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Virtual Interviews Are Tough – and Can Fail

Published Wed Aug 19 2020


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Like most workplace functions over the last four months, job interviews are now being conducted virtually.

But this leaves a lot of questions for both the interviewer and interviewee. What room in the home is best for interviews? What happens if the interviewer draws conclusions from how a room is decorated? How can both parties be sure they’re not interrupted by kids, a spouse or even a pet?

It really makes it harder to think about what is being said, compared to the setting. For some people, it makes virtual interviews less than desirable.

According to a study by staffing company Yoh, 62 percent of American adults prefer in-person interviews. Why? They said an in-person interview is the only way to really judge the opportunity. And they’re worried that a virtual interview limits the connection they can make with the interviewer.

In other words, candidates are worried that they won’t get to know you or the job well enough. Likewise, many employers worry that they won’t get enough insight into the candidate. In fact, many companies are asking for guidance on how to equip their leaders to conduct effective virtual interviews. But are virtual interviews so different from in-person interviews? The answer depends on what your in-person interview process was like.

How well do we really get to know people in interviews?

Is it really that we don’t get to know people well enough unless we see them in person? Or does meeting in person just enable us to make judgments based on outside criteria?

Any time we meet a new person, we make snap judgments. We read their body language. We make assumptions based on how they look and dress. We might make inferences based on whether they accept the offer for a cup of coffee.

All of these quick judgments usually happen quickly and subconsciously. But they have a deep impact on our decisions. In fact, a Careerbuilder study noted that 87 percent of employers say they know whether the candidate is the right fit within the first 15 minutes. Furthermore, nearly half said they could tell within the first five minutes.

It’s certainly not enough time to judge a candidate based on data or their capabilities. Instead, we’re taking shortcuts, and making decisions on all kinds of irrelevant criteria. And it enables us to make decisions based on bias.

Virtual Interviews Can Introduce New Biases

The scary thing is that virtual interviews just exacerbate concerns over bias-riddled hiring. While interviewers may have fewer opportunities to observe those in-person cues (like the hiring manager who told me that he can tell whether a person will make a good sales rep based on how they shake his hand), they now have a glimpse into candidates’ personal lives that they never had before.

During a virtual interview, they may catch a glimpse of a person’s home, a dog barking or a child running in the background and reach some pretty wild conclusions.

So how do we address the slippery slope of bias that comes with virtual interviewing? The key to mitigating bias while reducing the awkwardness of the virtual interview is to add more structure to the interview process.

Virtual interviews certainly present unique challenges. And many of us miss getting to meet people face-to-face before we hire them. But they also present organizations with tremendous opportunities.

For more information, including how to structure a virtual interview, visit DDI’s Blog.

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