11

I have an online interview for a PhD program via Skype. I want to ask the panel if my girlfriend can join in the interview. She will turn off her microphone and camera, so there will no interrupting sound from her. She will only hear our conversation and see our faces (if they turn on the camera). She is there just to share with my experience, not my stress. I can do the interview alone. I also don't need to impress her.

This looks odd and unprofessional, I admit. But from what I read from the book of the professor that I follow, he is very open. He always use first person point of view. Even when at the time I contacted there was no funding for me, he managed to find one and asked me to do the interview. The professor who introduce me to contact him described him as "cool", though it is an informal conversation. Based on those observation, I want to take a little safety risk (just a little, and safety).

I think the asking question is not the important thing; just pretend they are human and ask simply:

My girlfriend wants to observe the interview. She won't make any interruption. Should I let her in?

Q: However, should I ask this question? If there is no problem, there are some more things to consider:

  • Should I ask this via email or when we begin to talk?
  • It can have technical troubles, such as lagging. Of course the interview is more important, and if the connection keeps unstable, she shouldn't take part anymore. If this happens, would this leaves a bad impression on the professors?

One more thing: seriously, I don't need her that badly for just one hour. Yes, this is not a Nobel prize, it's just a normal interview. I just think that it's nice to have, and until I can't find a good reason to not to do that, I'll take a try. If everyone is scare of making a mistake, when they can't point out what that mistake is, then there is no development in this world. I seriously don't think that "unprofessional" or "childish" is a good reason, especially when the person I'm talking with is open-minded.

  • 41
    What is the purpose of having your girlfriend join? – MJeffryes Apr 6 '16 at 8:39
  • 35
    @Ooker That is very cute, but unfortunately in a work environment your significant others cannot be with you in every important situation that arises. An interview is (very partially) also there to figure out how you (alone) cope with this type of situation, and you would be making it a quite different situation. – skymningen Apr 6 '16 at 8:52
  • 53
    Replacing "girlfriend" with your "mother" (referred to as "mom") will make you understand why you should not do it. – Alexandros Apr 6 '16 at 9:23
  • 40
    I totally recommend against this (simply because I find the whole idea pointless and don't see why anyone would need their SO within an interview situation, especially if it is not for morale support), but why does your girlfriend not simply sit in your room, just behind the computer, i.e. invisible to the interviewer. That way, no one would ever notice and therefore no-one would find it weird (which it still is...). – Reinstate Monica - dirkk Apr 6 '16 at 9:54
  • 36
    From the recruiter's point of view, this seems very straightforward. Do we want to employ somebody who can't (or doesn't want to) function on their own when necessary? Answer: no. Next applicant, please.... – alephzero Apr 6 '16 at 14:10

10 Answers 10

10

You are trying to build a business relationship with another person. Bringing in outside parties, even as "observers only", sends a message about how you will conduct your business and what type of business relationship you are planning on having. It is, quite frankly, a red flag, and even if you are perfect in every other way, it will leave a nagging feeling that you're going to be a handful, and that there are going to be many little issues like this that will get in the way of an easy, productive business relationship.

If you want the position you should present your best self - and only your self - to the panel, leaving all else aside. As relevant as she is to you and your life, she has little to no relevance to the position, and bringing her in, even as a mere observer, will cause them to include her as part of the equation as to whether to hire you or not.

If you don't care about the position, and just want to try out having your girlfriend sit in on your interview, then go right ahead.

95

I would find this odd and unprofessional. I recommend against this.

Also, I want to be able to talk freely and openly with you in an interview, and have you respond in kind, and I would be worried about how having your girlfriend on the line will affect this dynamic. (For example: I might worry that you would be distracted by thinking about how she is perceiving the interview, or trying to impress her.)

I might also be concerned that needing moral support for an interview this badly does not say much about your ability to handle the stresses of graduate school.

  • 2
    I think it is an interesting question. This was my first reaction too, but thinking further, I remembered all of the times that I have gone into an interview and have been introduced to someone from HR who was just going to sit in on the interview and listen. That was something that I just had to deal with/ignore. I realise the situation is not symmetrical, but I think it's an interesting comparison. I suppose the difference results from the power differential. – user2390246 Apr 6 '16 at 8:59
  • 26
    @user2390246 The person from HR has a legitimate professional reason to be there (for example, to make sure that the interviewer does not ask any questions that aren't allowed and that company policies on hiring are followed, to provide another opinion on how well the candidate would fit in at that workplace, etc.) – ff524 Apr 6 '16 at 9:00
  • 9
    @Ooker You may know for yourself that you don't need her that badly, and wouldn't try to impress her. But your interviewer doesn't know those things about you. – ff524 Apr 6 '16 at 9:09
  • 20
    @Ooker The main concern that most people will have is "this is unprofessional behavior". The other concerns are secondary. – ff524 Apr 6 '16 at 9:13
  • 20
    @Ooker Yes, it's still a bad idea. – ff524 Apr 6 '16 at 9:36
19

Consider whether or not this would be considered appropriate were you doing an in-person interview. Would anyone be allowed to sit in on said interview, even if they were told specifically not to interfere in any way?

Now also consider that even if your girlfriend doesn't verbally react to your interview, that her presence there, and her facial reactions to the interview going on (assuming you will have video) could change how you react during the interview.

Finally, consider whether or not this will make a good impression on your professor, or anyone else sitting in on this interview. Even if he is usually very understanding, he might find it a very odd request, and question the helpfulness of doing so.

If, and only if, you have a very good reason to have her sitting in on it should you even consider inviting her, and usually 'moral support' is not a good enough reason - this is meant to be a serious interview, and anything not contributing to it in a significant way could very easily be treated with some skepticism.


As some have suggested, recording the interview might not be frowned upon - even for personal reasons, but I would not share it with anyone else unless you have explicit permission to do so.

What is said during the interview could be very personal and private information that you should not be disclosing to others - which, by the way, is another good reason why this request would be awkward and unadvisable.

  • Most states are "one-party" states. Only one party to the conversation (OP) needs to know about and consent to the recording. If they are going to share personal and private information with OP they need to get an NDA. Otherwise he is absolutely free to share anything he hears or records. – emory Apr 6 '16 at 21:32
  • 3
    @emory: OP never said this is in the US. It could be any country. Also, one party could be in the US and the other not. – smci Apr 7 '16 at 4:44
  • 2
    @emory Whether or not it is legal to disclose that information in one's nation/state is only tangentially related to whether or not one should disclose that information - even if it is not illegal, it is rude and potentially damaging to share a recording of someone without their permission, especially when it is a personal thing like a one-on-one interview. – Zibbobz Apr 7 '16 at 13:36
  • 2
    @Zibbobz it is not a one-on-interview. It is a panel-on-one interview. Panels should not discuss private, confidential information with outsiders (including candidates for PhD positions), If it is necessary to discuss private information with the OP they should NDA OP. In general, it is not rude to share. – emory Apr 7 '16 at 14:06
15

I agree with everyone else that having your girlfriend join in or even asking if that's allowed sounds very unprofessional.

However, as an alternative, I'm pretty sure there are screen recording programs out there. Perhaps you could ask permission to record the conversation? That way you can analyse it with your girlfriend afterwards.

If you still want to add your girlfriend to the conversation you should definitely ask the interviewers beforehand through e-mail and drop it if you have technical issues. But again, I would recommend against doing it at all.

7

To be quite frank, this is a very bad idea.

While this may seem like a good idea for self-improvement, I think it's a terrible idea for getting the position. The first impression that you giving someone with the power to decide whether you get the position is "those that care about me think I have such poor interpersonal skills that they want to watch what it is that I'm actually doing to make all my interactions fail" (I'm sure that's not the real motivation, but its not impossible for them to see it this way). Perhaps the best interpretation of the events on is "We're trying to use this as an opportunity to build my interviewing skills so I can get a position I really want".

Neither of these interpretations are ones that would favor you getting the position you want.

5

While I agree with ff524 that the request "My girlfriend wants to join in with me. She won't make any interruption. Can she join in?" would come across as unprofessional, the situation may be different if you could present a compelling reason.

A possibility would be that you want a person to observe the interview to give you feedback afterwards to improve your presentation for future interviews. That would strike me as a good reason, however, the fact that this person is your girlfriend and not just any friend would again be a bit strange. If this would be your motivation, leave out the fact that she is your girlfriend.

However, the request to have some of your friends to observe the interview in silence may also come across as "I'd like to have a watchdog to make sure that everything goes fine." and this would sound really strange.

To conclude: You may be able to render the request reasonable but I would still advise against this since it still may come across strange.

  • 4
    The only third party I could possibly imagine the interviewers not finding it very strange to include in this would be a documentary crew of some sort. I'd be very weirded out if someone wanted to bring their life coach to an interview. – Paul Apr 6 '16 at 11:16
  • "leave out the fact that she is your girlfriend" - chances are the interviewing people (at least the ones who the OP is going to work with on a daily basis if they get the position) will find out later and feel weird then. – O. R. Mapper Apr 6 '16 at 19:45
5

Here is the real world answer:

Don't add her to the skype call, that would be foolish.

If you need the support then add her to a separate screen/webcam/audio sharing program. She can sit in without affecting the atmosphere or interacting with the call at all. Your interview panel will be none the wiser.

Its your computer and unless an NDA was signed then you have every right to share the data that comes out of it with whomever you see fit.

2

"Join in" is just bad phrasing - it implies she will be a participant, and that simply isn't wanted.

Instead, "observe" makes sense, and might be acceptable, particularly if you phrase the question as "can I record it, or have her observe in real time, so that (she can provide me with feedback/she can learn how to do interviews/whatever)?"

However, the simplest solution is just don't have her join in using the same software. No need to get permission then anyway, and no way for her to interfere. My wife TeamViewers into my machine, so she can see and hear what I hear. There is no difference between this, and having my wife sit off-camera in the same room.

1

If you are willing to have the interviewers ask your partner questions also, then this might be relevant and appropriate. Otherwise, it's vaguely reminiscent of having "your lawyer" accompany you.

To extrapolate: would you request hearing from partners of the people interviewing you?

It is not so wacky to think about the larger social network, and one's important personal network(s), but/and a significant part of interactions is a sort of privacy, first, and, second, a "mode" or "directness" about certain practical issues. It is not universally believed that everything should be shared with all one's family, friends, or even partner, nor that one is obliged to provide testimonials from family, friends, or partner. It is certainly not clear what the "universal social construct" is or should be, but it is not so likely that everyone should want to manifest their own conception of it in situations that might give the impression that they'd have trouble coping with the reality-on-the-ground in the job they're interviewing for. That is, I'd think one should present oneself in a mode closely resembling the mode in which one would be operating day-to-day.

-9

I don't see why you need to ask permission or even tell them. Just do it. Some panels might hold it against you, but would you really want to work with them?

Remember you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.

I would recommend codemonkeyliketab's recent answer over mine. It has all the positives of my answer with none of the negatives. It is perfect.

  • 10
    This whole "would you really want to work with <X group who disagrees with you>" mindset is a lot easier to hold when you are, for example, a professional working in a field with a lot of need for your role. It's rather harder to live with if you're trying to get into graduate school, and you're well aware that the school can pass on you and have another candidate in a heartbeat. You have to compromise on some things, especially if (as in this case) your desire is wildly unprofessional. – Chris Hayes Apr 6 '16 at 20:20
  • @ChrisHayes if it were an in-person interview, I agree it would be unprofessional. They have invited OP (not OP's girlfriend) to their location. If instead, they invited OP for conversation at StarBucks, then OP's girlfriend would not need an invitation to show up. Is a Skype call more like an interview at their location or an interview at StarBucks? – emory Apr 6 '16 at 20:36
  • 10
    I disagree with the premise. If I invited a candidate for an informal interview (which is what a "conversation" is) at Starbucks, and they brought somebody with them, I'd find that very unprofessional. The clear understanding is that this is a 1-on-1 situation between you and the interviewer. You can't bring somebody to that just for fun. – Chris Hayes Apr 6 '16 at 20:49
  • 4
    "Remember you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you." That's only true for people which get a lot of interview invites, but not true if this is the only one....Not to mention that there is the risk that all say NO to a request like this, what then? – Nick S Apr 7 '16 at 13:27
  • 6
    @emory At least in that scenario the OP knows that he did his best. But when the competition is fierce it would be plain stupid to start shut down doors for trivial reasons, wouldn't it? The fact that the competition is fierce and he might not make it nevertheless is actually a strong point against your answer. – Nick S Apr 7 '16 at 17:50

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.