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Using Skype to interview job applicants can be time savers

How does your company interview for new employees?

The “tried and true” method has candidates applying through whatever methods the hiring company requires. Someone in Human Resources or a search committee or the hiring manager reads through dozens if not hundreds of applications (and isn’t THAT fun?)

Having read a few thousand (well, maybe only ONE thousand) applications over the past 25 years, I know that many of the applicants do not meet the minimum qualifications of the job. Some do, but they eliminate themselves from contention because of a variety of “no no’s.”

My personal bias that will place you in the discard pile EVERY TIME is typographical errors and misspelled words on your resume’ and cover letter. Really? This is your promotional material! You are trying to get hired and you send me something with errors? I’m not going to hire you.

Back to our applicant pool. There are some applicants that stand out and you want to conduct a first round interview with them. But HOW will we interview them?

There are pros and cons to every method. Do we call them for a phone interview? We cannot see them, so we may not see their nervousness, their body language, or their smile! But the phone interview does not cost much to utilize and it can be done fairly quickly.

What about a Skype interview? It’s better than a phone interview in that you can see your candidate, negating all of the negatives for the phone interview. Plus it’s inexpensive to administer. If you don’t know about Skype, ask your teen. SHE KNOWS.

Then there is the face-to-face, in person interview. This type obviously gives you the clearest read on your applicant as you can see, hear AND touch them. Bringing candidates to your office, especially if they live at a distance, can be quite costly.

So what to do? For first round interviews, especially if you want to get to know 8 to 10 candidates better, I recommend Skype. An interview lasting 20-30 minutes with the search committee gathered in a conference room (or even around a computer in someone’s office—been there, done that!) can give you a quick read as to whether you want to continue the conversation in person.

In a recent faculty search, we Skyped the candidate that was Number One on each member of the search committee’s lists. Within three minutes, we knew he would not be offered the job. Although he had terrific credentials and wrote a compelling cover letter (with no errors!), he had no energy.

All I kept thinking as I watched and listened to him was that he would put students to sleep in the classroom, and I would hear about it! After the interview was over, the committee members, many new to Skype interviews, to a one declared their appreciation that we had not brought this candidate to campus. It would have been a painful DAY versus a painful 25 minutes.

We saved ourselves a great deal of money and time by conducting the Skype interview. In another Skype interview in a different search, one of the candidates had such energy and a terrific smile that, when we completed the interview, a faculty member turned to me and said, “Let’s hire her now!”

We later brought her (and another candidate) to campus, and her energy, plus credentials, made the decision easy as to who to hire. Could we have realized the energy on the phone? Perhaps. But we SAW it on the Skype.

A couple of other points about Skype interviews are in order. Both of you will need Skype names and will need to connect before the call. Is she at work (using company resources) or home? If home, has she considered what you will see in the background?

Some candidates stage this well, but others allow you to see some interesting items over their shoulders! You may have technical difficulties during the Skype. Their system and your system may not “marry well” and you may lose them. Get their cell number so you can complete the interview. They should not be eliminated because of technical difficulties.

Interviewing well is critical to the future of your organization. The interview methods you select are up to you. Choose well to save your organization time and money. And let me know if you use Skype! It’s my first round method of choice.

Lynne Richardson is the dean of the University of Mary Washington’s School of Business and a marketing professor. She writes about various aspects of finance and economics that affect our readers. Send suggestions for future topics to