Monday, July 31, 2017

Skype interviews are not going away

Credit: Prof. David Cahill
Via Jeff Moore on Twitter, a fantastic presentation by Prof. David Cahill of UIUC's Department of Material Sciences and Engineeering on his thoughts on faculty hiring. If you're a faculty candidate, you should really read the whole thing.

I'm still bothered by the rise in Skype interviews (you can't tell me that you're not influenced by staring at someone's face for 30 minutes on a screen), but I think they are here to stay (and have been for ~5 years now.)

It will be interesting to think about what kind of second- and third-order effects this change will have on the job market.... 

15 comments:

  1. I came from that department. The graduate seminars often were faculty candidate talks, and it seemed like a terrible experience for all involved.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Same here. A few I remember not getting a job:

    The guy who didn't have a backup plan for computer problems and kept a whole auditorium waiting 30 minutes (in the days when computers were glitchier, and you were expected to bring transparencies as a plan B).

    The woman who packed 3 or 4 hours of material into a standard 50-minute UIUC seminar slot, and talked 100 MPH without taking a breath the whole time!

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a fantastic presentation, kudos to Prof. Cahill.

    His point that top flight researchers tended to be top flight teachers made me pause for a second before I realized he was right. From past experience, the teachers in university who were awful weren't, in fact, the really good researchers there were the second rate researchers who thought they were top of the heap....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I vividly remember a graduate level biochemistry class taught by a NAS member, revered by the other faculty in his area. He had built a research career on seeing possibilities other scientists had not seen, and documenting them with experiments no one else thought of. As a teacher? He didn't see what the students couldn't understand, and took the lectures in directions no one else was thinking of. It was awful.

      Delete
    2. "top flight researchers tended to be top flight teachers"

      Ironically, Cahill is an amazing scientist, but I found him to be a sub-par teacher.

      This is a fiction that academics tell themselves to justify their existence. If you reject it, the entire enterprise of academic science crumbles. The self-evident truth...that the skills needed for teaching undergraduates has very overlap with those needed to do world-class research...is an existential threat that must be rejected.

      Delete
  4. Don't get the hate for Skype. Less awkward than a group phone call ("wait, who said that?").

    If it broadens the pool at a later stage of the process, that means more applicants "have a shot" at the gig.

    They're gonna have to see your face eventually.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hate is probably too strong of a word, but definitely "discomfort" or "unease." I guess that I dislike the concept of Skype interviews the same way that I dislike the European tradition of putting pictures on CVs - it introduces information that should be irrelevant to the process (age/race/gender/looks, etc.)

      I think you're right that the Illinois Skype process does broaden the quality of the initial electronic screening interaction (i.e. it's a better, longer interaction than a phone interview).

      It doesn't matter what I think anyway - this is happening, and it's not going to go in a different direction.

      Delete
    2. I am pretty awful looking, without a commanding voice or anything that might lend me an advantage for audiovisual transmissions, but my only Skype interview to date led to employment. Similarly, my father who is approaching retirement age, recently applied for a job with a Skype interview, and he fretted over what they'd think of his grey hair and wrinkles - he too got the job. So let my family's anecdotes be comfort to anyone out there who thinks they'll be judged by their appearance.. unless our qualities, or lack thereof, are what's sought after?

      Delete
    3. Well, that's a good sign for those of us (myself included) who are awful-looking and/or have grey hair. Thanks for your relevant comment!

      Delete
    4. No need to be down on the grey hair....George Clooney, Anderson Copper, and Steve Carell are examples to all of us!

      Delete
  5. I am never a fan of Skype interviews. Your body language, posture and even manner of speaking can be very different when the person is not in the room and is giving the illusion of not even directly looking at you. That being said, I still prefer them to phone interviews which I intensely dislike and find awkward all round (although I have to say that I have only had a phone interview not lead to an on-site once).

    ReplyDelete
  6. I dislike Skype in a business setting anyway, I find it disconcerting that if I look directly at the other person it looks like I'm looking away, and if I look directly at the webcam I can't see the person I'm speaking with.

    I've read a few reports about bias in interviewing recently too, thoughts about removing visual elements from interviews are pretty interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On second thoughts, this comment didn't make any of the sense I wanted it to, so it's gone >_<

      Delete
  8. I lose interest in a job if they want a Skype interview. It makes both parties look bad. Key and Peele did a great skit about it.

    ReplyDelete