From The Profession column of the March 2011 issue of Perspectives on History

Telephone and Video Interviews for Academic Hiring: Some Guidelines

AHA Professional Division, March 2011

As recent articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education demonstrate, at least some history departments are beginning to use phone or video interviews in lieu of interviewing at annual meetings and conferences. Phone and video interviews are a cost-effective way (for both departments and candidates) to narrow the pool of those who will be invited for on-campus interviews. The increasing use of phone and video interviews means that both interviewing departments and candidates need to keep certain things in mind. The AHA's Professional Division prepared the following document to offer guidelines for such interviews. The AHA's Council approved the document at its meeting on January 5, 2011.

For Interviewing Departments/Institutions

  • Decide in advance how interviews will be conducted. Will they all be via phone, via a video conferencing client, or a combination of both methods?

  • Decide whether you will conduct the interviews all in one day or in several time slots. If you decide to conduct interviews over several days, make every effort to ensure that the interview committee remains the same.

  • Ensure that faculty have the appropriate technology and feel confident using it.

  • When calling to arrange the interviews, convey clearly to candidates how long the interview will be, who will call whom, who will participate (sending a list to the candidate would be helpful), and what technology is required for the interview.

  • Remember to take into account time zone differences.

  • Don't assume that all interviewees have access to the same technology. Be aware that requests to interview using a particular platform may incur expense or inconvenience for some candidates.

  • Job notices or application forms and all communications with candidates should state that applicants who need accommodation for a phone or video interview should request this in advance.

  • Before the interview, determine the order in which the interviewers will ask questions just as you would for a conference interview.

  • Be sure to test speakerphone, teleconferencing, or web-based video client.

  • As the interview begins, introduce the individuals participating in the interview and describe how the interview will be conducted.

  • Remember that during a phone interview it may be difficult for the candidate to remember who is speaking. Repeat your name each time you speak.

  • Be sensitive to the fact that if you are on the phone the candidate won't be able to see your body language. Offer more verbal cues: "Thank you for that answer," etc.

  • Interviewees for whom English is not the primary language may be at a disadvantage, especially during telephone interviews. Strategize about how to make this process as fair as possible to them.

  • The same questions should be asked of all applicants during each telephone/video interview.

  • Departments should make every effort to use a video chat client that allows for multiple participants.

For Candidates

    • Make sure you understand the technological requirements for the interview.

    • When scheduling take time zone differences into account.

    • If you are participating in a telephone interview make every effort to use a landline. You will have a better connection than on your cell phone and you will not risk the call being dropped.

    • If you are doing a video interview, ensure that you have a reliable internet connection.

    • Do your best to remove all distractions and background noise, such as barking dogs, the sound of kids playing, ringing cell phones and doorbells.

    • If you are having a video chat interview (e.g. on Skype or another video conferencing client) be aware of your appearance; dress as you would for an in-person interview. Also be aware of what appears in the background. A neutral background (a plain wall) or a professional background (a bookcase, for example) is best.

    • Speak directly into your phone, headset, or microphone and make sure your interviewers can hear you.

    • Let each person finish before you begin speaking.

    • Some candidates find it helpful to print out interviewing faculty members' profiles so they can put a face to the name in phone interviews.

    • Have your application materials next to you when the school calls you.

    • Practice answering some questions over the phone or via videoconference. Your career center should be able to help you with this type of practice run. If not, enlist a friend or colleague.

    • If the interviewers don't say much, feel free to ask occasional questions to see whether or not they're with you: "Would you like me to say more about that?" "Was that clear?" "Have I answered your concern about that?"