Sunday, July 26, 2020

Uncomfortable Question

Imagine, a fable:

Underwater Basketweaving hired a new non-teaching person recently to do reed and materials work and preparation. 

There were a surprising number of candidates, and some from our campus with similar jobs; someone in the regular basketweaving department, someone in underwater studies, another from agriculture and turf studies.  They'd surely be able to do the job.  Other campus candidates were less qualified.

UB hired someone from off campus, from another underwater basketweaving field, with good experience, a great attitude, and super references.

So, the search chair sent out an email to the candidates who didn't get the job, the usual regrets, many fine candidates, and so forth.  All of it true.

And then one of the on campus people, one of the less-qualified on campus people, someone who'd worked in raising frogs for the biology department, emailed to ask who'd gotten the job.

What do you do with that?  It seems wrong to ask, doesn't it?  And yet, once the person starts, it's not like it's going to be a secret who they are.


  1. I don't get around to answering it until after the person starts, and then answer it matter-of-factly. I have enough legitimate emails that have been buried, after all.

  2. My own impulse would be to wait until the new hire is actually working, at which point it's a matter of public record. Until then it might be covered by HR confidentiality requirements. What if, for instance, a background check turned up something that disqualified the candidate for the job, and the offer had to be rescinded? At the very least, it would be worth seeking guidance, either from your college HR office, central HR, or university counsel. (I'm not sure about how hierarchical your place is. As a department chair at UMass, I've had to contact university counsel directly about a time-sensitive matter.)

  3. I like the idea of not answering for a while. If you do answer, I think it would be ok just to tell her that it was an external candidate. She might just be wondering if a coworker got the job and who it is.

  4. I agree with everyone else: wait until the new person is settled in the job before answering. The on-campus person might also have acted in haste & disappointment and thus be regretting his/her/their actions a bit.

  5. If the situation weren't total fiction, I would have done exactly what you folks so helpfully suggested! Thanks!