Some institutions of higher learning use the Phone Interview for an initial screening of candidates on the medium short list (for various positions at various levels) before deciding on the short short list of candidates to interview in person. For some positions (e.g., a sabbatical replacement or postdoc), the phone interview might be the only interview, especially if the candidate is on another continent and there are financial and/or time pressures to fill the position.
I have been on the interviewer end of quite a few phone interviews, but I have never been the interviewee. I use "phone" here rather loosely -- some of these interviews have involved a conference call using telephones, whereas others have involved various forms of video conferencing, in which some or all of the people involved can see each other on a computer monitor or on a big screen via projection.
I do not like phone interviews, although I realize that they are necessary in certain situations. Last summer and fall, I did quite a few phone interviews whilst I was traveling and I found this very logistically challenging. For one of them I ended up sprinting through the streets of a European town when my cell phone died and I couldn't find a functioning pay phone. Working out a mutually convenient time for a call involving people on 4 continents was also interesting.
More typically, I am in my office or a conference room for the phone interview, and a group of faculty collects for the event.
Here I summarize the pros and cons of phone interviews for the interviewer; feel free to add items from the point of view of the interviewee if you have experienced an e-interview:
- cheap and efficient!
- you can take notes without making the interviewee self-conscious
Hmm. Is that all the pros or am I unjustly biased by my dislike of talking on the phone?
- conversations are more awkward without the in-person cues you get to help guide the conversation; during phone interviews, people inadvertently interrupt each other often and there's a lot of "Sorry, go ahead" kinds of conversational fragments
- the extent of interaction is much more limited; you feel like you have to get all your questions in during the one conversation and there is less of an opportunity for the discussion to evolve
- embarrassment: During a recent slew of phone interviews, one of the people involved could not distinguish between the voices of the two American women and this created a few difficult moments before I learned to say "This is FSP and I am wondering..".
- my own personal preference: Did I mention that I hate talking on the phone? I think I would actually prefer an internet chat interview -- has anyone done this?
I wonder if there are people who are eliminated from consideration because of an awkward phone interview, whereas these people would do really well in an in-person interview; or vice versa. Or are phone interviews an effective method of reducing a long list of qualified people to a shorter list or even to one preferred candidate?
I must say that in the phone interviews I have done in recent years, I am always relieved when I can hang up the phone, but I have in every case been very pleased with the candidates selected via this interview method.
Perhaps this method of interviewing will become even more common owing to the financial allure of e-interviews, but it's difficult to imagine that it would ever take the place of the 2-3 day interviewfest that most places currently use to select human beings as colleagues.
6 months ago