A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by phone for a university position. My private reaction to this was not stress free. With decreasing higher education resources and increasing uses of technology in universities, however, phone and Web cam interviews are becoming the norm and should not be stressful to me or anyone else applying for university jobs.
In preparation for the interview, I Googled strategies for a successful phone interview. I found a few potentially useful suggestions, which included limiting your response to three minutes, answering questions thoughtfully and succinctly, and smiling when responding. Even though the candidate cannot be seen by the interviewers, the byproduct of a smile supposedly transcends the physical distance between the participants. Beyond those topics, the suggestions for preparing for phone and face-to-face interviews addressed how to respond intelligently to questions about personal strengths and weaknesses and possible questions for the interviewers.
What my research did not provide were suggestions for persons who, like myself, simply dislike talking on the phone or have poor voice quality and modulation. Yet another impediment to making it to the next level of the university employment process! The telephone interview reminded me of the television show, The Voice, where four judges who are also popular musicians listen to singers or potential protégés blindly, and if they like what they hear they push a button for permission to see the singer, and then vie for the opportunity to serve as the singer’s mentor. The ultimate prize is a golden ring or lucrative contract for the last man or woman standing at the end of the competition. If the judges do not like the singer’s voice, however, the contestant is not given an opportunity to advance in the competition and must exit the stage in veiled pain and shame. Sometimes the judges placate the dismissed singer by saying that you are just not what I am looking for on my team at this time.
Similarly, with an unsuccessful phone interview, the candidate’s opportunity for that higher education position ends there. If the interview is successful, however, she advances to the next stage of the competition, which is the campus interview – the opportunity to be seen and heard. The golden ring, if the judges (interviewers) like the total package, just might be a lucrative higher education job and career.
Are university employment processes imitating entertainment or vice versa? How confident are we in the process?
D. A. Buchanan is a 30-year higher education administrator and a member of the educational leadership graduate faculty of a historically black university in the southeast United States.
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