An in-person interview for semifinalist candidates is a tried-and-true way to help search committees determine qualifications and fit for leadership positions. But it is expensive for institutions and difficult to schedule both for committee members and candidates. We have seen a number of committees opt for a Skype interview to help narrow the pool of qualified candidates. This can be effective if well prepared.
First, the technology used must be reliable; it is not helpful to have connections cut in and out as a candidate is trying to answer questions. If committee members are preoccupied with the capability of the technology, they are not focused on having a productive conversation with the candidate.
Secondly, the set-up must allow for a conversation. The candidate must be able to see committee members, and all committee members must be able to see the candidate. These interviews should give committees a chance to experience the candidate as a person, not a disembodied voice. The technology must be robust enough to allow for follow-up and reactions from both committee and candidate to flow freely.
Lastly, the preparation of questions must be as thorough as with in-person interviews. A committee’s ability to learn how a candidate might function in your setting depends on concrete, well-thought-out questions that seek to learn what the candidate has done in situations similar to those that will be confronted in the new position. And the questions must also elicit a sense of the person and how this candidate will fit into the culture of the institution.
A technologically enabled semifinalist interview must be extensive enough to gauge a candidate’s preparation and interest in the position. Don’t make the interview shorter than an in-person interview. You must work as a committee to create an atmosphere of give and take, so you can get a sense of both competence and fit for your institution – whether interviewing at an airport or in the cloud.