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Author Topic: Interview experience --- Hong Kong  (Read 13297 times)
Junior member
Posts: 52

« on: April 04, 2012, 12:21:41 pm »

I want to share my interview experience with Univ of Hong Kong. I am currently asst prof at R1 in the US. Due to some issues I was looking for other options.

I've read some previous postings on this--cultural differences, what's like working/teaching in HK, etc, so I thought I was a bit "prepared," but...

About one month after I submitted my application on-line, someone emailed me that I was one of the top candidates so they wanted to set up an interview but because I was an oversea applicant, they wanted to do a phone interview. So far, so good.

Then the next phrase I was expecting would be something like

Do you have any preferred time slot for a 30-min phone interview?....
How about this and that days and times? Does one of this work for you?

Hmmm, actually, no. The message was,

Therefore, we will do a phone interview at 10:30am (9:30pm in your time) on this day. Please have a web cam ready and log onto your Skype account and standby.

Coincidentally there was a schedule conflict. On that day I was supposed to do a on-campus interview at a different school (in the US). At the specified time, I would be either in the airplane coming home or maybe at the airport. So, I asked if they had an alternative time or date. The reply was,

Sorry, everyone in the SC is busy so we cannot change the date but we could possibly delay the time back by one hour.

I was annoyed and almost said "well, then I can't do, thanks for checking," but didn't have the gut to say it. Instead I asked the SC chair at the other school, if they could possibly have me stay overnight there---which was actually awkward, but I just asked. Luckily he was OK. So it was set.

(by the way this person that contacted me was a HR assistant)

On that day, it was a really long day--leaving home 4am in the morning to the airport, a full day interview (you know how it goes...), a dinner with the chair, then finally I could check in the hotel at 8pm. I was totally exhausted. Did I have one hour and half till the phone interview? Hmm, no. This HR staff at HK had asked me to log on to Skype one hour before to check the internet connection and the web cam. Shhht. So without changing my "interview attire," I stood by on the desk, dozing off and on.

Of course, the "web cam check" was fine--how could it go wrong? Where am I? In Africa?

Her attitude was like, things are good now. Professors will be available to meet you in one hour, please stand by. It was like, doing an interview with the US President or something. Things must be prepared perfectly before the King appears. If it is not fair, that's because you are not the king.

Finally I could meet those super busy folks. The interview went smoothly without anything special. All the interview questions were within the expected range. As you could guess, I couldn't be more prepared--I was speaking the "interview language" all day, I could do it 30 more minutes. No problem.

Then I crashed into the bed.

Next morning, I checked my inbox out of habit. Alas, there's a mail from HK! So soon? Did they like me? Do they have some further questions?

Well, it was the bloody HR person again, letting me know that the SC decided to offer the job someone else, thanking me for participating in the interview and wishing me the best of luck....

Fvck!!!!! I should've just said 'no thank you' earlier.

I truly perceived it as an insult. Probably it had already been decided. They could have just cancelled the interview (or to make it professional, they should not have invited me for the interview from the first place). I doubt that the decision was made based on the interview. Of course I was tired and annoyed by their attitude, but I don't think I screwed up the interview any way. I was probably OK.

I wouldn't have been so offended if the "king" had come down to me and gone through the hassles of "prepping" with me, as usually done in the US---then at least I could say I got to know him/her/them. This was just a clueless HR assistant. They might have thought, well, we already have this strong candidate and don't need to interview this guy from the US, but probably we got nothing to lose, let's do it. Well, they were wrong. They turned someone favorably biased toward HK into someone against HK.

Would anyone care to give me advice or different perspectives?

« Last Edit: April 04, 2012, 12:26:52 pm by snu88 » Logged
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 5,102

« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2012, 12:33:52 pm »

You had been through a lot that day and it's no wonder that you're feeling pretty stressed.

I'm afraid that I don't perceive your experience as an insult, though.  Things are done differently in different places.  Your experience sounds par for a lot of business jobs, and I've known people in that area of the world who have explained that academia is more business-like there than we expect in the States.  I don't think having interviewed you and deciding to hire someone else really qualifies as an insult, I'm afraid.  Of course it's disheartening.  (Though it sounds as if you and the place weren't a good match.)  But they interviewed you in their morning, and they clearly finished up their interviews that day.  My guess is that the other candidates had already been interviewed (maybe in person, but for not much longer than you -- many places just do a short interview, not a whole collegial campus-visit thing).  Or maybe another foreign applicant or two had a Skype interview the same morning as you.  Then they had a meeting.  Then they decided who to hire.  That's quite brisk by American standards, but I don't think that means it's insulting.  The meeting on which the hire is decided only takes an hour or two, wherever you are.  It wouldn't have been any different if they'd waited a week to have the meeting. 

Now clearly they have a different procedure than you're used to.  And I have no way of knowing whether they're an Eminent Institution or an irresponsible fly-by-night sham school that uses and spits out candidates.  But the process alone doesn't suggest that there was anything shady about their hiring process to me.  I think when we all don't land a job, we tend to think, "They didn't even take me seriously as a candidate!  The whole thing was just some PR exercise!"  It certainly preserves our confidence.  But my guess is that they wouldn't have done the interview if they weren't ready to consider you.  You were tired for the interview, and it's clear the job isn't a good fit, and someone else got the job.  That's the way it is.  It doesn't look like a set-up to me.  Now on to the next interview.

Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight.
Junior member
Posts: 52

« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2012, 1:16:17 pm »

Thanks, hegemony. That's a good perspective.

Yes, on to the next interview!
Ain't nothin' but a
Senior member
Posts: 731

« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2012, 1:27:22 pm »

Now clearly they have a different procedure than you're used to.  And I have no way of knowing whether they're an Eminent Institution or an irresponsible fly-by-night sham school that uses and spits out candidates.  But the process alone doesn't suggest that there was anything shady about their hiring process to me. 

The University of Hong Kong is a very prestigious R1. No flying-by-night there.

I had a Skype interview a few months ago with a different HK uni, and it was nothing like the situation described here, so I wouldn't generalize this somewhat off-putting experience to all HK unis. For what that's worth.

(And as an aside, I have many times stayed in very nice hotels where the internet connection was absolute crap, even though it cost $14.95/night. So testing such things for a trans-Pacific videochat doesn't seem completely unreasonable!)

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats. --H. L. Mencken
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 1,303

« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2012, 8:51:11 pm »

The brief interview, quick decision, and arranging everything through HR sound very similar to the UK process, which makes sense for HK. The schedule inflexibility is pretty lame. A few possibilities - did the interview panel have an outside member? There may have been someone who would only be there for that day. Another possibility is that the HR assistant was too much of a wuss to tell the bigshots the extent of the scheduling conflict - it's not exactly a culture known for having subordinates willing to give bad news to superiors.
New member
Posts: 13

« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2012, 9:14:26 am »

Actually, you are right to be somewhat offended. The decision-making (on the same day) is unusally quick for the University of Hong Kong. They would normally decide first who to OFFER the position to. But there would be a weeks or more often months long process of negotiation with the first choice, and quite a high chance that person would finally turn down the offer (start-up money, housing, and 3-year contracts are the usual deal breakers).

For them to decide immediately after interview that you are out and out not suitable, no matter who else turns it down, is really strange.

Posts: 183

« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2012, 5:29:29 am »

I'd take next-day rejection over next-month.

I have had similar experiences in terms of the set-up of the interview with many (very good) universities in Asia; in fact I cannot even think of any interview I had in the USA or outside it where they didn't have a pre-set time established. The people who send the emails are not always strong in English, as well. As it has also been mentioned, not everyone in the states (or elsewhere) has taken-for-granted Skype access (I too have booked hotels for this purpose...) so I see all of this as fairly normal, honestly.

Who is this "king" you wanted to meet? I'm not sure it's reasonable to be offended that the search committee members didn't set up the Skype conference, themselves. This is likely an established protocol, because they want to treat everyone they interview the same. 
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 7,720

« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2012, 2:17:06 pm »

I can see two possible reasons for this: (i) the position was offered to a candidate at the end of the interviews and s/he immediately accepted (I have seen it happen), meaning that the other candidates could be informed immediately that they had not been successful. There is no benefit to the other candidates to be left hanging on when they may have other possibilities, so this seems like an act of kindness by the SC; (ii) you were regarded as 'not appointable' (for all the UK SCs I have been involved in, before we get to choosing our first choice candidate we will rank candidates as 'appointable' or 'not appointable'. Those ranked as 'not appointable' will not be offered a job, even if our appointable candidates all decline an offer). Again, there is no point in not telling you that you are no longer in the running, particularly if they know you are interviewing elsewhere.
Junior member
Posts: 52

« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2012, 12:51:12 pm »

I'd take next-day rejection over next-month.

Agreed. Of course I wouldn't prefer next-month rejection to next-day rejection.

I was venting my disappointment. Imagine. You deal with someone who doesn't seem flexible so things have to go through more hassles on your own expense only through their ways just because you don't want to cut the wire yourself. And you learn that the deal was broken while you are still in the middle of the hassles for the deal. Can you be completely cool with the situation and just say 'well this is better than next-month rejection?' Not just job interviews, business transactions, relationships.... for just about anything this kind of things can happen. Of course you don't usually get back to them and show your frustration to them. But you can b*tch about this with your friends. And some friends thankfully give me some good perspectives that help me digest the situation. I would call this whole thing "normal."

It wasn't really about next-day rejection, it was more about the inflexibility of the other party. As scotia mentioned, I see it more of an act of kindness. But, as you might guess, I was upset not because I didn't get the job, but because the behavior of the other party seemed weird. Even if I got the job, the bad taste would linger. And who knows? Even if I had been the first pick for the offer, I might have walked away after several more incidences with this kind of mannerism from them. So, as hegemony put, yes, it was not a good match after all.

You call this their culture. You call this their poor English skills. You call this just following the standard procedure...... I accept that.
New member
Posts: 17

« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2013, 4:16:32 pm »

I've been through some interviews in HK.

Normally they schedule on-site interviews (which I did). If they decide to go for a Skype call for just 30min, that probably means they just wish to check whether you are a super star, before making offer to the top candidate in their mind already. They thought it just took you 30min (instead of flying to HK to suffer the jet lag), so it was good for both. Nobody would thought everything for you so thoroughly, like that you were the KING and would not just give them 30min...

Yes you were tired, but nothing to complain about.

In fact, if you were a faculty there, you might enjoy the role as one of the kings :)

FYI, HK Univ of S & T is more US-styled. As far as I know, Chinese U of HK and CityU of HK are also transferring to US style. HKU and HK PolyU are those more traditional UK ones... That's why HR people are all around...
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