Job applicants to British universities may soon find face to face interviews have become obsolete after the University of East London successfully conducted an interview with a United States candidate by video conferencing.
The decision to video conference was taken because the applicant was summoned to an interview for a lectureship in the department of sociology only days after she had returned from the United Kingdom and was unwilling to come back so soon.
The interview involved the personnel department setting up a video link with the University of Pennsylvania, taking into account the five-hour time difference. The equipment for the link had already been used with great success for over a year in video tutorials with Ford students in Cologne, Germany, Belfast and Bridgend, South Wales.
East London says that the link enabled the candidate to make a full presentation followed by questions and have an interview with a panel as would have happened in an ordinary interview.
"The technique is successful because the camera is able to zoom in on the interviewer asking a question, so that the candidate can see facial expressions and body language. Similarly, the candidate's face can also be shown in close-up to the panel," said a university spokeswoman.
Simon Luckett, personnel manager, said this was the first time East London had conducted a job interview in this way. "We were very careful to ensure that the video presentation and interview matched the 'live' ones as closely as possible so that neither had an advantage."
As yet the university has not selected an applicant but it is pleased with the new venture and would not hesitate to use it again.
"Both the interviewers and interviewee seemed quite satisfied and we would recommend other institutions experimenting, especially as the procedure must be cheaper than paying an applicant's travel expenses," said the spokeswoman.