Skype Interviews Should Stay

Historians in the News

Lynn Lubamersky is associate professor of history at Boise State University.

When I was a graduate student, I hoped that one day I'd make it to the "meat market" – the interviews at the American Historical Association convention, where history departments interview candidates for tenure-track jobs. Freshly-minted Ph.D.s travel to Boston, Chicago, or New York during one of the most expensive travel times of the year for initial interviews.

Once, when the AHA was held in San Francisco, I attended and watched my former teaching assistant interview. Rooms were in such short supply that the university could not get an interview suite and she had to shout to be heard above the din of the cocktail lounge to make the case for why she should get one of the three on-campus interviews. Needless to say, the "meat market" is really not the best way to determine who is best for the job, since it requires graduate students to spend money at a time in their academic lives when they may have little of it, and it takes place in an artificial environment where it's difficult for people to show who they really are.

Now some history departments like mine have tried Skype to do initial screening interviews, and I think that it is a much more humane and effective method of seeing who is best for the job. At first, I thought that using Skype was useful because it is free, but that we should return to the AHA when the economy improves. But now I feel that interviewing via Skype is a better way to find the best job candidates.

Why? Because job-seekers are not required to travel across the country and the world to pay for the opportunity to be interviewed, and they have more control over the presentation of self. Instead of all the candidates appearing relatively the same in a sterile environment, the job candidates interview in their own offices or even kitchens, taking the opportunity to position themselves to best advantage.

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