can I decline a video interview?

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A reader writes:

I’m a college student about to get my degree this December. I thought I’d send out my resume to a few companies in advance, seeking entry-level positions or perhaps internships. One company responded to my application and asked me to fill out an online assessment form. After “passing” that stage, I was asked to do what I believe is called a “video interview,” where I have to record myself answering pre-set questions using HireVue.

I’m new to job hunting, and personally, I prefer the traditional face-to-face interview. Also, I’m very, very apprehensive and shy about recording myself (I don’t even take photos of myself!). I tried starting on the interview but somehow it felt fake or it felt like I wasn’t being sincere, simply because I’m talking to a camera. In the end, I didn’t do the interview.

I’m still very interested in the position though, but since they gave me a 3-day deadline to do the interview (it’s been a week now), I think I may have blown it. Do you think it’s a good idea for me to email them, explain myself and ask if I have any other options? Are video interviews going to be a trend, a natural part of the employment ecosystem?

Ugh, I feel your pain — I wouldn’t want to do that either.

You can’t really dictate the terms of an interview, though. If they want you to record a video of yourself, or talk to them over Skype, or whatever, that’s their call and you can’t really override it. (One exception would be if you didn’t have the right technology on your end, like if your web cam were broken. Although even then, while some employers would be willing to accommodate you, others would expect you to find a solution on your end.) So you’d need to figure out if you want the job enough that you’re willing to do something that makes you uncomfortable, or if you’d rather pass.

At this point, unfortunately, it’s probably a moot point. If they gave you three days and it’s been a week, you’re probably out of the running, because they’ll take it as initial evidence that you’re not responsive to deadlines or simply not that interested. (Unless you explained that you were, say, out of town and just saw the email or something like that.)

But personally, I don’t know why employers are using this type of technology, for two reasons:

1. Good interviewers don’t just run down a list of questions and never deviate from it; they ask follow-ups questions and build on what you just said. This technology doesn’t allow for that — it’s just you talking to yourself, with no interaction.

2. An interview at this stage should involve back-and-forth; it’s not an interrogation. At this stage, they should be giving you the chance to ask your own questions, not just answer theirs. You’ve already invested some time in their application process — writing a cover letter and filling out their assessment. It’s not reasonable to ask you to jump through another hoop before you’ve had a chance to ask your own questions and figure out if you’re even interested in investing further time.

The good news is that this type of screening isn’t yet widespread and probably won’t be. Good interviewers won’t do it for the reasons above.

{ 115 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. The IT Manager

    I, too, feel your pain. In the past I have procrastinated uncomfortable things past the deadline because they were uncomfortable, but this is a horrible coping strategy or rather non-coping strategy. This wasn’t your question, but you’ve got to fight this tendency. I probably seem like I am chastitizing you, but I am also reminding myself this is a very bad habit.

    It’s a particularly bad to be late with no explanation, and they are perfectly correct to remove you from the running for demonstrating such a bad trait. (The assumption is that you are your super-best behavior during the interview process.) For your next action, you can contact them and request an alternative option, but be prepared to accept the fact that they are no longer interested in you since you already blew the deadline.

    Reply
  2. Joey

    I’m keeping an open mind about this kind of technology. I know it would make me uncomfortable (and my job involves presentations), but I’m not sure if that’s because its so new. But the efficiency part sounds good. It certainly wont replace a conversation, but i can picture it as a screening tool. Wait and see for me.

    Reply
    1. Vicki

      My job is either programmer or writer, both of which require written skills; neither of which require video presentations.

      If I were asked to make a video, I would respectfully decline.

      Reply
  3. Lisa

    I don’t like the idea that my answers are recorded and then probably property of the interviewers. What if this is a recruiter with a AAM-like blog and you inadvertently gave them the rights to your image / video? I wouldn’t want that to go online. I would have ignored the request too rather than be the person that complained.

    Reply
    1. Stells

      At least in my experience, everything is done through a third party vendor, so the recruiter wouldn’t have any rights to the video outside of company need.

      However, how the third party could share it is an interesting question, although I’ve found that vendors who work with reputable clients are very careful about not sharing ANYTHING to anyone else. One post like this online and every company would cease to use this product because those interview questions are probably considered confidential business material and sharing them online would be considered a breach of contract.

      PS – not a lawyer, and I’m totally just guessing based on the few vendor discussions where I’ve been in the room.

      Reply
  4. J

    I’m sorry but I think I’m confused. I looked around at the end of the post and could not find the “Just kidding” comment anywhere. Does this mean that this one way video interview is a real thing? Day ruined.

    Reply
    1. Ramona

      Yep, it’s a real thing. I did it with HireArt. I really hated it because of the lack of interaction with someone else. I don’t think I’ll ever do it again.

      Reply
      1. voluptuousfire

        I had a similar request with another company. It was a staffing agency that was a “virtual” agency and you “interviewed” by answering a few given questions. I was so uncomfortable with the idea that I self-selected out of the process. While it may be more efficient, the overall idea stinks.

        Reply
  5. Nicole

    Personally, I wouldn’t want to work for a company who thinks this is the best way to weed through candidates. I’d been uncomfortable enough on Skype, but I could at least understand that more-so than a 1-sided interview. If I was asked to do this I’d let them know I’m no longer interested in the position and move on.

    Reply
  6. YoungMeg

    I did something like this in college as part of a class senior year. We each had to schedule a time to sit in front of a camera and record ourselves answering a list of standard interview questions asked by an avatar in a software program as if we were interviewing for our ideal job. It was insanely awkward, but it was nice to get feedback from our professor afterward.

    Reply
  7. Brian

    Thanks for answering my question, Alison. Moving forward, I know I’m going to have to steel myself against these kinds of interviews. The only reason I couldn’t get out of it because the assessment questionnaire asked whether I have a smartphone or a functioning webcam. I found that part of the questionnaire odd at the time, and I answered YES.

    I did some research about the company on Glassdoor.com though. Looks like AFTER the video interview, they will conduct a phone interview AND then if you make it through that, that’s the time they’ll call you in for a face-to-face interview. So all in all:

    Step 1: Online application
    Step 2: Online assessment #1
    Step 3: Another online assessment which allows me to authorize them to do a credit check on me.
    Step 4: Video interview
    Step 5: Phone interview
    Step 6: Face-to-face interview

    The position itself was labeled “entry-level” so I kind of didn’t expect it to be this demanding. But either way, at least I got a glimpse of what it’s like post-college. I must be strong and persevere!

    Reply
    1. Stells

      Sounds a lot like my interview for my current employer, except the order was a little different:

      Step 1: Online application
      Step 2: Online assessment #1 (in place of a phone interview
      Step 3-5: Face-to-face interviews
      Step 6: Video interview (well, more like a Skype interview)
      Step 7: (6 weeks later) Offer and release for background, credit, etc

      Totally worth every minute of it, but the order made more sense.

      Sounds like this company is doing all kinds of crazy rework. Why are you doing a video AND a phone screen. What a waste of time!

      Reply
      1. FreeThinkerTX

        Perhaps they’re doing a one-way video “interview” as a means to screen out candidates they find aesthetically questionable, just like a dating service (i.e., “wrong” weight, “wrong” ethnicity, “wrong” age, “wrong” hairstyle, etc.).

        I once got a free membership to “Great Expectation” dating service. It was freakishly easy to dismiss men who didn’t look “perfect” by flipping through dozens of pics and videos. I imagine I missed some gems, just like I’m sure these employers are missing some great potential employees by judging them on camera appearance before ever having a genuine conversation with them.

        Reply
    2. dejavu2

      I’ve taken jobs that required credit checks, but (1) they involved being responsible for money, and (2) they didn’t run the credit check until after I was employed because it impacted my duties, not whether I would receive an offer. I don’t know what industry you’re in, but good luck.

      Reply
      1. Brian

        Yes, the position was in the finance industry. They didn’t clarify WHEN they would do the credit check though. Perhaps I should’ve asked.

        Reply
        1. Stells

          My last employer had a authorization for background check as part of the application, but there was specific language in there saying the check wouldn’t be run unless an employment offer is made.

          Running BEFORE employment is done, and not “illegal” but it isn’t a good policy because it is (a) really expensive and (b) opens you up to potential discrimination charges in a major way

          Reply
          1. Jessa

            Yes normally they don’t run this stuff before they’re ready to at least put someone on the very short list if not make a specific offer.

            Reply
        2. Stells

          Oh, and if you’re looking for work in the finance industry, your credit will be checked. If you’re a new grad, though, it’s highly unlikely that there’s anything significant enough on your record to disqualify you (my first job out of college had a credit check, and let’s just say I was shocked the still hired me). I’ve heard that you are fine unless you have some major bad debt or something along the lines of a bankruptcy.

          Reply
          1. dejavu2

            Exactly. They’re really just looking to see if you’ve done anything egregious. Most kids out of college these days have a high debt to income ratio, and many have consumer debt on top of educational debt. Part of the whole point of going into finance is to pay that off! :)

            Reply
            1. Esra

              Or just being poor. My credit score was awful as a student, but now it’s amazing. If anything, it made me a better worker because it was so important to me to get and stay above the poverty line.

              Reply
    3. Cube Ninja

      I, along with many good candidates, would probably self-select out of the process at step 3 if it asked for SSN. Frankly, I’d back out at just being asked for the authorization before I’ve even had an interview of any kind. If you aren’t offering me a job, I’m unlikely to allow you to go randomly pull my data.

      Reply
  8. Jamie

    FWIW I wouldn’t do it either. I would be so uncomfortable it would put me in the worst possible light, so what would be the point.

    Unless you’re screening for people to perform on video I don’t see the point…but it’s certainly their prerogative to ask for it. Just like it would be my prerogative to ignore it and spend my time looking for an employer with hiring practices that don’t make me roll my eyes back into my head.

    Reply
  9. Stells

    I have to say, my employer (who is one of the top companies to work for globally), is exploring this technology for future use. There isn’t a contract yet, so there aren’t a lot of detail for plebeians like me, but from what I understand it would utilized only for high volume positions (think CSRs) where first round interviews are inconsistent at best because of the sheer volume.

    There is always a second round interview, though, where you can interact with someone. And any position that is more nuanced in nature won’t be sent to this system. We do, however, use a technology similar to Skype for video interviews because of the sheer cost of travel (and because it’s bad for the environment, but mostly it’s the money).

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    While I don’t think this is a great recruiting method at all…if I were crazy enough to hire like this, I’d definitely question any applicant who didn’t want to follow my format.

    Maybe you’re shy…but one way of breaking out of your shell and your comfort zone is to try new things. It might be in your best interest to go ahead and record yourself answering those questions…just as practice. Life (and work) often involves doing new things, and it helps if you’re open to trying them.

    Reply
    1. Vicki

      No no.
      It has nothing to do with being shy.
      And please don’t use the “break out of your shell” and “comfort zone” words. Those are big red flags to the Introverts among us.

      This isn’t about “trying new things”. There’s plenty of stress and “comfort zone” issues involved in a job search without adding video.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I actually thought Anonymous had a decent point, setting aside the “break out of your shell” language. If this is a thing that’s happening in job searching, applicants, introverted or not, shy or not, will find it advantageous to grow more comfortable with it, and I think a practice interview is a good idea. Lots of people don’t like face to face interviews either, but that’s not a reason to avoid getting better at them. I think the “comfort zone” language is actually pretty legitimate for that reason. Remember that red flags can identify the need for construction :-).

        Reply
        1. Stells

          As an introvert and someone who suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder, I can’t agree more fposte. Interviewing is terrifying for me no matter what method an employer uses, so learning to deal with it is pretty much my only option in any scenario. It is HARD but, it’s what got me a job where I can still work in my field without having to deal with strangers all the time. So it was TOTALLY worth it.

          Reply
          1. Kimberlee, Esq.

            I agree with your agreement! The language Vicki used, to me, sounded too close to treating introverts as not capable of doing the same interview process as everyone else… I’m pretty introverted, and doing things like this to break out of my shell has proven very useful.

            It’s important to understand that shyness and introversion are not the same thing. But I balk at the treating introversion like a mental illness or something otherwise to be accommodated or tiptoed around. “Comfort Zones” are something everyone has, and something that everyone can stand to test sometimes. :)

            Reply
          2. Manda

            As someone who understands where you’re coming from, I’m actually with Vicki on this one. Yes, I have to force myself to do things that are out of my comfort zone sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I should have to do everything I’m not comfortable with. Speaking in front of a camera is not a necessary life skill. I see no need for this. Even if the job requires a lot of video conferencing, or being on camera for some other reason, I think they could test those skills later on if they wanted.

            Reply
      2. Sandrine

        Vicki, the problem is your message makes me feel like introverts are incapable of doing anything that may require any effort outside said “comfort zone”.

        The introverts aren’t one and only, and one may not speak on behalf of all of them this way: many people do recognize that using new things is a way to, say, expand their boundaries. Maybe you don’t want to, and that’s fine. But please don’t dismiss advice that goes in another direction, especially considering the fact that Anonymou’s advice doesn’t seem far-fetched at all :) .

        Reply
    2. Jessa

      Video interviews can be great, but they can also be a nightmare if they’re badly lit or badly filmed. I’m hearing impaired. If I can’t tell what the darned question IS what do I do? Flub the thing? It’s one thing on Skype there’s a live human talking to me. No problem. On a canned thing I can probably GUARANTEE there’s going to be something I miss.0

      Reply
      1. KellyK

        Since the questions are canned, then either having it close captioned or being emailed a list of questions to refer to sounds like a pretty reasonable accommodation to me.

        Reply
  11. anon342

    I dont think this is unreasonable. We do this for internships for a few reasons. Say for example we have 7 spots open in one department but within different teams. Each team will be able to watch the acounting intern video at lesiure and then invite the ones they are interested in to a phone interview where we can ask for clarification and more info, etc. Each intern is asked the exact same question so everything is consistent. The big thing for us is A) this is a prescreening tool at our leasiure so there is no hold up of our business processes B) we can watch and or re-watch the video clips if we have questions or need to switch the hiring team mid process c) The candidate has time to prep, practice and research. They get all the questions in advance. We hope this would be helpful especially for interns if they haven’t been through a lot of interviews before. There is an assumption that the answers will be of higher quality.

    Reply
    1. anon342

      Also, there is a lot of competition for interns so we may have to go back and review other applicants if the intern accepts a different internship and this allows us to review their answers to our questions.

      Reply
    2. Kimberlee, Esq.

      This seems totally reasonable to me. I don’t think there’s anything inherently weird about a video interview, especially if any privacy concerns are addressed up-front. You can learn a lot about a candidate by watching them answer questions, and I can easily see people who look good on paper demonstrating in this easy step that it’s not a good fit for them, without anyone having to come in for an interview.

      Sure, you wouldn’t want to use it for high-level hires. But I could see this being useful. Some people don’t like it, sure. Lots of people don’t like writing and lots of jobs don’t require a good writer, but the cover letter is still considered a good hiring tool. Lots of people don’t interview well, and the job might not require particularly strong interpersonal skills, but the interview is still important. People not liking part of the hiring process isn’t a good enough reason to not do it, especially when it’s so new and some people just need to get used to it (like me, I’ve used Skype two times in my life, so I’d be nervous about a video interview).

      Reply
      1. fposte

        It cynically occurred to me these might help shed light on whether or not a candidate wrote her resume and cover letter herself.

        I think “interview” isn’t the best word for them, though; it generates an expectation of a kind of value, based on the back-and-forth, that they really can’t deliver (my initial indignation was that this was hardly going to work as an interview). Video questionnaire? I dunno.

        Reply
        1. PEBCAK

          I think one potential problem is that it introduces age, gender, physical ability, race, etc. into the mix. And if someone isn’t going to write a resume/cover letter on their own, are they really going to answer questions like this in a video on their own? I would think a written assessment asking the same questions, but with a time limit, would get more genuine answers than a three-day video screen.

          Reply
    3. Brian

      That’s kind of one of the reasons why I was apprehensive about it. Employers can just play, pause or rewind my video to better see things. It’ll make my little flaws seem more obvious (Aha! He glanced toward his right side while answering that question! He could be lying! Stuff like that). Things you would normally ignore during an actual interview seem more magnified in a recording.

      Reply
    4. HD

      I’m currently in the same position. I applied to a job with this great non-profit. I spent time crafting a resume and cover letter. Then I get an email about recording myself answering questions? It raised a red flag for me because applying for jobs is arduous and I couldn’t even get a phone interview? I think this just adds another step to the rigamarole really. And who knows if anyone is even going to see my video? This bitterness is also from just coming from doing a ‘hiring exercise’ that was actually ridiculously time consuming (write a grant proposal, create a itinerary template, etc.). It’s like the people doing the hiring no longer need discretion, they can send out as many video invites and hiring exercises as they want and really, it costs them nothing. 0 time, 0 effort. It’s just disheartening I guess but I think this is the way hiring practices are going. :( Wish me luck

      Reply
  12. Jay

    I could help a candidate who told me he was intimidated by the technology, but not one who is non-responsive.

    Reply
  13. April

    A note from someone who has successfully used HireVue. It isn’t meant to be an interview, and it’s not useful for every type of job. It’s meant to replace the dreaded screening interview with the HR rep/recruiter who doesn’t know anything about the role (and it allows the candidate to record it at the candidate’s convenience). I’ve used it successfully, but only for roles where video conf skills will be a required part of the job – not everyone has to do it. As for the privacy piece, our recordings are like mission impossible. They get deleted after x days.

    Reply
  14. V

    I see the benefit of HireVue for screening interviews, as well as some basic background questions like what is your experience with milk chocolate teapots, with dark chocolate teapots and white chocolate teapots? The questions are standardized, so reviewers can compare apples to apples, and multiple people can review the responses. Also, it eliminates the scheduling problem for that round of interviews — candidates can record it before/after work without having to take time off, and the hiring company can review the responses at its convenience (hopefully shortly after the responses are due, in a block). I think it is incredibly awkward, but I think it is going to become increasingly common.

    Reply
  15. Vicki

    I would not do well in a video “interview”.

    I need eye contact. Phone calls are bad enough but at least I can close my eyes and think. If I was staring at myself in the screen, making a video… not good.

    For some reason I tend to look blotchy and “out of it” in flash photography or over-lit video. I also look lumpy when viewed from my chin up (which is the typical camera orientation in a lot of these things.)

    The jobs I apply for do not require me to be on camera. Therefore, an on-camera interview is a poor way to evaluate my skills.

    No, just, no.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Sure, I wouldn’t like to do one either, and it certainly doesn’t approximate an interview. But it sounds like at least some companies are finding them useful, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to request (I think the credit check early in the process is a lot more problematic). So from an employee standpoint I don’t think this signals an employer being so unreasonable it makes sense to pass on the application; at that point, it’s more a personal call about whether an applicant hates doing video more than they hate being unemployed.

      Reply
    2. Kimberlee, Esq.

      Everyone looks lumpy when viewed from the chin up. Bad lighting makes everyone look worse. Lighting and camera orientation are completely within your control, though, in a video interview like this.

      I really don’t see how this is much different that talking to someone in person… I mean, when you’re taking video of yourself, you don’t start at yourself, because that looks weird. You look into the camera, so you’re “making eye contact” so to speak with the person on the other side.

      I mean, if you’re in a position where you can say that you’ll never do a video interview and it won’t hurt your career, that’s awesome. But your personal dislike of it doesn’t make it a bad practice, or make the company weird or bad for making it part of their hiring process.

      I think Alison’s objections are a little off because there’s no indication that the company is using these videos as a *substitute* for a real interview, and I think that, if this were the second part of the interview process, it would not be unreasonable to not be taking a lot of questions at that point in the process.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I don’t think they’re using it as a substitute for a real interview (sorry if that wasn’t clear). But I think it’s unreasonable to ask of candidates when they’ve already jumped through two earlier hoops and still haven’t had a chance to answer their own questions. Generally speaking, you want to minimize the barriers you create for applicants at these early stages in the process, because if they’re too onerous, your best candidates (the ones with the most options) will just walk away.

        Reply
        1. Kimberlee, Esq.

          I agree with this completely. If you take out the stupid step they seem to have of an online questionairre, which never seems to do any good anyway, having a video as the actual second step would, I think, not be unreasonable (especially at entry-level positions).

          And, alternately, I think that you can still be open to questions (via email and phone, say) and still have an applicant complete a video interview. If you make that clear to the applicant, I don’t see any problem with having them complete a video (especially if you can use those videos to ensure that the candidate isn’t asked those same questions over and over again in later interviews with other people). Theoretically, doing this step before the “real” interview could make the in-person much more productive and useful!

          Reply
    3. Windchime

      I guess I have a problem with it being video…..why, exactly, does it need to be video unless they are screening based on appearance? Otherwise, it would just be a voice recording, right?

      I dunno. I think this video idea bothers me in a way that an in-person interview doesn’t. With in-person interviewing, it’s a give-and-take situation; a conversation. But the video just seems like an easy way to screen people out based on appearance without the discomfort of the employer having to look you in the eye while they’re doing it.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I think technology has a role here–most people are doing more video than voice recording day to day, so it seems odder to forgo video than to include it.

        Reply
      2. Rana

        This thought occurred to me as well.

        It also seems to me to be a really inefficient way of sorting through candidates – just thinking about the time needed to view all the “interviews” generated by this process gives me a headache.

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        1. Another Anonymous

          Reviewing videos seems to me to be no worse than having to conduct the interviews face to face for every applicant, and face to face for every applicant sounds like a terrible process to me. But most organizations have some screening that limits the number of applicants given serious consideration and then invited for a recording and/or face-to-face interview. If video is used for every applicant, not just some who have been prescreened and then invited for the recorded interview, then I can see it not being efficient at all and even being more onerous! I hope it’s not the first screening of applicants. Yikes!

          Reply
      3. Jenna

        Just a note here.
        Orchestras were once all male, and even skilled women had horrible trouble getting hired.
        Then they started listening to the performers with the performers hidden behind a screen.
        The result was far more women being hired.

        The intent may seem benign, but, the results may not be. Sometimes the way you build the system can either partially fix or exacerbate racist or sexist results. I’m really not looking forward to this video interview becoming more common, but, it probably will. I eect it to become more common because it gives the hiring company more power and more of a shield. I also expect it to be overused, like pulling credit reports for applicants has become.

        Reply
  16. Mike C.

    There’s one important thing I learned in college about working with test animals – additional stress is not only cruel, but it screws up your data.

    This really feels like the same thing. Not only do you have to deal with all the normal interview crap, but now you have to record yourself? How many takes do you get, and what if you screw them up? What if the lighting is bad or I just don’t come across well on this system?

    It feels like a solution looking for a problem, and like treating test animals like crap, it’s going to mess up the data you’re trying to collect.

    Reply
  17. Citizen of Metropolis

    That’s not an interview, that’s an audition. Interviews are conversations, with multiple layers of communication going on; part of what makes an interview valuable is that both parties learn how well they can read each other, and thus gauge how to adjust their communications skills. That’s what I need to know when I interview a candidate, not how well they convey a set text.

    Reply
  18. Brett

    I’m just picturing that odd, but not completely outlandish, situation where one of the applicants is an Hasidic Jew.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m not positive, but I don’t think Hasidic Jews object to appearing on video. I’m a non-Hasidic, non-practicing Jew, so I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard that.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Maybe Brett was thinking of this happening during the Sabbath or Yom Kippur, but at that point the computer aspect is more of an issue anyway. (I just read a really interesting piece about “kosher gadgetry,” designing equipment so that it can be operated by the orthodox within religious strictures on holidays–included are things like Sabbath-friendly wheelchairs.)

        Reply
    2. Brett

      It was the only religion I could think of that has fairly strict graven image doctrine (although I know it is only certain Hasidim, not all) without a similar strong doctrine on all technology that could limit their overall employment prospects. :)

      There was an interesting photography case a while back in NYC where an image of a Hasidim had been used in an art exhibition, and he sued (but lost) to have the image removed. Somehow this question reminded me of that.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Oh, interesting, I hadn’t heard of that. I know Hasidim images are pretty common, photographically speaking, but I know there are sects with very different rules. Kind of Amish in that respect.

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      2. KellyK

        Apparently there’s a small Christian sect called the Molokans (broke off from Russian Orthodox in the 17th century) with really strict prohibitions against graven images. (One member lost a lawsuit to have a driver’s license that didn’t show his photograph.) I’m not sure if a video counts as a graven image, though.

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      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        I should have mentioned earlier that if a candidate did have a religious prohibition on imagery, they’d simply explain that and ask for accommodation, and the employer would presumably be required to make one (assuming that video wasn’t an essential piece of the job).

        Reply
        1. KellyK

          Yep, and “someone somewhere could conceivably have a religious objection” isn’t necessarily an argument against it—there’s enough variety in religious beliefs that that’s true of pretty much anything.

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  19. Heidi

    “You can’t really dictate the terms of an interview, though. It’s their call…”

    You can’t be serious.

    It is ENTIRELY your body and your call.

    They would drop the video format of their interviews as soon as they came to the realization that they couldn’t entice applicants to join their ranks. This because applicants refused the creepy video interview.

    What are you afraid of? Not getting the job? So what? If you got the job you would already have demonstrated to the employer your willingness to tolerate their strangeness and when the abuse began rolling in you’d have no one but yourself to blame.

    Visualize the type of employment you wish for and go out and search for it. There’s a difference between hustling and whoring.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Sure, you can say no. But unless you’re a very desirable candidate, few companies are going to change their application process for you. And in the OP’s case, it’s an entry level job — he’s not going to have a lot of sway and there are going to be plenty of candidates perfectly willing to play along.

      Reply
    2. anon

      I don’t think there is anything creepy or strange about an employer choosing to use this process. Nor is it an abuse of power on their part. It is a bit odd, sure, but there is nothing outrageous or unreasonable about asking a person to submit a video essay. And yes, when you are interviewing for a position, you should be willing to comply with an employer’s reasonable requests.

      Reply
    3. fposte

      I’m not getting why this particular procedure is more outrageous or onerous than any other hoop, though, so I’m not seeing why it’s worth exhorting people to self-sacrifice to avoid it. It’s not that strange–it’s not that different from Skype, and it’s not unique to this particular workplace, as the discussion upthread shows. I think this organization is using it in a rather overdemanding sequence, and I’d hate to it for it to replace a less burdensome step like cover letter and resume, but I think it’s pretty similar to other basic interview/applicatin stuff, as opposed to genuinely invasive stuff like credit checks and drug tests.

      Reply
  20. Anon

    I’m surprised at the strong reactions to this practice. I think it’s a great idea personally. Even if your role doesn’t pertain to video conferencing, more than likely you will need some kind of presentation skills, you will probably need to prove you’re adaptable, you probably need to show skills with basic technology (this feels basic to me..?) etc. I would do this for sure. And if asked to do it, I would be thrilled, especially as an introvert! You get to prep, talk to a camera, and do as many takes as you want in an environment that is comfortable to you. This seems like a dream for an introvert!

    Reply
  21. Teacher Recruiter

    We are actually moving to this technology this year. I was initially against it, mainly because I was afraid we’d run people off with it. In the end the benefits outweighed the potential risks (and if we find we’re losing people, we’ll eliminate it mid-year). We are using it as an initial screen (happening immediately after the online application). In the past, we’ve done a 15-20 min. phone screen as that initial first step.

    People who successfully pass the HireVue screen will receive a call from a recruiter checking with them to see if they have any questions for us and walking them through the remainder of the process and what to expect.

    The benefits are that HireVue eliminates the back-and-forth of scheduling with the recruiters; candidates can complete the screen at midnight if they choose. It also saves time for my team as they can watch some non-negotiable questions first, and if the candidate bombs them, not waste time on the rest. Right now, if someone is clearly not passing our screen within the first 5 minutes of a phone conversation, we lose time staying on the phone – time we’d rather spend talking to great candidates and answering all their questions.

    Additionally, instead of hiring managers reading recruiters’ notes, they can watch the great candidates for themselves. Lastly, this initial screen is something we already skip for highly-coveted recruits, so they won’t be going through this step anyways.

    Reply
    1. AB

      I’m glad you clarified that you skip this for highly-coveted recruits, because I know many top talent who would choose not to go through this type of screening process.

      My question, though, is why not send a list of questions by email to complete your screen. It’s not as if the candidate can’t cheat anyway with video (if that’s the concern). It’s entirely possible to send the list of questions to a highly competent friend, get the answers back, memorize or stick them to the wall or open them in a second computer hidden from the webcam, at eye level, so you can just read the wonderful answers while pretending you are just coming up with the responses yourself.

      Reply
      1. Teacher Recruiter

        With HireVue, once you start the screen you can’t stop actually, so it’s just like an in-person or phone interview where you’re asked a question, given a few seconds (we have it set to 30 seconds) to prep your answer, and then you have to go. You can’t re-record, and once you start the screen you have to finish it in its entirety. On ours candidates won’t know the question until it pops up on the screen, but I guess some companies could pre-send the questions for candidates to prep.

        In the education industry, presence is incredibly important for classroom management, so the video also allows us to see (somewhat) presence/confidence. Obviously, the later steps involving an in-person interview and actual interacting with the students tests this better, but the video does get to this more so than over the phone or answering essays would.

        Reply
        1. Female sam

          So you give candidates less than a minute to prepare for a question they’ve only just seen, and then only allow them one take? That seems incredibly unfair to me. Please tell me you at least tell the candidates this before they start the screening process.

          Reply
          1. Jen in RO

            How is this different from an in person interview? It’s not like anyone gives you the questions in advance to be able to prep…

            Reply
            1. LV

              With an in-person interview you can always say, “Can we come back to that question later?” to give yourself time to think about it.

              I’ve also had an experience where I was given the list of questions they planned to ask me and half an hour to prepare answers before the interviewers came back and the interview actually started – so prep time is not unheard of.

              Reply
          2. KellyK

            Yeah, but for teaching it’s a fair assessment of relevant skills. Kids ask really off-the-wall questions *all the time* and 30 seconds to think about the answer is actually longer than you’ll have in a 40-minute class.

            Reply
        2. HD

          And I wonder if they send these videos out to just anyone who remotely seems like a match or if they actually look at the resumes and coverletters before sending an invitation? I just got an invite to a video interview and I feel like doing all this work without the incentive of a being a little closer to a hire.

          Reply
  22. wanderer

    I had a webcam interview a year ago (that’s what the company called it -basically a video interview where the applicant responded to prerecorded questions). It was one of the most awkward things I had ever done. There were only three questions and made me wonder how they were screening candidates based on three questions?
    It also made me feel like they were judging based on appearance alone and made me wonder how this process looked if they were to reject someone who appeared over 40, or of a certain, race, religion, or disability, even if the rejection was for legitimate reasons? Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought that, as I found out later from someone who worked for the company I applied to that they did away with webcam interviews not long after they implemented them.

    Reply
  23. Another Emily

    Would this process (as well as Skype interviews) open up an employer to appearing like they discriminated against someone because of their race or gender?

    Reply
    1. Stells

      No more so than a face to face interview would. Recorded interviews actually protect the employer more since you have an exact record of the interview (versus the notes from a face to face interview where any evidence would be based on the memory of the participants).

      Reply
      1. Jenna

        I think my problem is that it is so early in the process, almost like sending a picture with your resume(which I understand is done someplaces, just not where I am), and also gives the applicant another hurdle to get over at nearly the beginning of the process.

        Reply
  24. Manda

    I’ve been wondering whether it would be okay to decline a request for a Skype interview, although I have never been asked. But I’ve never heard of this crap. Interviews are stressful enough without having to worry about being on camera. I’m shy, I’m not photogenic, I don’t like having my picture taken, and I feel even more uncomfortable in front of a video camera. I would probably just decline and not move forward with the application process. I sure as hell hope this doesn’t become the norm and I also hope I never have to do a video conference.

    Reply
    1. Manda

      Actually, I should add a couple of things to that. I would not even feel comfortable in front of a webcam with a friend, let alone a stranger. Also, there is nowhere in my house that I would be alright with someone (especially a stranger) seeing what’s behind me. The only place that would look acceptable has terrible lighting.

      Reply
      1. Another Anonymous

        I understand your concern about where to do the recording. Keep in mind, they are probably not looking for Hollywood lighting and backgrounds. If you are concerned about the background, you may have to move a few things around. I set my laptop on a stack of books on a table to get the right angle. The best place I could find was in front of a window. I closed the blinds and did the interview at night so there was no background glow around me. I set a lamp on the table behind my laptop to ensure I was reasonably well lit. I checked out my positioning and lighting and background on my webcam. I dressed waist up like it was a face to face interview. (Most webcams have a way for you to see yourself and check out what you and the background look like without recording…kind of like a mirror.) Sometimes you have to make a few arrangements but if the job is worth it, the preparation is also worth it. I hope this helps you think about what to do if you find the right opportunity and a video interview is one of the hoops you are required to jump through.

        Reply
        1. Brton3

          I don’t see this as all that different from preparing for a regular interview. You are always going to have to do your homework, you are always going to have to dress presentably, this is just a manageable extra thing – get the camera at the right angle, make sure the lights are ok. I would rather do all of that than fill out a 15-page job application form and write 4 essays, as so many jobs make you do.

          Reply
          1. Manda

            It is different because in a regular interview, you don’t have to worry about how you look in front of a camera. I can make myself look presentable but I am always going to feel self-conscious about how I am actually going to look on camera if I’m being recorded. It adds an unnecessary layer of stress and will probably magnify any visible nervousness. Also, since I never use a webcam, it would take much longer for me to get everything ready than someone who is familiar with all that. I’d be incredibly frustrated by the time I got to the actual video.

            Reply
    2. fposte

      I’d say that a refusal to fulfill the process is dropping out of the process, so you can decline, but not stay in the running.

      However, Skype interviews generally happen in place of an in-person interview when the candidate is too far to make it in, so I don’t think they happen much when you’re interviewing locally. If you’re interviewing long distance and a Skype interview is really a dealbreaker, you might well be able to avoid it by traveling in for the interview instead, though of course that’s on your own dime.

      You may also want to have a look at advice to improve your Skype interviewing, as in a previous post of Alison’s:

      http://www.askamanager.org/2012/08/10-tips-to-avoid-bombing-your-next-skype-interview.html

      Reply
    3. Brton3

      This is going to become the norm. I really believe that. Sorry. Video conferences are, for all intents and purposes, already the norm. Of all the new technologies to resist, this is not one of them. It never occurred to me that some people would be uncomfortable with it, but I understand. For what it’s worth, I think I am unphotogenic too but there’s a big difference between a still photo and a video where you’re (sort of) in three dimensions. I personally don’t think there’s any practical difference at all between a video meeting and an in person meeting. As long as you have a relatively blank wall behind you and you take a look at the lighting situation so the image isn’t pitch black or washed out in white, everything should be find.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Except these aren’t video meetings — they’re one-sided things where the candidate is talking to a computer, not to a person. There’s no interaction. I don’t think they’ll become the norm for that reason.

        Reply
        1. Brton3

          Yes, I agree with you there. But Manda said Skype interview, which I just assumed to mean an interview on Skype, not a video diary submission like the LW described. Maybe we need to set some terminology here. I think Skype interviews (like, actual interviews) will become the norm.

          Reply
          1. Manda

            Well, I hope neither becomes the norm. I realize video conferences are already the norm, but not in every single position out there. I don’t plan on climbing the corporate ladder so I doubt that’s something I’ll have to deal with, or at least not often. I wouldn’t take a job knowing that video calls are going to be a major part of it. Since it didn’t occur to you that some people would be uncomfortable with this sort of thing, chances are a lot of people using this hiring practice never thought of it either. Just because a lot people chat on webcams doesn’t mean everybody wants to.

            Aside: I’m puzzled as to why one of my comments above says it’s awaiting moderation, while the next is not. I’m not trying to spam here. =S

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Sometimes the spam filter temporarily stops working and when it does, it holds everything submitted during that period for moderation. Usually it’s fixed within a couple of minutes.

              Reply
  25. Limon

    Interesting point about how a good interview is not just about ten canned questions from the interviewer and no deviation by you or them no matter how you answer.

    Hmmm …. As a new teacher I have found that this is the norm for many schools! Wow, no wonder I don’t like this. It is weird. D’oh!

    Usually there is a group of teachers and an admin/principal and they rapid fire ask their ten questions and you the poor candidate are required to answer quickly, but not too quickly! in depth, but not too in depth! There is no deviation from these standard, bland questions. You are not always allowed to ask questions, and will be cut off sometimes if you do.

    I used to think I would like teaching and have taught before. As a STEM person, it seems like a good karma thing to pass on knowledge to the next generation. But this is wearing me out and it feels like I am being interviewed for a factory job (which, maybe it really is considering what education is like these days). I don’t think education really values the contributions of science and math professionals.

    I love this site and the comments, every day I learn so much about the working world. As someone who has worked in other industries for many years – you would think I would know this but, I guess I did not.

    Reply
  26. Editor

    If an employer asks for this type of interview and doesn’t provide the questions in advance, I am guessing that the applicant could do some kind of practice run to see how they look on camera and so on, since people seem to mention this. I believe I have a webcam, but I’ve never used it. How does someone who is good with documents but knows nothing about video do a dry run on their own before logging on and dealing with the actual video interview?

    I’ve read, either on this site or elsewhere, that choosing a neutral background, fiddling with lighting, and positioning the camera properly are important. I assume I can find some instructions through Google for getting a webcam to work, but does anyone have any advice that might not turn up in a simple Google search?

    Reply
  27. Britt

    Last month I did a video interview with a very large company and I really hated it. Thing is, I got turned down for the job but just yesterday they sent me an email saying “Congratulations! You’ve passed the first stage of the interviewing process for X Company!” along with information on starting the second portion of the interviewing process. I’m so confused. I’m like, am I still in the running for the job or am I not? The job recruiting process is just getting more and more impersonal all the time, but I guess that’s to be expected with larger companies nowadays.

    Reply
    1. Jenna

      The more you outsource a procedure and overwork the people who are doing the data entry required to keep it going, the worse it is going to get.

      It is even worse if it is something that the people at the top of the company don’t have to deal with. No CEO will ever have to deal with a video interview ever.

      Reply
  28. Another Anonymous

    To the OP and others who have expressed concern and some fear of doing an interview via recording, I think it is a coming “thing” and it would be useful to develop some comfort level with this type of interview. Just like we don’t go to regular face-to-face interviews every day and have to prepare for those, we need to be aware and prepare for conducting ourselves and answering questions in a video format. I had to conduct an initial interview via recording and I prepared just like for the real thing. I dressed waist-up as if I were going to their office for a face-to-face interview. I prepared my thoughts about my experience and practed answering as if they wanted to know abou my experience doing the things they had on the job description. The biggest challenge I found was managing the time for my answers. There was a limit to how much time you had between the question and response (I could pause and think before recording my response) and then again for how much time to actually speak and record the response. It was actually shorter than a face-to-face interview. Although I ran out of time on one question, the recruiter for the position said it was fine and I still got invited for a face-to-face interview. (I didn’t get the job; their focus seemed to completely change from wanting someone with experience in the field. I saw them advertise about a year later looking for “recent grads with master’s or PHDs in I/O psychology”; make of that verbiage what you will…)
    Anyway, for the future, be aware and be willing to prepare for this type of interview. Good luck for the next time!

    Reply
  29. Brton3

    The specifics of this interview are really weird – having to sit in front of a camera and deliver a series of set answers? Very odd.

    However, I think proper interviews (i.e. conversations) will increasingly happen via Skype or other video technology. It’s marginally more efficient for the company and, in some ways, for the job seeker. And of course, for jobs located far away, it makes perfect sense. For my current job, I moved to a different state, and the first two interviews I had were via Skype. It was great.

    Reply
  30. Susan

    I recently completed a fellowship/internship, which I got by completing two traditional phone interviews, but found out that my replacement had to do this sort of video interview.

    My impression (at least for us) is that it’s an option that HR gives to hiring managers, and some took this route, and some didn’t. We had a unique case where the two people who would usually be involved in this decision were both gone for a few weeks in late May when this decision is usually made. Instead of having a “third-in-line” person step in, who may not have been that invested in the decision, they chose this route. The decision was made after one of the women returned from her honeymoon and was able to view the videos.

    That’s a special circumstance, and I’m honestly not sure if it adds much to the discussion. Maybe: it can work for extreme situations, but most of us still prefer actual human contact?

    To the OP’s question, though, I don’t think you can “opt out” of however a company is doing their hiring selection. Entry-level applications are abundant, and I’ve noticed when speaking to HR (or the managing editor, for that matter) at my company where they even KNOW me, you’re only going to get a response if you have a simple, straight-forward question. Changing the rules for an interview probably doesn’t fall under that category.

    I would say just chalk it up to lesson learned, and maybe work around the nerves next time. There’s certainly plenty of missed opportunities I regret. But responses to job applications are so rare, I would jump on anything, especially if you think you’d like the job!

    Reply
  31. Chevez

    Hi,

    I found this post very interesting. I had a video interview through HireVue today and provide the following useful tips and feedback.

    a) The company gave me about 3 business days for completing this video interview. I like many of the readers here, am uncomfortable with this kind of non interactive technology.
    b) the company said that – only this month, they have started the digital interview process and I HAVE to take it
    c) the HR/Recruiter told me that there were a mix of role based questions and personality questions, but I was surprised that the questions were very tough and would have liked to have these questions on a face to face. I am awaiting the results, but would be disapointed if the company rejects me based only on this media interview – it was too short to answer the questions, too long to setup myself, too uncofortable, too messy to do this kind of interview
    d) As far as HireVue techology is concerned – here are a few tips. Though it said – you could use handheld, desktop. pc, etc, I regretted taking this on my latest Samsung Galaxy S4, So please note the following for HireVue
    e) DO NOT take this interview on Samsung Galaxy kind of phone. Take it on your PC /Laptop ONLY. The problem is the questions come up and you have 30 seconds to read it. That is not even enough to “assimilate” the question. Each of the questions were at least 100 words. Soe of them were technical words. By the time you read, take a breath and start to answer the camera starts recording. I do not think that HireVue people actually designed it testing it in a “real-candidate” mode on a Smartphone. Most of the questions, I had to read quickly and answer as much as I could understand. And worse, the Galaxy phone was showing the questions in a potrait mode, whereas I had my camera in a landscape mode to show more of my personality. So I had to actually read vertical text, tilt my head, read the long question, understand it, take a few breaths and answer – all in 30 secs, plus 3 mins to answer. If they reject me for not getting my answers right, they would be doing injustice to the interview process
    f) Lighting – No amount of daylight was good enough to get the right exposure, as every window/opening behind my back darkened the image. So don’t attempt to take this in the morning unless you are in a company conference room. I finally had to draw down all the blinds, make my apartment dark, and then shifted three table lamps from different rooms to get the lighting which satisfied me. So better to take this in the night. Also for the quietness part.
    g) when I recorded the practice questions – I was not satisfied with my voice and the noise. Even the hum of the AC and the hum of the Fridge were loudly heard. Maybe it is the Galaxy phone sensitivity. So finally I had to shut down the refrigerator for doing this interview, shut down my AC. Probably you would have to do this. A neighbors dog barking, came out loud and clear in the recording. So be prepared for these steps and frustrations
    h) The practice takes almost about one hour to setup on the small Galaxy phone – the right phone position, posture for reading, settngling down to answer. So have at least 1-2 hours to practice before you attempt the digital interview
    i) As far as actual questions are concerned – don’t get carried away by the practice questions – these are simply dummy questions. The actual role questions could be complete different and long an technical with long words and sentence, and 30 secs to read and answer. End of the interview, I felt frustrated. I had about 10 questions.
    j) I did some research on Internet, but there is not much information from users on how these interviews are used. Obviously if top Technology companies aren’t using this, I doubt the efficacy of this. What I read from some forums is that this is more of a HR aid for HR team, rather than for business/Technical t to evaluate you. But did not find a definitive answer to this on the Internet
    l) for those who are taking the HireVue, better test everything before you go for actual interview questions. I had some technical problems, I contacted the HireVue helpdesk and couldn’t find anyone better than a call center agent to answer my questions. Finally I hung up and proceeded with my interview.

    If I get results and feedback from this interview I will post it.

    Reply
    1. April

      Thanks for the great information.

      Just about to have one of these.

      Don’t currently have a webcam so they want to use smartphone

      Reply
  32. F

    I just did a digital interview using Hire Vue. I don’t feel that I did well because I need a person to talk to!

    Unfortunately using this interviewing method, people with great interpersonal skills will be weeded out and sociopaths will do great.

    Reply
  33. Concerned

    I have a concern with this type of hiring and one question:
    1) It may constitute a new tool for racial discrimination.
    2) I am not an actor nor I am seeking to develop any acting skills in monologues. Don’t get me wrong- I am good at giving presentations but I am not good with cameras in front of me. My second concern comes with record keeping; once the interview goes wrong, it stays in their records. Who can guarantee that this material could be used in detriment of any candidate. I can give faith of this, because of a previous experience with another recruiting site. I was put through a general questionnaire, thinking that it was only going to be used for a particular company. The test went wrong because I pressed different key by mistake. To my surprise, this company pops up in another job application with a different hiring company. I finish filling up my application and was advised to take the test. When the test screen come up, the screen informs me that I had taken the test in a previous occasion. Now, I am banned from applying with several employers.
    3) Does anyone knows about any advocacy groups against this hiring practices or any legislator that could press against these practices?

    Reply

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