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Green grass of the interview blues

The grass is always greener, runs the old adage. And you can't help but notice that in all workplaces there are large numbers of people who firmly believe this. I would like to put it on record, therefore, that I have found a "somewhere else" that does not do it better. Indeed all indicators suggest they do it much worse.

This realisation came during an interview with a prospective student from the US. Right from the start, I couldn't help noticing how often she smiled and said "thank you".

Whether or not I really deserved this I wasn't sure. Yes, I was providing civility and a veneer of efficiency. I hadn't lost her papers, and I knew something about the course she had applied to join. And given that her name was Susannah, I'd only managed to call her Susan once.

But no, she said, I just couldn't imagine how grateful she was to find somebody who knew what she was talking about. The day before, she'd been for a similar interview at another college. She named it but, given what follows, I won't.

First, they had lost her application. "I did it online," she told them. "That would account for it then," they said. Then they declined to tell her which course they were considering her for.

Next they sat her down to take literacy and numeracy tests in the same room. "All the time," she said, "the teachers were joking with one another and I couldn't concentrate."

When the results came out, they told her that her numeracy was better than her literacy, even though she hadn't actually been asked to write anything. This didn't add up she knew her maths was lousy.

Finally, they said they were happy to offer her a place. "On which course?" she asked. They hadn't decided yet. She persevered. "At least tell me what level you think I'm at." They hadn't decided that either.

"So," she said, "I've got to decide if I want the offer, even though you can't tell what I'll be studying, or at what level?" "That's right." But we can tell you that, as an overseas student, the fee will be pound;4,600. Would you like to pay that today?

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