After seeing how helpful I found the Skype interviews (we used Skype--we had our candidates share their screen and give us a brief research overview), here are the pros as I see them:
- We can screen more candidates--it is hard to go from the long list to the short list just on the paper applications, and often we'd like to see more than 4 or 5 applicants
- We don't waste trip money plus 2 days of departmental time on candidates who obviously won't work (English not good enough, can't explain their research live, can't answer questions, etc)
- It is harder to fake a presentation and answer questions than a written proposal (after some of our interviews, I have wondered if the candidate wrote the proposal)
- We can clarify points of possible research overlap/fundability/feasibility that may be unclear in the application due to the inexperience of many of our candidates in writing proposals. Naivete in a proposal may be due to moving into a new area and not being fully immersed yet, or it may be holes in thinking.
- Skype pre-screening seemed to help less experienced candidates who are perceived as riskier choices to bring out for an interview.
- It is not the norm in my field (though I think this is changing to be honest), and we may turn off good candidates
- It is another time and work intensive thing to add to the search committee's burden (already large, since there are lots of files to read in a short time that overlaps with Fall proposal season)
- Technical glitches may influence opinions unfairly
- It can be hard to schedule time when all (or even most) of the search committee can be present at the same time as the candidate, and this is not considering time differences
- It is yet another hoop/timesink for candidates (since we asked for a brief presentation)
I am not sure this experience creep is a good thing (or even a bad thing, but it is a thing). It isn't even that we have loads of people doing multiple postdocs (we have some of this too)--many of these more experienced people just plain did something else at some point in life (like me!) before the TT. But life experience (especially writing experience) is a major advantage in a tight field, and it is hard to compare the files of a newly minted postdoc who has been in a student or trainee somewhere since age 5 to someone who has been a group leader, or a decorated educator, or an experienced science editor. With pre-screening, we can see both.