Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Skyperviews Have Begun. A Report from Yuri.

So, we have a junior position open this year, and we started our Skyperviews this week. I've never sat through them before; I'm used to the awful conference call set up around a squawk box.

This was different, better at times, worse at others. I think it ruined the chances of a couple of folks, but it's early.

  • One guy seemed to be balancing his laptop on his, well, lap, and the camera shake was disorienting. After a while I stopped looking at our monitor because I was getting motion sickness.
  • One young woman picked up her webcam twice to pan it over some books on a shelf behind her. She was showing the wealth of her background reading. But all I saw were about 9 troll dolls that freaked me out.
  • One older gentleman was clearly using the device for the first time. He rarely looked at the camera, peering directly at us in his monitor. I saw more of the top of his head than I wanted to.
  • One person kept wiping at his/her nose, not sniffling, just a tic of some kind, nerves? But it made most of us want to scratch our nose, and I think we all did.
  • There was classical music playing softly in the background of one interview.
  • Two people had their cell phones near them and one in fact looked and picked it up once during a question I was asking. I hate cell phone beeps, and they were especially loud over our monitor.
  • I saw a child and two dogs.
  • One guy said he preferred Skype interviews to in person interviews because he only had to dress from the waist up. I got the impression he thought this was extraordinarily funny.
  • One person looked so intently into the camera that I got a little nervous.
  • One person, after the goodbyes, but before any of us hit the end button, softly said, "Fuck."

19 comments:

  1. Screw this; all webcams look like shit; they need a camcorder on a tripod hooked to the laptop. But that requires money and some sort of "set."

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    1. Forgot to add: that was me writing to "Dr. T-Shirt", not a hoaxer.

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  2. In a way, this isn't entirely surprising. Part of me wants to ask what a search committee expects when they parachute themselves into somebody else's house. I'll grant you the candidates need to think about how they can best present themselves over a new technology that isn't going to go away. On the other hand, the committee shouldn't really be surprised that the candidates (struggling adjuncts and postdocs for the most part) don't have a mahogany table to sit around, or high end audio-visual equipment on their battered laptops.

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  3. Well spotted, Yuri. I think I've skyped that last candidate before. I remember a gigantic shoulder slump as he/she was reaching to press end. I thought, "it wasn't so hard, was it? You got to talk about yourself!"

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  4. I fear the Skype interview!!! I do not have a nice spot to set-up at in my home.

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  5. Yes, it's all about a neutral background, I think. One must make sure there's good enough lighting so your face is clearly seen. It feels a bit unnatural perhaps to you, but it matters more that you can be seen!

    Also, look into the camera, not the monitor...seriously. Of course it'd be nice to pick up some visual cues as you talk, but looking away from the camera just looks odd.

    And I know it's newer technology and we can't all be able to have the best camera or best background, but if you have a chair and a blank wall and $10 camera, it's going to be fine.

    Oh, don't MOVE so much. Smile when you talk. Remember that people are looking at you...

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    1. That's good advice...unless you teach film. I am always appalled when the people we interview haven't thought about the image.

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  6. Some of those sound more like observations and not criticisms.

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    1. Are they all supposed to be criticisms????????

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  7. This sounds like a book waiting to happen: Skype Interviews for Dummies.

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  8. This prospect scares me, too, but I've also found myself thinking about the possibility as I decorate/arrange my apartment (which seems to be a much longer-extended process than I originally intended).

    I was going to say that I fear that familiarity with Skyping might be one of those areas in which younger Ph.D.s have an advantage over older ones, but then I thought about how well my students deal with the technology involved with Skype conferences, and decided that probably isn't so.

    The whole where-to-look thing is tricky, though. There must be some way to rig up a camera and screen in a way that allows one to look into the camera and still have some sense of what's going on on the screen. I feel like my experience reading music while also watching a choir director should be relevant somehow, but I can't figure out exactly how (except to think that maybe it would work better to have the screen above the camera, rather than vice versa), and then I find myself with yet another age-related concern: graduated lenses might make things more complicated.

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    1. And more than half of what we say is modulated and modified by what people's body language is saying, so it's impossible to both regulate that and look at the camera (thereby missing true frowns or shifts in expression).

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    2. Maybe suspend the camera in the middle of the screen with one of those gorillapod thingies, or similar? Sounds like there are some business opportunities here -- the book, and the technical setup (especially something that would make a relatively cheap camera/screen setup work better).

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  9. These observations are really interesting and helpful. It's always good to "see" things from the other side of the camera! I especially loved the "fuck" at the end because I could see myself doing that.

    I wonder if such a book will be coming out. It does seem called for. In the meantime, I'm bookmarking this just in case I, my husband (or more likely, one of my kids) has a Skype interview!

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  10. Last year I sent applications to a number of places, and one of them landed me my first Skype interview ever. It made sense in that case, since the target U was in the UK. The interview was completely unremarkable. I dressed a little more nicely than usual and tested the video in advance, adjusting the height (by setting the laptop up on a stack of books) so I was looking straight at the camera, and also checking the lighting and the background. I was interviewed by three people (one more junior than myself), and there were no unpredictable questions and no technical questions about my current work. (The person closest to my research in that department wasn't one of the interviewers, a bad sign.) They seemed mildly interested in why someone tenured and in mid-career in the US would consider a move to the UK at this point, taking a pay cut and a demotion in rank. Good, but highly predictable question.

    I didn't make it to the next stage, and I suspect the Skype thing was purely pro-forma; my vita is pretty good, so maybe somebody told them they more or less had to, even if they never had any intention of hiring me.(What do they call it? "Not fitting the desired profile".)

    We don't do Skype interviews here, and frankly I don't see what the point is; what do you expect to find out about the candidate, his/her ethnicity/age/accent? Reading applications and ranking the top five or six (plus five more for a secondary list) is a fairly straightforward process (our searches are focused on a single research area), then have them over for campus interviews. Not that those are that informative, except to confirm that the candidates can give a general talk, and that they can function in an academic setting under a mild amount of pressure.

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    1. Oh, and I was in my office, which is nice and big and filled with books and papers.

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    2. If I were going to do a Skype interview, I'd want to use my office too, if possible. The only problem would be people interrupting! How did you avoid that?

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    3. That possibility didn't even occur to me. I never get unexpected visitors to my office. Oh, maybe twice a semester. Anyway, the door was closed.

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