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I am working in academia in a position that is similar to instructor. The job is great but I am working under a short-term contract system with last-minute renewal notice, so I am trying to move for a more stable position.

Since the positions I am looking for are mostly in other countries, my interviews are held by video-conference. Some allow Skype interviews, but others ask for a "professional" video-conference, with high-quality video, and good and stable internet connections. Basically, they want me to use the video-conference room in my current institution.

I was wondering how people usually manage their organization for this kind of interviews. My question is 2-fold:

Questions

  1. How do institutions feel about letting their employees using their video-conference resources for job prospecting?
  2. How do researchers that are not currently working for an institution find the resources to participate in this kind of interview? High-quality webcams are expensive.
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    "but others ask for a "professional" video-conference, with high-quality video" Really? All remote interviews I have ever seen (including interviews by Google, Microsoft, and IBM) were typically done via telephone or Skype. It indeed seems weird that they assume video conferencing to be available - not even my research group has such equipment, and I wouldn't know what we would use it for if we had it. – xLeitix Nov 15 '14 at 9:57
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Since I do much of my work by video link, I have some experience with the problems of conducting business over video-conference.

For permission, in universities it will generally be fine as long as you aren't disrupting the work of others. If there is any rule regulating video, you should be aware of it (e.g., some non-university research institutions don't allow video-conference at all, and make very certain their researchers know).

For quality, I would guess that their actual requirement is not HD, but that they want to be able to read your expression as you talk. Here, the primary limitation is not your camera, but your network connection. The built-in camera for your computer or any cheap webcam will generally produce much higher quality video than you can transmit effectively. Things to do to ensure a good connection:

  • Use a wired link (e.g., EtherNet) rather than wireless if possible, as your connection is likely to be better and more stable.

  • Use headphones and a microphone (cheap earbuds with a built-in mike will do): the headphones will prevent echo from your speakers, and the microphone ensures consistent pickup of your voice.

  • Different software provides different quality tradeoffs optimal for different connections:

    • Professional videoconferencing hardware (e.g., PolyCom), is nice if your institution has a room and you can get help using it. Its learning curve is a pain, and it's not any better quality than...
    • High-end videoconferencing software (I've had good experience with BlueJeans), provides a fantastic quality connection but has brutal demands for bandwidth and processor power. If I use it for more than ~2 hours on my laptop, it overheats. Note that you don't have to buy this software: generally, only the meeting organizer needs to, and you can connect via a web link that they send you.
    • Skype is good for mid-grade connections: it provides nice video when given a consistently good link, but degrades badly if the link is inconsistent.
    • Google Hangouts is good for low-grace connections: its video quality is never particularly good, but it will get something through.

The most important thing is the high-bandwidth link: with a good enough link, Skype is generally sufficient within a continent. For very long distance connections (where the limitation is lag and undersea cables) you may want to use higher grade software. If you can't get access to a place that gives a strong connection, arrange the connection for a time when you are likely to have little competition with others for bandwidth. Early morning is generally best: during the day work activities consume bandwidth, and in the evening people are watching video.

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    Good lighting is also important. It can be difficult to get a good image if you're being backlit by a window. Bright lighting is good as it allows the small cameras to get a clearer image, but if you're near a window try to be lit from the front or side. – Moriarty Nov 15 '14 at 16:12
  • @Moriarty Good point... cameras have much worse dynamic range than our eyes, and are often pretty stupid about how they use it. – jakebeal Nov 15 '14 at 16:40
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Regarding institutions, I have gone through the regulations in mine (the Swedish equivalent of a national laboratory), and they don't specify any usage limitations. This makes sense, after all, most of the time they sit unused, and you don't wear them out by making a call. I would assume that if someone makes such a heavy use of it that it is disruptive to others, will be asked by the administration to explain it. But a few interviews will not by all means be so.

YMMV, but if the regulations don't forbid it, you are probably fine.

Regarding the second one, an anecdote: the only online interview I had for PhD positions was done audio only over Skype. The professor didn't have a working video set.

An institution demanding to interview you over HD video sounds suspicious.

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    However, if you don't want to reveal to your current institution that you are interviewing for other jobs, it could get sticky if they want to know why you want it, or if someone walks in during your interview. – Nate Eldredge Nov 15 '14 at 13:53
  • @NateEldredge I don't think anyone reasonable would object to the OP looking for a better position given that he is in such a precarious situation; but I can imagine people who would. – Davidmh Nov 15 '14 at 17:04

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