however this is not true elsewhere: it was one of the first questions I received in an interview with a french university. Please, before commenting - answering with a pretentious / sarcastic / paternalistic tone, be aware that the world is big--and it is not the US. The question is not flawed. I give you another example of how the world is big, beautiful and rich of differences and how lack of knowledge about the existence of such difference in social interactions might appear clumsy. E.G.2 Say we are in the US and a Texan asks to some people at his BBQ: "What sauce should I put on the cow steak?" and a random guy from India who was walking by answers: "You should not eat cow in first place, it is very inappropriate". It is a legitimate answer to be respected, but it is out of context. I feel like the Texan guy reading some comments and answers.]

[NOTE 3: Given all of the above, let me stress that I appreciate all of your answers, but please try to answer / comment only if you have something appropriate to add. Also please, pretentious, sarcastic, judgmental, paternalistic comments or answers do not add anything useful, if not create tension. Moreover, answers that says somethings along these lines: "I am Australian, but am being living in South Korea, so I know I know the right answer to your question" are basically flawed, and the reason is to be searched in the European context that I am picturing in my question.]

[NOTE 4: A comment made me realize that some details in my question might sound like anti-American, I apologize for that. You have to know that it is not the case. As a matter of fact, I have been several times in the US, and I have relatives from there. The claimed reduced interest for answers from Americans is simply related to the non-American situation I am picturing.]

[NOTE 5: Let me provide other examples of how not-so-straightforward social interactions are, where they are carried out in different countries. I was speaking with a German colleague who worked in Italy for a few years, she studies management and was totally captured by the radically different ways to start a meeting in these two countries. In Germany, it is considered professional to start the meeting exactly on time and jump to the point, because this is considered professional to respect the established and clear rules of the game. In Italy, it is considered professional to start the meeting a few minutes late, with a coffee and talks unrelated to work, because this is thought to decrease tension and develop bonding that will ultimately easy the conversation at the meeting. What surprised me the most, is that later on I have discovered that in Sweden (which is not a Mediterranean country) they do the same as in Italy! Another example, this time from my own experience. I have never read that within the context of an academic interview, Americans ask about sport activities, perhaps this is considered too personal and unrelated to the job; on the other hand, in my last interview, I was asked by a Luxembourgian about my sport activities, my understanding was that he wanted to know whether I am a team player or rather an individualistic person.]

[NOTE 6, WHAT HAPPENED: In the days immediately before the interview I was travelling and found my self in a place with no internet connection, which limited my ability to prepare to the job interview. I travelled back--earlier than established--and passed the interview. For obvious reasons, I did not perform well at the interview, but I have been honest, and I said that I have travelled back to Europe only for that job interview. Guess what? My honesty and dedication have been those characteristics that helped me stand over all the other applicants and I got the job. As I said many times in this post: not everywhere works as one may judge based on information limited to a fraction of the world labour market.]

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    There is no elegant way to tell the committee about the situation once it was too late for them to chose a remote interview or a change of date. If they were going to be informed at all, it should have been done when they still had options. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 14 '15 at 14:12
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    You ask how to address a topic in an interview setting, and the answer you were given was that you should NOT address this topic in an interview setting. The premise of your question is flawed, and multiple people have tried to point that out in their answers. – eykanal Jul 14 '15 at 20:45
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    There are many Europeans here as well, and so far none has told you that you were right and the big nasty Americans were wrong. – fkraiem Jul 16 '15 at 8:29
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    The answers telling you to preferably NOT try to demonstrate motivation by telling them you shortened a family trip apply to European institutions all the same. I don't see where you gathered that it was any different than in America. Also, all your edits made your question less and less legible. I would suggest rolling back to the initial version. – Cape Code Jul 16 '15 at 11:07
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    I think you may be assuming posters are American, without knowing their actual background. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 16 '15 at 13:04
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You could try making a quick mention of the fact on a humorous tone.

Often, at the beginning of an interview it can be appropriate to make a quick, inoffensive, joke just to break the ice. That would be the moment to say something on the lines of: "Sorry I'm so clumsy with the projector today. I must still be jet-lagged from the flight from the US. Actually, I had to cut short a family re-union to be here in time." Then, quickly change topic and go forward with the meeting.

If the interviewers want to take the circumstance into account, they will. But there is no need (and it would be useless) to belabor the point further.

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    @Fuca26 You are of course free to accept whatever answer you want, but I caution you that just because that is the answer you wanted to hear does not make it a necessarily a good answer (no offense Alan). I am European, also a postdoc, and I still stand by my answer that you really shouldn't mention it at all during the official parts of an interview in Europe. – xLeitix Jul 16 '15 at 14:27
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    As someone who has conducted many, many interviews, I think this is very bad advice. Comments like this convey the message "I went through lots of hoops to be here, so you should be appreciative of that". You are the one who chose to apply; the hoops you have to jump through are entirely of your choosing. You may get empathy, but you won't get sympathy, and it is much more likely to come across negatively than positively. – eykanal Jul 16 '15 at 14:33
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    @xLeitix And none taken. But I still think mine is the best answer here ... taking into account the circumstances the OP would have needed to specify in the question but did not (telepathy at work, if you wish ;-)). In a more general perspective, it seems quite clear from the postings here that such mention of private circumstances should not be made in most academic environments. That's also fine by me, and good to know for the reader. – ALAN WARD Jul 16 '15 at 14:37
28

To be honest, I would avoid mentioning it at all, especially if you're going to use the word 'sacrifice'. It may not demonstrate commitment and enthusiasm so much as complaining about what you had to do and looking for praise. It may also come across as passive aggressive and what will you do if they ask why you didn't simply ask to re-schedule or conduct the interview over Skype? Saying that the tone of the email made it sound like you couldn't will make you sound overly sensitive and timid.

As Alan pointed out, how one comes across in interviews will be highly subjective and maybe a bit of humour will help, but if I was the interviewer and a candidate tried to sneak in some sort of 'look how much I've gone through to get to this interview' comment, it would turn me off.

  • The term "sacrifice" is in the title of the question, I have not said I would use this word and asked for suggestions on how to express it in a way that could produce positive effects on the listener: I agree with you that mentioning it would have a negative effect. "Saying that the tone of the email made it sound like you couldn't will make you sound overly sensitive and timid." My question was not about that, I did not ask an opinion about it. – Fuca26 Jul 14 '15 at 10:30
  • Perhaps, now the adjusted title is less misleading. – Fuca26 Jul 14 '15 at 10:36
  • I explain my comment on yours: "Saying that the tone of the email made it sound like you couldn't will make you sound overly sensitive and timid." This is also something that I would not say, but I said it here to provide all the readers with some useful background (but I guess that it might create some confusion too about the point of my question). Thanks for your comment though. – Fuca26 Jul 14 '15 at 10:47
  • Why my comments to this answer are not visible anymore? They were necessary to make people aware of what the real point of the questions is. – Fuca26 Jul 14 '15 at 11:35
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    @Luca - Your comments were flagged as "obsolete" due to your editing of the question, so they were removed. I have put them back. However, please do refrain from making numerous edits on the question, as it makes it difficult to tell what is being answered. – eykanal Jul 14 '15 at 15:03
26

I wouldn't mention it. I sit on these interview committees, and I really couldn't care less whether you came from 5 minutes down the road or another continent to get there.

(Indeed, if I found you'd bought another ticket without contacting us about interviewing by video/phone I'd think rather less of you. I've done quite well with remote interviewing, and would be happy to do so again)

For context - UK Russell Group University.

  • In my experience, they do care about WHERE you come from and what you did. The reason for that is mainly related to their budget and to the adjustment period required by the candidate (this is particularly true for foreigners). – Fuca26 Jul 13 '17 at 11:17
  • Ceteris paribus, the hiring committee is more likely to invite for an interview someone who won't require them to spend much (e.g. imagine they would have to interview 20 applicants and spend 1,000$ for their travel), someone they won't have to sponsor (e.g. imagine the responsibility nowadays to sponsor someone who needs a VISA), someone who possibily has the same linguistic background (e.g although research is in english, meetings and teaching are in the local language). – Fuca26 Jul 13 '17 at 11:19
  • Sure, if we focus on an handful of large and wealthy institutes or in institutes in english speaking countries, (some of) these remarks won't apply. – Fuca26 Jul 13 '17 at 11:20
19

I realize I'm joining a chorus of similar answers, but I want to word it in a way that directly answers the question (at least as worded in the title),

The most elegant way to let the recruiting committee know ... is silence.

I state this with complete sympathy for your predicament.The most elegant thing to do is not to mention it at all, because of there is no reason to explain it. Unless the travel is academically relevant to your field, then it has no connection to the content of a job interview.

So if you are Indiana Jones and have just gotten back from raiding the temple of doom, sure. Or if you're an aerospace scientist recently returned from the ISS, nonchalantly slip that into the interview if needed. If your a medical doctor recently returned from treating ebola, that too might work.

But generally, the hard time you had getting there is not meaningful information to the interview. Imagine:

A: How do you see yourself fitting into the program? OR what are you future research plans?

B: Well golly, I had take three flights to get here and I had to cut my vacation short.

effect = this guy/gal is going to be really annoying to work with.

(I'm American-born and -trained but working at a university in Japan. I didn't think it was relevant but apparently to the op it is. I also lived in Germany for three years).

  • To me it would be a very logical thing to do, which shows commitment and absolute interest in that specific job position. I cannot see how other people could interpret it otherwise. I understand that cultural differences might be the reason for having different answers, but I cannot understand why in many answers the content displays a lack of such an awareness. This is why I have specified that I am specifically interested in answers from people with non anglosaxon background. – Fuca26 Jul 14 '15 at 13:01
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    @Luca please reread my answer. You asked what the most elegant way is. I said silence. I think you should rethink your logic. Surely, it would show commitment to say that you murdered the other applicants, but I doubt it would get you the job. This sort of commitment, i.e. flying back early from a family thing, is also a type of commitment not relevant to your potential future peers. – virmaior Jul 14 '15 at 13:19
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    Note also, I don't judge your motives in my answer. I just tell you the most elegant way to include this. – virmaior Jul 14 '15 at 13:20
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    yes, but it would be completely fair to say "wait until spring" in terms of "what is the fastest way to climb a mountain?" Once they are your coworkers, share it as an anecdote one day. – virmaior Jul 14 '15 at 14:04
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    @Luca surely "There are none" is a valid answer to "What is the most elegant way to do [awkward thing]". If you were asking "What is the most elegant way to tell my sibling her/his Christmas present is the most expensive I bought this year" you would agree that the answer is "Don't say it". People here are giving you good advice, suck it up and focus on the science/teaching aspects that make you a good candidate. – Cape Code Jul 15 '15 at 14:23
11

(I am assuming this is about faculty interviews - for PhD applications, my answer may be less applicable)

All the faculty interviews I had so far were somehow split into an official and a much-less-official-but-still-part-of-the-interview part. At least in Europe, the official part is indeed a very formal Q&A, and there is very little chance to point out your circumstances in a way that will not come across as heavy-handed or clumsy. The less-official part is usually something like a joint dinner the night before or after, and you will certainly find a spot in the conversation to drop this.

The other question is what you hope to achieve - I assume you want to show "dedication", but honestly I have very little hope that the fact that you needed to re-book a private trip to make it to the interview will impress anybody.

6

Honestly I think there is no elegant way of saying this kind of stuff unsolicited. From my experience people from recruiting committee are used to this sort of manipulation from students, and they don't like it. Especially since it should (probably) not be taken into account for the outcome of the interview.

Moreover, and that's just my opinion, they might even think something like "why did he buy another ticket since we would have accepted doing the interview on skype with those circumstances?". But on the other hand they might not.

In my opinion, the best way to do what you want to do is to previously call them, and ask for a reschedule under exceptional circumstances, and if they say yes, that's good, if they say no, you buy another ticket (and they know what you did, and will account for it if needed).

Other than that, in my opinion, don't unless there is the perfect opportunity to say it ("did you have a safe trip?" for example), otherwise it will come out clumsy.

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    I presume this is about faculty interviews. Those are rarely via Skype. – xLeitix Jul 14 '15 at 10:33
2

In my experience the arrangements for the interview and visit to the campus are made by administrative or clerical staff, for example a departmental secretary. They are usually the ones asking you about dates and times. Sometimes there are opportunities to communicate this information when you are making arrangements with them. In my experience they do pass on background information informally that they learn whilst making the arrangements.

However I am aware that many institutions have formalised the process through an HR department. They do this to deliberately insulate the applicant from the academic department precisely to prevent these informal back-channels from having influence on the process. In that case what other respondents have suggested is more appropriate.

  • It was a postdoc position in a public institute, where unfortunately there is not a departmental secretary--unfortunately. All the arrangements were done by myself and by the boss of my research department (this is the only research department in the entire statistical institute, which usually works on non-research related issues) – Fuca26 Feb 6 '17 at 17:05
1

If one of the interview questions were:

Why (or) How much do you want to work here?

I would mention that as soon as I received the confirmation email, without hesitation, I booked myself a one way flight from the US, as I perform better in face to face interviews.

I think that type of initiative shows enthusiasm, a certain economic independence, and a no-fuss attitude. What's there not to like?

P.S I live in Italy.

  • Exactly, that's important! I do not unederstand why I have gotten so many negative answers--I still mantain that there is lack of openess to different behaviors (and cultures) in many answers I have received (we need to conduct a study!!) :) – Fuca26 Jul 6 '17 at 13:40
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    @Fuca26 it's also connected with body language, and tone of voice. If you look and sound irritated, and you begin the interview by pointing out you booked an expensive flight that will never come across well. But if you wait until the right moment, then the anecdote about the journey appears spontaneous and shows the interviewer that you care about the position. Obviously, in isolation, it's not enough to secure an offer but it should leave a lasting and positive impression. – Mari-Lou A Jul 6 '17 at 13:49
  • eventually I mentioned that I had interrupted the family trip to conduct their interview, and that, according to their words, it was positively appreciated (they said they were greateful). And I got the job! – Fuca26 Jul 13 '17 at 11:10

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