Friday, December 31, 2010

Skype Versus The Eastern APA

There's a funny thread going on at Leiter the past few days about the prospect of Skype interviews replacing in-person interviews at the APA. The advantages of Skype are obvious and obviously decisive: they are less costly; do not require candidates or interviewers to travel across state lines; do not require people to cram all 12 interviews into a two-day period; are better for the environment; provide for greater flexibility in holiday travel plans; reduce the likelihood that you will be stranded by a blizzard or that you will be involved in a hotel fire; et cetera.

The advantages of interviewing at the Eastern APA meeting are more difficult to state in a precise and fair manner. There's no substitute for meeting face-to-face, and we've been doing it this way for as long as anyone can remember. One guy seems to think that we should keep doing the APA thing because when his wife tried to find a job in the "private sector," it was costly and stressful--she had to buy new clothes, print out and mail application materials, stuff like that. Another guy seems to think that the proponents of Skype interviews don't like the E-APA because they are too chicken to attend philosophy conferences at all. Another guy says he doesn't see what the big deal is because our line of work is flexible and so you can see your family lots of times of year besides the holidays. (Maybe some of these are the same guy. Too lazy to look it up.)

These are, of course, really stupid reasons. I think the analogy with "private sector" jobs is instructive, actually. Suppose you live in Omaha and you're applying for a job with a firm in Salt Lake City. Suppose the holidays are coming up, and you were hoping to take your spouse and your offspring to spend a holiday traditionally and typically regarded by Americans as extremely important with your parents in Charlotte. Suppose the Salt Lake City people call you up and say that they want to interview you, but they want you and the other candidates to spend your own money to fly to Boston, stay at the Marriott in Copley Square where they've reserved a block of rooms, and that they're interviewing only on the 28th, 29th, and 30th of December so they hope you didn't make any firm holiday plans. Suppose they say, other firms will be holding interviews in Boston, too, so maybe, if you're lucky, you'll be flying to Boston for more than just this one interview. Suppose that they also say that although they realize that Boston is one of the oldest and most historic cities in America, they want you to keep your evenings free because a crucial and mandatory part of the interview process is a reception they're holding in a weird crowded bar where Bud Lights cost $11 and where you will be required to wander around, waiting for an opportunity to sit down with them and maybe some of your competitors to schmooze and bullshit for a while.

I think this arrangement sounds fucking crazy. I think that when I tell non-philosophers about how the job market works, they think it sounds fucking crazy. And that's because it is fucking crazy. It is fucking crazy. I realize that the APA interview has been the standard thing, but we live in the future and we have video phones like in the Jetsons.

Obviously, Skype is not perfect. Things can go wrong. But come on. Things can go wrong with anything--even flying to Boston in the dead of fucking winter. And are you really so worried about the technical difficulties involved with Skype that you'd rather avoid them by spending your own money to fly to Boston the day after Christmas so you can meet the Salt Lake City people face-to-face in a crowded ballroom in the Marriott Hotel in Copley Square? No, you're not.

--Mr. Zero

P.S. Happy New Year!

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

These rants by whiners are getting old. Buck it up, young buck! I recall years ago getting invited to interview at Imperial College in SoCal. I had to get there and back on my own dime. I had to pay for a hotel and all related expenses. I didn't have more than $10 to my name (I had been unemployed for 6 months). I begged them for an alternative. If you think about it, it's another form of discrimination: discrimination against those without the financial means. I borrowed money from my parents, did the interview and didn't get the job. I'm still convinced to this day that the reason I did not get hired was that I complained. I started whining, just like you're doing now. Take some personal responsibility for your situation, shut up and grow up!!

Mr. Zero said...

I borrowed money from my parents, did the interview and didn't get the job.

Bummer.

I'm still convinced to this day that the reason I did not get hired was that I complained.

Perhaps you complained to the wrong people. Unlike you, I am not complaining to my potential employers. I write under a pseudonym so as to prevent people from being able to not hire me for being such a whiner.

Take some personal responsibility for your situation, shut up and grow up!!

I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you're talking about.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I am relatively powerless here. I'm not on a search committee; I'm not on any APA committees; I don't have a tenure track job and my extra-curricular time is best spent trying to secure one.

One thing I do have going for me is that is that I have ridden the coattails of the Philosophy Job Market Bloggers, which has given me the opportunity to write for a relatively widely-read blog that deals with issues of concern to the untenured. And in this capacity I am trying to encourage people to abandon the APA-interview model in favor of videoconferencing. And in order to do that, I have explained why I think the APA-interview model is crazy and sucks. So what you call "whining" I call "doing my part."

Anonymous said...

We all know who you are, Mr. Zero. Don't delude yourself.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I wish I knew who you are, Mr. Zero; I'd send you flowers for all the good work you do here.

Anonymous said...

Flowers and PFO letter on the way, Mr. Zero. Happy new year to all the anonymous (or so you think) whiners out there!

Anonymous said...

Winter started December 21st -- FIVE days before the start of the Eastern APA. We are hardly in the dead of fucking winter you hyperbolic moron.

Anonymous said...

Suck it up smokers. Not because you should. Just because you must.

Anonymous said...

There's always a job waiting for you at WalMart....or food stamps. Even Starbucks is now out of reach for most of us. Happy New Years, smokers!

Anonymous said...

It is idiotic and lazy to file solid points in favor of Skype interviews under the rubric of "whinig."
Happy new year fella smokers!

Anonymous said...

That business about being too chicken really pisses me off. And did you notice that when someone complained and said we should have some compassion for folks with social anxiety disorder, Leiter stepped in to note that not all people who are shy have a disorder?

I'm not sure what that was supposed to mean. If the context was the issue whether we should feel and express a little compassion, then noting that not all who are shy have a disorder means what, exactly? Perhaps: there's really no need to feel or express compassion for those who are just shy, since they deserve whatever failure comes their way as a result?

Pound Foolish said...

"There's no substitute for meeting face-to-face...."

I'm not sure you should even concede that much. As far as I can tell, the only thing benefited is our biases. Face-to-face meetings make it easier for us to be swayed by factors such as looks and charm. Insofar as you think those should not be factored into the hiring process, face-to-face is a negative and skipping interviews altogether is a beneficial substitution.

Of course, the same can be said for Skype, phone, and fly-outs.

In my opinion, until search committees are trained in conducting interviews, they should refrain from conducting them. Certainly that is what I will tell my colleagues, assuming we ever have the funding to hire again.

The only refrain I seem to hear is some variation on the nutter-detection line; but, the problem is that most philosophers are shit-poor nutter detectors. Any other reason to conduct interviews except for the (I think mistaken) belief that first-impressions are reliable indicators of how good of a colleague someone would be?

Anonymous said...

This is the way that it is, therefore this is the way it ought to be.

Anonymous said...

Oh my fucking god! Anon 6:17 is a whiny wanker. You sound like a misinformed Ayn Rand follower. (Sorry, that's a redundant term.)

GP said...

Mr. Zero & other Smokers,

As someone who frequented this blog obsessively when I was on the market, & who still checks in regularly to see how things are going, I'm deeply grateful for the authenticity and insight that it provides. (I'm actually not being facetious, for once.) Pay no attention to the haters, and know that there are T-T & tenured folks who read this, and are fighting tooth and nail to increase the quantity and quality of jobs for just the sort of folks that read & post here.

Bobcat said...

I think part of the reason that the debate on Leiter is taking the shape it is is that the two sides to the debate are using different standards of evaluation.

The pro-Skypers are pointing out there are tremendous financial, environmental, emotional, and fairness benefits for using Skype over using APA interviews. In other words, pro-Skypers are doing a cost-benefit analysis and are discovering that the benefits of using Skype *far* outweigh its costs. In other words, pro-Skypers are using a cost-benefit analysis (for lack of a better term) that's taking into account about as wide an array of relevant factors as they can.

On the other hand, anti-Skypers aren't really using a cost-benefit analysis; or at least, they're not using a cost-benefit analysis that takes all factors into consideration. They seem to be concerned with only one factor, which is: how much information can departments and candidates get about each other via Skype vs. via traditional interviewing (where "traditional interviewing" includes not just face-to-face interviewing but face-to-face interviewing at a convention where candidates and committee-members can meet again later)? They think that we can get better information about each other via traditional interviewing than we can get via using Skype. And if we can, then we should use Skype.

I bring up this difference in evaluative standards because I think that if we take notice of it, the anti-Skypers seem less crazy. They're concerned about making the interview as good as possible, no matter the other costs. The reason they're concerned about this, I think, is that for many departments (and for every candidate) this is a really big decision. Like, it affects departmental life for a long time and of course it affects the candidate's life a lot. Consequently, the anti-Skypers want to maximize the chances that this decision is made properly, even if the chances improve only by a little bit, and even if the costs of doing so are a lot.

Of course, from what I know it's not clear that interviewing via Skype is any worse than interviewing in the traditional manner. But if you thought that Skype was clearly worse than the traditional manner, and you reasoned as I did in the paragraph above, what would be the main problems with that reasoning? (I ask this question as someone who hasn't yet made up his mind about what to think.)

Anonymous said...

6:17 is either a troll or a true philosopher, or both. In the Imperial College scenario, borrowing money from one's parents is hardly 'taking personal responsibility', more like passing the buck.

Anonymous said...

6:17 is not whining, s/he's saying that we are asking for too much in a market without enough jobs to go around. The reality is that most of us will end up with non-academic jobs, whether we do skype or in person interviews is irrelevant. Since we cannot control the number of jobs, we're grasping at straws, trying to control the interview methods. Even if we're successful at changing the interview methods, most of us will have to leave academe for greener pastures. So we should just suck it up, borrow money from the parents, brave winter storms, do whatever is asked of us, or bow out and settle for a non-academic job. This makes perfect sense. Only the most persistent will survive this market. Why cater to the lazy, who don't want to travel to APA to interview and just want to "earn" a job based on their pedigree and good looks?

Anonymous said...

Here's a question for those whose APA interviews were canceled on account of the storm: how much (or little) notice are departments giving in scheduling make-up interviews?

I recently woke-up to find an email requesting a phone interview within six hours of the time-stamp on the email. (Interviewing a day later was also a possibility. Also, I don't have any reason to believe the SC's trying to hire someone quickly before the position is eliminated for budgetary reasons).

The short notice isn't a problem for me, though I could see it being one for other candidates. The situation does however underscore the tremendously greater flexibility which Skype/phone interviews allow in contrast to the traditional APA interview.

CTS said...

I'm posting here what I posted at LR:

I have been following this conversation and related ones at other sites. I finally have some views, though nothing like a position.
1) I do not think video interviews are ‘equal to’ in-person interviews in character. But, that does not mean that they cannot work well enough, and, given the costs involved, they might be a good replacement option. (Although, differences in IT support might be greater than some imagine.)
2) My own department will never want to give up one first round interviews. Perhaps it is a matter of our being in a small liberal arts college, but we do not ‘know’ who our top 4 or 5 are before the interviews. We usually have some expectations, to be sure, but we have often found ourselves disabused of them by the interviews.
3) I’m intrigued by the idea that the APA should not ‘support’ the on-site interview system. What might the resulting situation look like? More in-room interviews? No thanks; as an older female philosopher, I never want to see anyone go through that again. University systems renting spaces to interview while smaller places – like my own – send their SCs searching for a place to do whatever interviews they would like to do? Hmm.
I assume that we would, at least, still want the APA to help the candidates by managing files, advertising unexpected positions, conveying messages, and so forth – at least until no one was doing interviews or any job-related business at the meetings of any division? So, there might still be quite a bit of APA involvement in the near future.
4) It does seem to me that the crux of the problem is the timing and expense of the Eastern meetings as the first – hence, most important – hiring meeting.
Skype or other video interviews at the same time of year will not resolve all of the temporal issues. Picture the scene 10 years from now with all interviews done by such methods: candidates will feel they cannot leave their institutions’ locale for fear of not being able to do the interviews via internet. If they are near family and have access to the required technology, they and their families will still feel that the holidays are ruined by the tensions surrounding the job market.
A different time for the major interviewing and less expensive locations for the conference are the best solution, in my opinion. Of course, programs that prefer to use video interviewing can and will do so. For everyone else, much of the misery and cost could be reduced.
5) I’m horrified to read that we do not drink as much as the historians. Perhaps we have more discriminating tastes?


I'm sorry if all that is too much. I really, truly have come to think it is the timing and locations that are the central problem.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:35

Borrowing money from parents isn't passing the buck if you have to repay it. My mom's worse than a loanshark. She'd take a finger or a period of indentured servitude for each month I was late in repayment.

Anonymous said...

"....are you really so worried about the technical difficulties involved with Skype that you'd rather avoid them by spending your own money to fly to Boston the day after Christmas so you can meet the Salt Lake City people face-to-face in a crowded ballroom in the Marriott Hotel in Copley Square? No, you're not."

I haven't read the discussion over at Leiter, but I'll throw in an observation about my own experience at the APA back when I was looking for work. I remember going to the smoker, where there were several people from my graduate program (students) at our table and some advisors present. My advisor said to me: "if you see school X you interviewed with today at the smoker, I'll be glad to go over and talk with them on your behalf." This kind of thing can be very useful for a candidate, as you might imagine, but doesn't seem possible with the electronic alternative. I haven't thought through all the issues skype raises, but there are certainly limitations here.

Anonymous said...

I think it's about time we start speaking truth to power. Young philosopher is either Brian Leiter's protege or a figment of Leiter's imagination.

Anonymous said...

I challenge Young Philosopher to appear in this forum and deny that s/he is Leiter or a Leiter crony.

Mr. Zero said...

I challenge Young Philosopher to appear in this forum and deny that s/he is Leiter or a Leiter crony.

What a stupid challenge. Jesus Christ.

1. Whoever he or she is, Young Philosopher is right.

2. Young Philosopher has behaved respectfully and met objections with thoughtful and cogent responses. He or she deserves to be treated with respect.

3. Say what you want about him, Brian Leiter does not hide behind sock puppets.

4. Young Philosopher's relationship with Leiter is as irrelevant as yours, anonymouses 7:31 and 8:06.

5. No more of this bullshit.

Anonymous said...

No one should ever use Leiter and sock puppet in the same sentence...all my secret fantasies will be revealed.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero, have a little respect for those of us who believe that JC is our savior.

Anonymous said...

I'm still convinced to this day that the reason I did not get hired was that I complained.

I'm not a huge Onion fan, but this article was inspired. This really is a particularly virulent sort of magical thinking in the recession-era U.S.: that if we "grow up" and "stop whining," we will be transported from the bottom to the top of the pecking order. The magic trick, the great empowerment, involves cracking down on powerless rather than powerful people. Yes, the system is not working very well, but it is the powerless and not the powerful who are fucking it all up. See also Phil Gramm.

Also, it's just hilarious to see a bunch of people criticizing another bunch of people for wanting to save money. What, you want to save money? Why would anyone want a crazy thing like that? Grown-ups don't care about saving money... apparently.

Anonymous said...

"My advisor said to me: "if you see school X you interviewed with today at the smoker, I'll be glad to go over and talk with them on your behalf." This kind of thing can be very useful for a candidate, as you might imagine, but doesn't seem possible with the electronic alternative. I haven't thought through all the issues skype raises, but there are certainly limitations here."

My first few years on the market, I didn't have anyone to fight the fight for me. Had to do it for myself. I guess I don't think it counts heavily in favor of the current system that there's an added layer of this sort of thing in the system. Aren't overinflated letters from famous references enough? We also have to give them the opportunity to press the flesh?

Sorry, does anyone think that the system does a better job awarding jobs to the meritorious if this sort of good old boy system is in place?

BunnyHugger said...

I'm a bit late to the party but I wanted to say that I fully agree with Mr. Zero's points, including -- especially -- the "fucking crazy" part.

I also want to agree with the "happy new year" part!

Anonymous said...

@7:08 who brings up a story about his advisor willing to chat with folks from SC at the smoker. Hey, if skype eliminates this kind of thing, the first round of interviews will only gain in fairness. Thumbs up to skype yet again.
Aggressive fatherly protectiveness, as practiced by some advisors, tends to fall disproportionally on white male grad students. Over the years, I'd seen it happen again and again.

Anonymous said...

Skype conversations are really awkward. And my apartment gets too much traffic noise to be suited for a Skype interview ("Don't mind the approaching wail. It's just another fire truck."). My office isn't well suited for a Skype interview either, for that matter. I'm not sure where I'd go for one.

It's way cheaper than a few days in an expensive city. But there has to be a better option for first-round interviews. Or is that wishful thinking?

Anonymous said...

Come on people, it's clear: Young Philosopher is Mr. Zero.

Big D said...

Anonymous 12:53: I would ask around about rooms dedicated to teleconferencing. In most cases, there should be a small one available.

Anonymous said...

I'm 7:08. The point of my post is that people should recognize the importance of interpersonal interactions at the APA, which skype seems to interfere with. These kinds of interactions are common in many employment situations outside of academia. How many of us got our first nonacademic jobs by a relative calling a friend, or someone making a phone call, or by being personally introduced to someone..... It is part of the normal search process and shouldn't be looked down upon (it is not about a good-old-boys club).

Anonymous said...

With regard to the questions of personal contact and advocacy at the APA raised by Anon 7.08 & 10.46, who favors it, and Anon 10.00, who thinks it's bad...

The Smoker is a terrible forum for getting to know people -precisely because of the problem of people knowing people. The first time I went, it was quite obvious that there were, in a sense, two parties going on. On one level, there were all the senior faculty and graduate students/junior faculty who had a senior person to hang on to. These people were circulating, being introduced to one another, making contacts... Grad students could make connections because they were being presented by seniors. (I was fortunate enough to be in such a group.)

But at the same time there was a sad shadow-party of juniors without anyone to introduce them. I've never been in a room so full of people standing in the corner, peeling the labels off those $11 beers, desperately hoping someone will talk to them. I saw a couple of them try to break into groups, but soon get frozen out. I'm guessing these people were from departments at smaller schools, places that couldn't afford to send anyone over to effect introductions. These people might be good candidates, but they didn't have any way of making introductions. They didn't have the connections. Through no fault of their own, they were excluded.

I can certainly say got my first nonacademic job, and indeed by first academic job, without any personal favors being called in or influence exerted through friends or power of my advisers, friends, relatives, whatever. In fact, I've never had any help from such direct connections. Not everyone has the same networks of social capital to call on. Networking at the APA only really helps those who are already within the network, or have contacts inside it. If Skype helps reduce the impact of that sort of existing inequality and creates a more level playing field in which everyone gets looked at properly, then that is surely a very strong argument in its favour.

Anonymous said...

12:53, I too find Skype conversations awkward -- although not with people I know very well already. But the noise thing shouldn't be a big issue. Just buy a cheap headset.

Anonymous said...

Now that we know Mr. Zero is Young Philosopher (and we all know the real identity of Mr. Zero), who among you writes your own Rate My Professor reviews? Who flags the nasty reviews? If a SC member Googles your name, you know that RMP reviews are the first thing s/he reads.

BunnyHugger said...

7:08/10:46 wrote:

How many of us got our first nonacademic jobs by a relative calling a friend, or someone making a phone call, or by being personally introduced to someone..... It is part of the normal search process and shouldn't be looked down upon (it is not about a good-old-boys club).

I think that is the essence of the good-old-boys network. They may not always be old, or boys, but the essential (and, I believe, deplorable) core is that it means getting a job is about who you know rather than what you have to offer. This is, of course, how it works in almost every line of work, but that does not make it ideal and it certainly does not provide a good reason in favor of keeping the APA circus.

Anonymous said...

"I think that is the essence of the good-old-boys network. They may not always be old, or boys, but the essential (and, I believe, deplorable) core is that it means getting a job is about who you know rather than what you have to offer."

I'm 7:08 and I think people are simplifying the issue here. There is a false dichotomy being portrayed. It is not "who you know" vs. "what you have to offer." In reality it is "who you know AND what you have to offer." Most candidates who get interviews are already pretty well qualified for the position. For the above statement to be true there would have to be candidates who were unqualified, but who got their jobs entirely because of who they knew. I seriously doubt this is typical of what happens in the field. It's true who you know can help in the job search, but this doesn't mean "it's a good-old-boys network." This just seems to me to be another facet of networking, which is part of any job one might be involved with.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ, what is the matter with you people? Why can't you just introduce yourself to other people like a normal human being? It's like you're still at the junior high dance.

Anonymous said...

I have to confess that I self-promote both by networking, having people vouch that I'm a good teacher-scholar, and by writing my own RMP reviews. Am I a bad person?

Anonymous said...

11:40am--

The "sad shadow-party of juniors" includes people from bigger schools too. While the placement directors, official and unofficial, go around and push for the brightest future stars, some people inevitably get left at the table or by the wall. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I have not had many APA Eastern interviews (<10) over the last five years, none with Leiter-ranked departments, and on a few occasions had only one interview. Three of those years I lived on the west coast. Some of my interviews have been decent in terms of philosophical/pedagogical content, but others have not. Further, with a couple of the jobs (and hindsight) I do not think I had the slightest chance of gettting the job. For example, one school ended up hiring the VAP and another hired a candidiate from the same graduate school as 2 out of the 3 professors in the department. Rather than spend ($500-1000) and then walk out asking why they flyed me out at all, I would much rather Skype (or some other analogue) it in.

@2:44-

I have flagged a review once. It was a negative rating that appeared a few years after I left graduate school. The reviewer claimed to have taken a course that does not exist and mentioned that I now teach at my current school. I suspect it was a disgruntled student. If the student would have posted on my current school's profile page, I think I would have left it alone. I think I can justify the distinction.

I have never created a rating for myself, nor any of my colleagues. However, I do suspect that some of them do it.

zombie said...

With a Skype interview, you can't tell if someone smells bad. Just sayin'.

The ability to weed out arrogant assholes is probably an important benefit of face-to-face meetings, but only if arrogant assholes cannot be spotted equally well via Skype. I suspect the degree of arrogance and assholishness may be a factor.

I went to my first smoker this APA, and have to say I rather enjoyed it. I was dreading it. I'm not typically one who makes the rounds at a party full of strangers. But the tables where I had interviewed were very welcoming, and I had long conversations with some individuals from the SCs. My general impression was that they were using that opportunity to get to know me a little, but also to sell me on their school. I did not have a placement advisor there to hold my hand or introduce me around. No old boys networking done on my behalf. Skype would eliminate the smokers, but, although my experience was generally positive, I don't think that should be a major argument against Skype. Because the smokers are not going to benefit everyone equally, for reasons that have little to do with one's qualifications for the job. They are about "the hang," and showing you would be a colleague someone might like to hang with in the future, but the fact that you don't do well at huge, stressful parties full of strangers doesn't prove that you wouldn't still be a good person to hang with.

Anon 6:17, not everyone has parents they can borrow a lot of money from. Telling someone to "grow up" and borrow money from their parents is just silly. Telling someone to take "personal responsibility" for an unfair situation that is not, in fact, a result of anything within their zone of control or responsibility makes no sense. I'm sure you're "convinced to this day that the reason [you] did not get hired was that [you] complained," but I bet there was more to it than that. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Bobcat's post didn't get more attention here. It seems spot on. As someone who has chaired SCs and will likely be serving on more soon, I have had the following reaction to the discussion here and on Leiter's blog: It is a no-brainer that in-person interviews are preferable to Skype in order to better assess job candidates for "fit" with our institution. Nevertheless, I'll be recommending that we move to Skype interviews for the first round. The burden that such interviews would remove from job candidates far outweighs whatever advantage I happen to believe in-person interviews have.

Anonymous said...

Zombie,
There's a reason that you don't have a TT job and that you are socially awkward at large parties. I won't tell you why though. I'll let you figure it out.

Anonymous said...

I'm not on the job market this year, but I plan to go out next year. It sounds like lots of departments conducted phone or skype interviews this year. If one happens to get an interview request, would it be disastrous to request or to ask about doing such an interview in lieu of a standard interview at the APA? It seems to me that given that departments have been forced to conduct distance interviews this year, they may be more open to opting for them in the future.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9.31

Don't anticipate that the customs of recruiting will change that quickly. I would do exactly what is easiest for the search committee in this regard unless you have a very good and compelling reason (which you can also communicate to them) about why you need special arrangements.

Bobcat said...

@Anonymous 10:30 AM, 1/4/11:

Thanks for replying. I think you and I may have a disagreement, however: my point was not just that APA interviews do a better job in giving departments information about candidates, but also a better job in giving candidates information about departments. Not only can the candidates meet them face-to-face, they can also meet them at the smoker. It also gives candidates more tools to impress departments. That said, it also disadvantages some candidates -- those who aren't as good at chatting in-person, those who aren't as good at schmoozing, etc. -- they will be disadvantaged, and that may be soon by some as unfair (though I wouldn't see it as any more unfair than our practice of rating some candidates more highly because we think their research better; for most institutions, research is just as relevant/irrelevant as comfort in social settings. Or so it seems to me before my first cup of coffee this morning!).

Asstro said...

FWIW, I'm a fan of the face-to-face over the Skype format, but the point is taken that in some circumstances, Skype can serve as a suitable alternative.

I guess I'd just make this observation, which doesn't appear to have been made. There are certainly some people who feel they would "perform better" on a Skype interview than in person; and there are certainly other people who feel they would perform better on a face-to-face interview. I suspect there are strengths to both, and given some of the noise here, these personal suspicions about performance can't be factored out. Skype probably places some extremely personable and interactive candidates at a disadvantage against the less personable and interactive candidates; and face-to-face interviews probably place more monological candidates at a disadvantage compared to the interactive candidates.

These attributes of the candidates are sorta style-related (which is to say, irrelevant to scholarship); and one or the other medium will work better for showcasing one or the other attribute.

Personally, I tend to speak quickly and interact intensely with my interviewees and interviewers. Skype clips this possibility, making me feel artificially cramped and constrained. I suspect that this contributes to my distaste for it.

Anonymous said...

Another consideration: if applicants are being hired to teach in a live classroom, their physical presence and even charisma is going to matter. That some will discriminate for (and against) beauty should not keep interviewers from gathering important information about physical presence. The APA is not too soon in the process to do this; waiting until campus visits may well be.

Anonymous said...

Another consideration: if applicants are being hired to teach in a live classroom, their physical presence and even charisma is going to matter.

I agree that these are relevant considerations. But I'm skeptical that they're effectively assessed in a 25 minute meeting in the grand ballroom. Not only that, what counts as charisma and physical presence for the 18-22 crowd is not necessarily the same as that which resonates with a committee of professional philosophers, aged 40 and over. (For me at least, one of the reasons why in-class observations are so distracting is because I comport myself differently to a 19 year-old than I would to a professional philosopher).

I also think it's worth emphasizing that there are other "people skills" which are deployed over the long term (e.g. a 15 week semester) and which can sometimes offset a candidate's perceived lack of charisma. Obviously, those aren't easy to gauge in any kind of interview format. But I question the superiority of APA ballroom interviews for assessing the skills which make one an effective teacher in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 8:22: Who said the ballroom is ideal? Still: some information is better than none. And surely there are ways to improve the initial face-to-face, but that's not (yet) an argument for Skype.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 8:22: Who said the ballroom is ideal? Still: some information is better than none

Anon 8:22 here. The ludicrous idea that 'the ballroom is ideal for APA interviews' is not a claim I've attributed to anyone. Nor did I advocate any interviewing procedure which would yield significantly less, or even 'no', information. My comment questioned the superiority of APA interviews over Skype interviews for assessing pedagogically relevant characteristics, such as "charisma" and "physical presence."