Skype instead of APA?

There’s a really interesting and potentially important discussion over on Leiter of the idea of replacing APA interviews with Sykpe. Lots of good stuff there, but readers of this blog may be especially interesting in Rebecca Kukla’s comment:

Here’s one that hasn’t been mentioned; there’s a gender issue here. Some time earlier this term there was an interesting and lively thread on this blog about interviewing in hotel rooms and its differential impact on women, and there was much talk about how neither hotel rooms nor tables in noisy ballrooms were ideal, how suites were too expensive, etc. Skype interviews completely eliminate that whole hornet’s nest. (I’m assuming no department is going to turn the webcam on the faculty lounging about semi-clad in someone’s bedroom.) This seems to me to be a pretty big advantage.

And here’s another, perhaps more contentious gender consideration: There are lots of good reasons to think that women have it harder during interviews when it comes to appearance and self-presentation. We know that women get judged by their body type more than men do. At the same time, many people have suggested that women have no really good interview clothing options – we don’t have a stock professional uniform like men do. It’s really easy for women to come off as too femme, too dressy, too butch, too casual, too sexy, too dowdy, etc. during an interview.

In a skype interview, you only see someone’s head and maybe their upper torso, typically. You have way less sense of their general body shape, and you don’t really have much of a sense of their style. It’s really not too hard to look neutrally professional from the shoulders up! Of course, at the on-campus stage, women will show up with their whole, clothed bodies on display. But then there is much more information to go on. These initial interviews are all about quick first impressions, which is just where we would expect there to be problems of the sort I am pointing towards.

The more I think about it, the more I find the idea of women might be interviewed without anyone really having a sense of their style or body shape totally exciting and liberating. And no more stupid uncomfortable, expensive interview shoes in the middle of winter! Woo-hoo! I know this sounds frivolous, but I suspect it may make a real difference to the fairness with which female candidates are assessed.

And look, these things may not be as big of an issue for men, but surely it is all to the good if there is less potential for one’s judgments about ANY candidate to be biased by impressions of their style, height, fitness level, etc. And surely men don’t especially love having to sit on someone’s bed or in a noisy ballroom for their interviews either.