Is the Automated Interview Fraught With Perils?

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Last month I read an article on the Huffington Post titled The Perils of the Automated IMG_20141204_105036082_HDR[1]Online Interview.  The author, a Harvard student, criticized automated online video interviewing after performing poorly during the video interviews he took for three different employers.  Since the student had been so burned he suggested in his article that cameras have no place in the interviewing process.

As a provider in the space I present my rebuttals to each of his arguments.

Argument #1: “…absolutely no part of a video interview translates to anything done in the office.”

Rebuttal: The purpose of an interview, whether it is conducted in-person, over the phone or over a computer, is to facilitate communication so that the employer can learn more about the job candidate’s skills and personality.  The format of how the interview is conducted does not have to correlate with the job candidate’s job responsibilities.  Are we permitted for example to suggest that the face to face interview of an offshore engineer is irrelevant because no part of sitting at a desk and answering an interviewer’s questions translates to anything the engineer will do on an oil rig?  Or that call center reps should only be interviewed by phone?  Of course not!

Argument #2: “…no researchers have yet studied the power of online interviews in predicting job performance.”

Rebuttal: Ahem, actually this research has been conducted by an I/O psychologist and his findings were reported at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference in August.  The study found that ratings of the applicant, applicant characteristics, and video interview responses all predicted job performance and associated work outcomes.  The full study is available for free.

Argument #3:  “…being videotaped might lead them (candidates) to fall prey to an observer effect, in which people act differently when they know they’re being observed.”

Rebuttal: I minored in psychology so I actually know this to be called the Hawthorne effect. (And I didn’t even go to Harvard) Honestly I’m confused why the student would offer this as an argument.  The Hawthorne effect suggests, as the student points out, that people will work harder or try to improve their performance when being observed.  Are you not observed in a face to face interview?  If a video interview spurs a candidate to put their best foot forward just as they would in a face to face interview, I fail to see how candidates are harmed.  Dozens of blog posts are written weekly offering advice to job seekers on how best to perform in a face-to-face interview.  Tips such as how to dress, what questions to ask and even how to shake hands are designed and offered to help the candidate appear better than he or she actually may be.  The Hawthorne effect has for years been widely recognized throughout the interviewing process and its effects are not exclusive to video interviewing.

Argument #4: “…hiring managers are discriminating upon those who have stage fright and are simply not used to being in front of a camera.”

Rebuttal: I say this a bit facetiously but if the American Disabilities Act covers stage fright, we will give those candidates suffering from it an “accommodation.”  Picturing your camera naked helps too!

I will add that video interviewing has on many occasions screened candidates into the hiring process because their personality, energy, etc. counteracted the subconscious biases hiring managers had with the candidates’ resumes.  In other words, the candidates would have been dismissed sight unseen based on the resume review alone but they were offered a second chance because the hiring manager could invest minimal time reviewing their video interview and make a more informed decision to move them to the next stage.

We welcome critiques from video interviewing skeptics because they give us additional chances to demonstrate the power of this new technology.  I wish the Harvard student the best of luck with his future interviews and invite him to practice his interviewing skills on our free site should he ever be so inclined to wade into the video interviewing pool once more.

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