I am convinced that first-round interviews should NOT be completed via video calls unless a video camera or conference software is required.
Earlier last week I was offered a first-round interview for a management role at a local university. Traditionally these interviews have been with one person or maybe a small group via a phone conference. This allowed me to roam around my apartment, answering questions with more passion and emphasis than I would ever want to show on camera.
But lately, at least since 2020, I’ve had these first-round interviews on Zoom or other video conference software.
And I’m growing weary about them.
You see, I am part of more than one protected class according to the US Equal Economic Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Some of these classes aren’t visible, such as my disability. But others, like age and ethnicity, are on full display on video.
In fact, when I was experiencing some technical issues getting my video camera to work while having working audio, I was still able to talk to the committee. But the committee chair made a comment about how they wanted “to see my smiling face on camera” which threw me for a loop.
Because seeing me on camera can lead to some unintentional (and even intentional) consequences.
I am convinced that these first-round screening interviews should NOT be completed via video conferencing unless a video camera or conference software is required (i.e., the candidate needs captioning or sign language interpretation).
Below are three reasons I believe Zoom and other video conferencing software should not be used during first-round interviews.
Three Reasons You Should Avoid Video Interviews for First Round Interviews
1. Unconscious Bias
According to Christina Pavlou, in Unconscious bias in recruitment: How can you remove it? recruiters and hiring managers can make decisions about candidates influenced by unconscious bias.
She continues, “In the hiring process, unconscious bias happens when you form an opinion about candidates based solely on first impressions. Or, when you prefer one candidate over another simply because the first one seems like someone you’d easily hang out with outside of work.
“Even in the early hiring stages, a candidate’s resume picture, their name, or their hometown could influence your opinion more than you think. In short, unconscious bias influences your decision — whether positively or negatively — using criteria irrelevant to the job.”
It takes a great deal of faith that all of the people on the committee have been adequately trained to avoid or recognize their biases. Even well-intentioned questions can be biased. Even when candidates can avoid tell-tale details on their resumes, these are all rendered moot once the camera turns on.
2. Needs Reliable Internet Connections
One of the issues I had, with spectacularly bad timing, was internet connection issues. A couple of years ago, at the start of the pandemic, I had the same issue during a first-round interview — that led to no second interview. Prior to the pandemic, I didn’t know what
Employers may believe that candidates all have access to reliable high-speed cable, or that they will be the only person who needs to use the one device that has a camera. In my case, it was a surprise router issue this time (and the need for a WiFi extender two years ago) that could dash a successful interview.
3. Limited Response Time
Unlike a phone call that connects immediately, video conferences may require extended wait times for connections that eat into allotted times. Plus, video conferences that have multiple attendees can force the candidate to perform on camera, to look more engaged. Which in my case, always leads to longer answers and the possibility the committee won’t get to all of their questions.
Or conversely, the candidate may be incredibly camera shy and limits their answers rather than build rapport first in private before meeting the committee in person.
Recognizing the Pros
I posed the question to my friends — should first-round interviews be conducted on camera — and received some shocking answers. One of my friends shared how people offered an interview have switched places with friends off-camera before showing up in person to conduct the in-person interview. Another shared how people who have tried to Google the answers when posed questions by the committee.
And one more shared how the visual helps communicate tone when talking to people on camera versus talking to them on the phone. They said it was the right call to do an interview like that.
A Rebuttal From Experience
I’m not going to disagree with any of these answers, but I will offer this story:
When I first began working in higher education, I applied for a job at a large public university for a program coordinator position in an office of multicultural affairs. At the time, the office focused mainly on ethnic minority students and their needs, but over time we began to include other minoritized identities by gender, sexual orientation, etc.
I was offered the position, as the second staff member of the department, and worked with a straight, Black woman. As a gay, Latino man, we had great rapport for what we could speak about as experts.
However, the vice president told my supervisor that he wished that I identified more strongly with my Latino identity than my gay identity.
So I am well aware that there are biases against the identities I hold, and believe that if these are discovered too early in the interview process I might be dropped from the pool for discriminatory purposes.
I believe we can and should minimize opportunities for bias, when possible. And I can only hope that whatever perception of my protected identity does not work against the skills I can bring to the job I interviewed for.
You Can’t Ask That! Illegal Interview Questions and How to Respond
Not every question asked in an interview is allowed to be asked. Learn how to identify an illegal interview question…leadersvalues.medium.com