The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in the number of employers doing job interviews through a video platform. Three researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in southern Missouri’s Rolla have published a study showing job candidates are rated lower in virtual interviews than during in-person interviews.
Dr. Clair Kueny, Dr. Denise Baker and Dr. Devin Burns, assistant professors of psychological sciences, have been working on the project for the past three years. The study includes 21 job interviews with 84 participants. Half of the participants were in the same room as the candidate and the other half were watching through video.
Burns says the participants were asked about the applicant’s level of competence, intelligence, likability and how likely they were to hire the person.
“Across the board on almost every single question, we see like two to three point differences on a 10 point scale where the people in the room with him rated him a 7 or an 8 and the people who watched over video rated him a 5 or a 4,” says Burns.
Differences were also found in the adjectives the participants used to describe the applicant. Face-to-face participants chose words like “experienced” and “intelligent”, while video participants used “unprepared” and “unenthusiastic.” Those who watched the interview through video also rated the candidate less capable of feeling emotions, planning and other dimensions to measure the differences between people and computers.
“In some ways, the people who watched it through video were really seeing this person as somehow less human,” says Burns.
Kueny says some participants who watched the interview online reported paying less attention.
“Which then lower attention is also related to lower impressions of the candidates,” she says. “It’s self-reported attention and it wasn’t like an objective way of really knowing who was paying what attention and what they were paying attention to but that’s one possible linking mechanism that we identified,” she says.
Kueny says being in front of someone adds pressure.
“If someone was also in the room with that candidate, they can’t sit there with their phone open on something else or have their laptop scrolling through. They have a pressure of that candidate being able to see them and pay attention to them too,” says Kueny.
Was the level of inattention enough to account for the gap in the ratings?
“It only brought us part of the way there,” says Burns. “I think it accounted for about 1/3 of the difference, but there was still 2/3 of the difference that are other factors about maybe about just getting to meet a person humanizes them or something like that.”
Kueny suggests standardizing the medium in which job interviews are done.
“This suggests that really it’s beyond just having a face-to-face and really suggests that we need to standardize so all interviews need to be done via Zoom or all interviews need to be done via in-person and you really can’t necessarily cut across the two,” says Kueny.
Burns says video interviews have advantages, including the pool of candidates from outside your region.
The study also found a potential similarity could happen in virtual education with the way students view their teachers remotely as opposed to in-person.
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