Online Masters Program - My Worst Interview Ever

When I decided to pursue a second masters degree, I began by compiling a list of all colleges and universities that offered a criminal justice degree in my vicinity. Unfortunately, the list was very short as a two-hour drive multiple times per week, while juggling work and family responsibilities was not appealing.

At the same time, I explored online Master degree programs. I talked with faculty in programs offering distance learning, and I spoke with other faculty about online classes.

After some thought and research, I narrowed my list to three programs offering a masters in Criminal Justice, and a traditional program located at a mid-sized university about two hours from home.

I decided that it would be prudent to meet the traditional program’s director in-person and learn more about the pluses and minuses of pursuing a degree at her institution; thus resulting in my worst interview ever.

I had setup the meeting with the programs’ contact person via email a few weeks prior to my drive to her university.

It had worked out well because I was able to participate in a planned work event in the morning, and then would speak with the faculty person in the afternoon before returning to the office.

When I arrived at the faculty contact’s office, I introduced myself to the receptionist and stated that I had a 1 pm meeting with Dr. BlahBlah. The receptionist stared at me for what seemed an eternity, and then finally said Dr. BlahBlah is out of the office and not due back until later in the day. I replied that I was here to talk about her program, had confirmed the meeting well in advance, and it would be difficult for me to reschedule for another time/date.

The receptionist then had me sit over in a corner and wait while she tried to round-up the professor. I did some good waiting, and then saw a woman hastily enter the reception area. The receptionist pointed to me and the woman approached.

Her first words to me were: “Who did you say you were? I have no meetings scheduled for today.” A great first impression of a program—-one where they wanted from me an investment of thousands of dollars.

I repeated my story of scheduling the appointment with her weeks ago (I decided not to show her the email printout proof), and she reluctantly invited me to follow her back to her office. Obviously she was not happy about being here and offered no apologies—-just a “follow me” directive.

As we talked, here are three of the gems from our discussion that made this an insert foot in mouth jamboree:

One: Rather than ask me anything about myself or my interest in her program, she starts into a fifteen minute speech regarding how a person pursuing a graduate degree in criminal justice should not be doing so to become a CSI or a criminal profiler as described in contemporary television.

I finally interrupted as she continued to tangent and told her politely that I had researched CJ programs, realized that her graduates were not tv CSI material, and that I was interested in the degree to help further my educational interests-—primarily in studying police.

Two: I asked her how many criminal justice practitioners who were police officers were currently in her program. She looked puzzled and replied that she was sure that there were some, but had no idea the number. I also asked her how many of her students continued their education in pursuing a PhD--again she did not know.

You would think that the director of a graduate program would have an understanding of the student population that comprises her department not only to better accommodate current students, but also to decipher which marketing efforts were the most fruitful.

Unfortunately, Dr. BlahBlah could not even venture an educated guess as to the number of police officers attending or any other demographic question that I asked.

The Dr. then said this: “Police officers are too jaded by the work and do not make good students.” She explained that most officers have a limited perspective of the public and refuse to change their thinking despite empirical evidence.

Not only are these statements untrue, but as a person recruiting students to your program: do you really think that this will make someone want to attend your university?

As mentioned previously, if she would have asked for my resume prior to or during the meeting she would have at least seen that I was one of those “jaded” former police officers who, in her opinion, should not be considering graduate school.

Three: I had reviewed her CV prior to the meeting and asked her about a project with a local police department that she had listed on the document. I just wanted to see how often faculty and students work with local police departments on research projects.

She then stunned me with this defensive response: “How did you know about that? (Me: "I reviewed your CV.") Oh, that is old—-I am not sure about that and I can’t believe that is still on our website.

In retrospect, I think she thought I was trying to trap her about something questionable she had listed on her CV—-but I really just wanted to know about the university’s relationships with local police agencies. 

At the end of the interview, she conceded that she had gotten a new computer and some of her mail items and appointments may have been lost in the transition (I do not count this as an "I'm sorry").

Needless to say, after waiting for over an hour, not receiving an apology (instead being accused of showing up uninvited), being provided the wrong information, and being called jaded and unfit for graduate school (since I had been a police officer), I was very disappointed with her and her description of the program.

It worked out well though. I went running from the Dr.’s campus and have not returned. I then enrolled in one of the online programs, finished in 20 months, and very much enjoyed “attending” classes at 1 am from my living room while dressed in my pajamas.

Having been on both sides of the interview process, it is essential that someone conducting interviews prepare and educate themselves about candidates so that they can ask informed questions--even more important than the candidates being prepared.

Dr. BlahBlah failed to realize that she was not only a faculty member, but the chief recruiter for her program. As a result, she should have asked about my interests to structure the conversation, known or at least been able to describe the composition of students, their backgrounds, and why they attended. Her comments about police and her defensiveness about items on her CV were simply awful.

Unfortunately, this was the worst interview ever and I was glad to put it behind me.


mrs. fuzz said...


Especially this part: “Police officers are too jaded by the work and do not make good students.” She explained that most officers have a limited perspective of the public and refuse to change their thinking despite empirical evidence.

I find it surprising that she was the director/recruiter for that program.

What an awful interview. Funny now looking back?

mappchik said...

I'm with mrs. fuzz - Strange.

If the director felt police officers are so jaded by work that they are not open to changing their thinking, where does she think they get the idea to become students?

I'd think if you (and other officers) are enrolling in programs like hers, it shows you're open to new ideas and growth, and would make fantastic students. Plus the added benefit of bringing real world experience to the discussion, for those CJ students who have nothing but academics.

Slamdunk said...

Maybe I caught her on a really bad day and she needed to vent.

Thinking back it is funny and was good--it solidified my decision that an distance education degree from a traditional institution was the right choice for me.