Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I have been doing a hellish, hellish task.

The recruitment office here gets faculty members to call admitted students to try to sell them on the place and encourage them to come here. In a soft-sell kind of way. There was a fair amount of pressure to do this, so I signed on. Gawddddddd. It is the worst thing ever. If I'd wanted to be a telemarketer, I wouldn't have done a PhD. Every person on my list has been admitted here by is nobody's first choice. It is fucking gross to be calling these kids and positively breathing desperation. The worst is when I leave messages with parents or on the answering machine so that parents might hear...because twelfth-graders might not know that this is desperation, but it must seem positively pathetic to parents.

And I just don't have the personality for this. Basically, I do what I'm told, i.e. call and say "Congratulations, Katie, on your admission to Scary City U. Do you have any questions for me?" Only one of the dozen students I've talked to so far has any questions at all. Which is incredibly awkward!! The info packet says that while that students might not have questions, they might enjoy hearing about research I or my departmental colleagues do. What????? Can you imagine? That is precisely telemarketing - foisting your self-interest on uninterested people in the pre-dinner hour!! And, on a more practical level, how do you seque into that??:

Me: I'm Prof. Hilaire from Faculty of X at Scary City U., and I'm calling to congratulate you on your admission and see if you have any questions.
Kid: No, I'm good/No, I'm hoping to get into Y/No, it's not my first choice.)
Me: Well, let me tell you all about ME!!!!!

So needless to say, because I won't do this, I am getting absolutely nowhere, and it's just a big fat bloody waste of time. Next year, no way. I just don't have the personality for this. Nor do I believe in the "brand" of Scary City U, which I think you need to do if you want to do this convincingly.


Pantagruelle said...

Oh, gawd, I feel sooooo sorry for you for having to do this! I can say this because I have actually done telemarketing before--voluntarily and for free too--repeatedly. In my case, it has been for a political party and a cause I believe in, but it has involved cold calling and asking for money (which is something I hate to do!). But at least the party gave me a script. Scary City U should have given you a pre-written script that dealt with the contingency of students having no questions and not wanted to hear about research during dinner hour. It's completely ridiculous and irresponsible of them to ask profs to do this job in the first place, let alone fail to plan for that scenario. Is there any way you can simply not make the calls and say you did? Just record them all as "not at home"? Will the U really know if you called or not? Or call at times when you know you'll get an answering machine and just leave it at that? I vastly preferred the answering machine and not home calls!

plam said...

Yeah, that sucks a lot. Calling people is just terrible. I've called people to thank them for donating money to MIT sailing, which is better than telemarketing, but not great.

Instead of phone calls, we sent handwritten notes from faculty to admitted students encouraging them to come. Although composing these notes is not fun, it's neither objectionable nor intrusive.

Anonymous said...

that sounds horrible. yuck.

Maggie said...

You know, I understand the philosophy for admissions people getting faculty involved in the process, but DAMN there are times when I feel like, "This is not MY JOB!" And I don't even have to call people.

I"m sorry, Hilaire. I hate calling people in general, so I feel your pain.

medieval woman said...

Ugh - this seems horrible! I'm so sorry you have to do this - even if you just ask the first question, you've done your duty.

Also, congrats on finishing your paper (counter stage right)!


PossiblyFutureDrGirl said...

I remember getting phone calls from the deans of various schools I was considering. It was quite a rush to a high school kid! (Particularly considering that I didn't yet know the difference between "dean" or "professor" or... well, or anything). I didn't have any questions for these people. In fact, I could barely speak. But it did make quite an impression on me. So as you're making these calls, just remember that it doesn't matter what you say. It's more the fact that you're calling at all!

(Still, having to call does totally suck. My commiserations!)

Hilaire said...

Yeah. Calling = evil.

POssiblyFuture - that's important for me to hear. In fact, that's the only hope I've been able to produce about this - that they'll remember being called. That this will put this place on their radar!

K said...

Yuck, that really sucks! One time I had the job of calling students who were admitted but had chose to go elsewhere. I had to call and ask them why they turned my school down and where they were going instead. I had to ask them to "grade" my school's admissions process and recruitment efforts, as in, "When you think about our interview with you, would you give us an A, a B, a C, a D, or an F?"
So I sympathize. I hope you never ever have to do it again.

What Now? said...

Oh, I *hated* doing this at St. Martyr's! And what really annoyed me was that all of the tenured faculty in my department simply refused to do it, so the chair and I wound up doing all of them for our department! To be fair, my chair did far more than half of those (he's ideally suited to work at St. Martyr's!). I could never decide if I was impressed at the senior faculty members' ability to say "no" to what wasn't actually their job, or if I was annoyed as hell that I had to take the hit because of them. Probably both.