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Organizational psych

New study shows an online job interview probably hurts your chances

online job interview

A new study shows that candidates doing an online job interview are at a substantial disadvantage. Raters who watch a virtual job interview assess the candidate as substantially worse than people who watch the same interview in person.

The study, conducted by researchers at Missouri S&T, recently appeared in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.

The online job interview growing in popularity

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, about 8 out of 10 recruiters now use the online job interview format to screen and interview candidates.

That trend party explains why the researchers created their new experiment. They analyzed 21 mock job interviews, involving 84 participants. One member of the hiring committee asked the candidate questions in person. A second member watched the interview in person, but without asking questions. Finally, a third member observed the interview through a video-mediated platform.

Online observers assessed the applicants more harshly

The “video” observers rated the applicants substantially worse across all dimensions measured. These included likability, competence, and “hireability.” Likewise, the in-person participants often used words like “experienced” and “intelligent” to describe the applicant, whereas the video observer more frequently used words like “unprepared” and “unenthusiastic.”

One of the study’s co-authors, Clair Kueny, said these results mean that hiring professionals should look for ways of avoiding unfair bias in favor of in-person applicants. One way of doing so would be to interview all applicants in the same way. These days, that probably means via a video platform like Zoom or Skype.

Effects also apply to virtual education

Kueny also said that these results apply to online education. The online students “may form more negative impressions of the instructor than the in-class students, for no other reason than the medium of communication,” she said.  

“We’re not saying that Zoom interviews are bad,” said another of the study’s co-authors, Devin Burns. “What we’re saying is that you can’t fairly compare them with face-to-face sessions, and employers need to keep things standardized.”

Tip for job-searchers: make a point of addressing everyone

Another tip the researchers offer is for virtual job applicants to make a point of addressing all online observers who are participating in the interview, and not only the ones who are most immediately visible.

The third co-author, Denise Baker, said future studies should look at how other variables influence the ratings of the applicants. These factors could include gender and interview quality. “Participants will wear mobile eye-tracking glasses to examine whether the visual cues people pay attention to differ between video-mediated and face-to-face observation,” she said.


Study:Just Sit Back and Watch: Large Disparities between Video and Face-to-face Interview Observers in Applicant Ratings
Authors: D. A. Baker, Devin M. Burns, Clair Reynolds Kueny
Published in: International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction
Publication date: August 16, 2020
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10447318.2020.1805874
Photo: by visuals on Unsplash

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