rejecting a candidate because they can’t interview by video, interviewer asked to see the writing I do for fun, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Rejecting a candidate because they can’t interview by video

I’m at a midsized government agency on the west coast hiring for a middle manager-level position. We posted nationally, got good responses, and have asked four candidates to interview over Zoom.

We have three interviews set up. The fourth person, who lives 1500 miles away, said she didn’t have a webcam on her computer. We suggested she use her phone, but she said the phone webcam was broken. She didn’t say, nor did we ask, why she hadn’t solved these problems. She asked if she could do an audio call instead.

I decided not to interview her, given the other strong candidates. It seems to me that with over a week’s notice for the interview, the candidate should be able to borrow a friend’s phone for an hour, or rent/borrow a laptop, or use a public computing resource in her town (we googled and there are some). I also think that somebody interviewing remotely, particularly during a pandemic, should have been prepared for video interviews, anticipated this question, and have potential solutions in mind.

However, some of my team disagrees, saying we don’t want to eliminate candidates because of their financial situations, with which I wholeheartedly agree. The person is currently employed in a management role, not that that means their budget allows for webcams/phone repair! And I have a lot of sympathy for those who aren’t in the best financial situation. Still, if they hadn’t thought to borrow a friend’s equipment or make some kind of arrangement, I’m having a hard time believing they’re interested enough, or resourceful/creative enough, for the role in question. What are your thoughts?

I think you were wrong to decline to interview her if you otherwise would have. You’re reading a lot into her lack of webcam. She understandably might be loath to use a public computing space during a pandemic. And it’s not necessarily easy to borrow someone else’s equipment during a pandemic either; she might not even know anyone local who she’d feel comfortable asking, especially if she didn’t know it would be a deal-breaker for you.

And why is it a deal-breaker for you? A few years ago, before video interviews were as ubiquitous as they are now, most of us relied on phone interviews and they worked just fine. And yes, I know there are advantages to video — like that you can see body language — but there are also disadvantages, like the well-documented drain from the constant gaze of the camera and the slight delay in virtual responses. Ultimately, “can interview on camera” is not so essential that it should be a deal-breaker for most roles (assuming the job isn’t something like giving trainings via webcam, where you’d want to see their on-camera presence) — at least not at an early interview stage.

If nothing else, I would have argued for doing the interview by phone and then, if you wanted to move her forward, deciding at that point if she really needed to be on camera for the next round or not.

2. Interviewer asked to see samples of the fantasy writing I do for fun

I was interviewing for a developer position at a large company, and the interview process had gone generally well. As I was talking with my interviewer, one of the questions that came up was a question about what I like to do in my spare time. I mentioned that, oh, I like to write in my spare time. However, I was thrown off-guard when he asked me if I had any writing to show him. The position I was interviewing for had no real writing component, let alone fiction writing, so I hadn’t brought anything, and to be honest a large part of what I write I wouldn’t want to show an employer. (None of it has anything I think is offensive or anything, it’s just that it can be personal, and my amateur, unpublished fantasy writing isn’t something I super feel like my bosses in development need to see). The interviewer seemed surprised and disappointed that I didn’t have anything to show him when I said that I didn’t have anything for him, and it was awkwardly silent for a moment before we moved on. I ended up feeling like I had somehow messed up by bringing it up.

I later ended up with the job, so clearly the interviewer’s confusion here didn’t break the deal or anything, but it still haunts me a little. Should I have not mentioned writing if I wasn’t prepared with a portfolio? If I’d said I played guitar, they wouldn’t have expected me to play a song, would they have? Are there more expected hobbies and interests to mention in an interview? I’d brought up writing because I thought it was more interesting and came across as more constructive to say in an interview than bringing up, say, playing video games or Dungeons and Dragons, but because writing can be a job skill did the interviewer expect me to have more? Or was this just a slightly awkward interaction without much else behind it?

Just a slightly awkward interaction without much else behind it. You were fine! There’s nothing wrong with mentioning writing as a hobby. My guess is that either (1) your interviewer didn’t realize you wrote fiction and was picturing more expository writing (essays, blog posts about your field, a series of cranky letters-to-the-editor, or so forth) and thought it could potentially illustrate a work-relevant skill, or (2) he was just interested on a personal level, without thinking through all the reasons you might not want to share your personal writings (which might point to inexperience interviewing on his part, or maybe just basic naïveté about the wide range of things people write, the writing process, etc.).

(Also, for what it’s worth, he probably didn’t expect you to have a portfolio of writing on you that you’d whip out on the spot. He was likely hoping you’d say, “Oh sure, I’ll send some over later today.” But if he was in fact expecting you had it with you … you had an odd interviewer.)

But it’s perfecting fine to mention writing as a hobby. That said, do know that you could get follow-up questions on anything you mention in an interview, even if it doesn’t feel especially relevant — sometimes because people are genuinely curious or trying to be polite and sometimes because there might be something going on that makes it relevant in a way you don’t realize, like that the person who writes whimsical limericks for their packaging just left and they’re trying to find someone else who can do it. So if you wouldn’t want to answer questions about, for example, what genre you write in, it’s safer not to mention the hobby!

3. Candidate calls me by my first name, but not my male boss

I’m a professional woman in my early 50s hiring for a position at my company. My boss (a mid-40s man) and I interviewed a good candidate for a junior position (a man is his late 20s) with whom my boss and I have each subsequently exchanged a few emails. In each email the candidate has sent to my boss, he calls him “Mr. [Boss’s last name]” but in mine, he calls me by my first name. We’re pretty informal in our office, were relaxed in our interviews, and have always signed our emails with just our first names. I’m confused by the difference in addressing us. My husband says it’s sexism and a big red flag. I’m curious as to your thoughts.

I can’t say for sure, but there’s a good chance it’s sexism. It could just be because your boss is the boss, but I’d bet a fair amount of money that if you were an early 50s man, he’d be calling you Mr. LastName too. (As we discussed last week, in most fields it’s overly formal to be calling anyone Mr./Ms. LastName, and especially when they’re using their first names with you. People who insist on doing it anyway often — not always, but often — subscribe to the same brand of retro business “manners” that include treating men differently than women.)

Have you noticed any other differences in your interactions with him? Is he making way more eye contact with your boss than with you, addressing all his questions to your boss even though you’re in the room talking to him as well, etc.? Those things often go hand in hand.

4. When interviewing, when should I disclose that I can’t drive?

I have a disability that prevents me from driving. Generally, my disability has not necessitated any accommodations at work except for at one previous job that required a driver’s license in the job posting. The reality was that the job could be done without me personally driving through a combination of public transportation and cabs/rideshares that were at a very low cost to my employer (~$200 total over three years). I’m now working at a job that doesn’t require a driver’s license, but I am interested in applying for a different job that does.

Here’s the thing. The hiring manager for my previous job that required a license knew me before I applied. She was aware of my disability and chose to interview me anyway. I didn’t need to disclose anything, and I knew that when I applied. She told me she hired me because she knew the quality of my work and trusted that I knew what I was doing and would get the job done well. (I was promoted multiple times, and she and other managers at that company continue to be a strong reference for me.)

The job I want to apply for now is a different story; I don’t know anyone at the company. I have had this disability my whole life; I have gotten really good at telling when I can’t do something and when an able-bodied person just didn’t consider all the different ways a job could get done because they’ve never had to think about it. Of course, there’s always the chance that I am missing something prohibitive, but that is what the interview process is for. If I learn that a fundamental part of the job requires driving, I have no problem bowing out. Otherwise, I’m pretty confident that this is another job that I can excel at despite not being able to drive. But when do I disclose that I don’t meet one of their stated requirements due to my disability? The first interview? The second? If there’s a job offer? What is the protocol here?

Two options: You can ask about it in the interview (any of them) by saying something like, “I noticed the ad asked for a driver’s license. Is there a lot of driving in this role?” Then, if you want, you can say, “I have a disability that prevents me from driving but have always found that easy to accommodate with public transportation or cabs. Would that be prohibitive for this role?”

Or you can simply wait and bring it up at the offer stage. The advantage to waiting until then to raise it is that it will ensure the employer has to be rigorous about figuring out if there’s a way to accommodate you (because they can’t legally rescind the offer at that point unless the accommodation would cause undue hardship). The disadvantage, of course, is that you could go through the whole interview process only to discover that not driving really is prohibitive. But so many jobs list a license as a requirement when it doesn’t need to be that it’s not unreasonable to wait until the offer stage, as long as you don’t see anything in the job description that indicates driving really is likely to be an essential duty.

5. I think my emails to our biggest funder are going to her spam folder

I work at a medium-sized nonprofit where I run a local project that has been entirely funded by a single national grantmaker since its inception five years ago. This foundation is my organization’s largest donor and we have a great relationship with the foundation beyond just the money — they’ve tapped my program to assist in testing one of their national initiatives, the foundation director has spoken at our organization’s annual meeting several times, our CEO is included in their small planning groups, etc. So we’re tight.

Last year the foundation’s assistant director left and they hired a replacement, Kelly. Kelly has never ever answered a single one of my emails. She answers my coworkers’ emails no problem and has never given any other indication that she has a problem with me, so I don’t think it’s personal, I really think all my emails are going to her spam folder. I don’t know what to do about this! Normally I would just call but nobody I know has her phone number (and I’ve asked!). I could reach out to the foundation director but I don’t want to make her look bad to her boss. I could ask one of my coworkers to forward my contacts but I don’t want to make it look like in accusing her of ignoring me (though … is she??) I’m just at a loss here because of the power dynamics. I want to keep her happy (and boss, and her boss, and both our organizations) but I need my questions answered!

I think you’re over-complicating this in your head! You can just ask a coworker who’s in reliable contact with Kelly to explain you’re having trouble reaching her and your emails are likely going to her spam folder, and have that coworker forward the most recent message. You’re not going to sound like you’re accusing her of ignoring you; this happens occasionally, and it’s fine to just be matter-of-fact about it!

{ 737 comments… read them below }

  1. DoubleE*

    In response to letter #1: The job candidate may be in an area that is still under a strict lock down, or their area may be seeing a surge in cases. It’s also possible that the job candidate (or someone they live with) has a medical condition that puts them at increased risk of serious illness or death from covid and they don’t feel a webcam is worth the risk.

    1. Wendy*

      Also possible they have some sort of disability or condition that makes them not present as well visually – facial scarring, for example – that wouldn’t affect their job performance but which has made video interviews harder in the past. If their potential position involves face-to-face contact with the public this may be relevant to their ability to do the job, but I can completely understand someone not wanting to explain AGAIN why they don’t look like everyone else :-\

      1. BatManDan*

        Friend of mine (and client, too) was recently burned on his face and hands through carelessness on his part. He’s healing nicely, but is doing EVERYTHING via phone (no video) for the next couple of months, just to avoid the conversation about what happened.

      2. CatPerson*

        “If their potential position involves face-to-face contact with the public this may be relevant to their ability to do the job”
        You are saying that people with facial scarring can’t work in a public facing job? That’s a horrible thing to say. People need to get used to the way other people actually look.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          I read it as the person being interviewed being selfconscious (about being on camera) which could carry over into confidence being in front of people, but either way it is kind of an icky thing to say. I have some facial scarring from a long-ago injury, and while in person it isn’t really visible and I’m not self-conscious about it any longer, on video because of shadows etc it is more prominent and makes me feel I should hide it. (And I’ve been teaching online the last year, so I’ve had a lot of opportunities to notice it on zoom!)

        2. Wendy*

          I didn’t say they can’t – I said it may be relevant to their ability to do their job. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world, and there are definitely careers where looks and first impressions matter. Companies are allowed to take that into consideration while hiring as long as it doesn’t infringe on any legally protected classes.

          (Analogous case: a friend of mine has developed a medical condition which sometimes causes severe body odor no matter how good his hygiene is. He ended up leaving his sales job, despite being good at it, because customers off the street weren’t willing to buy from a salesman who stinks. He went on to be a product rep for a limited number of corporate clients who have all gotten to know him by now, so the odor thing is much less of an issue.)

      3. t*

        >Also possible they have some sort of disability or condition that makes them not present as well visually

        So what? As the interviewer, I’d have to get over that.

        1. Pippa K*

          It would be cruel to reject someone on that basis, and as the *employer* you’d probably have to get over it, but it seems awfully likely that an interviewer might be affected by appearance in that way. Age discrimination is actually unlawful in many places and we know that happens plenty, so guarding against a negative effect from visible disability or appearance doesn’t seem unreasonable.

        2. Observer*

          –Also possible they have some sort of disability or condition that makes them not present as well visually

          So what? As the interviewer, I’d have to get over that.

          Of course you should. But it’s not unreasonable for a job applicant to worry that the interviewer will NOT get over it. And when you are dealing with someone who has unrealistic expectations, it’s an even greater worry. (And to be clear, the OP *does have unrealistic expectations here.)

      4. CommanderBanana*

        I had a minor facial surgery a few weeks ago that left me looking like a chipmunk for a few days and had to stay off of camera. I sounded fine but looked weird.

      5. KoiFeeder*

        Doesn’t even have to be a case where it’s both video and face-to face. I’m faceblind, and I can’t innately recognize my own face on video so doing video interviews is just very psychologically weird for me in a way that an in-person interview isn’t.

        (I’m also just terrible at interviews in general, but that’s not related to my faceblindness)

    2. Budgets, Lockdowns, Disabilities... oh yeah, and Privacy too...*

      Adding to that, the total disregard for implications in just “borrow[ing] a friend’s phone for an hour” or “us[ing] a public computing resource in her town” (some assumption there, I have a few relatives in places where that is just not a thing) are kind of alarming. Borrowing a phone? How much personal stuff does the typical person store on those these days? You assume people are comfortable with, and have friends who are comfortable with, mixing accounts on someone else’s personal device these days?

      LW1 assumes this is budgetary, but this could just as easily be legitimately a privacy thing. On top of some discriminatory concerns others are mentioning about possibly living in a situation that reveals stuff that isn’t great for an interview context (shared living, possible disability-related equipment, all sorts of things in the background and a lot of modern-enough computers do not support blur or picture backgrounds), the assumption this person lives somewhere where you can just go interact with people to borrow such a highly personal device is deeply concerning.

      Also, for some folks adding the video can have consequences besides that regularly cited “draining” effect. Lots of faces compacted into a smaller space to jump between, and looking at any of the faces means looking at none because you’re supposed to be looking at the camera anyway, but when you do so then you miss what few visual cues a camera feed would give you anyway… yeah, not easy.

      Thank you Alison for confirming in the response to this one that a phone interview would have been fine, especially earlier in the process.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, there are lots of reasons why someone wouldn’t want to use video, the candidate just used the lack of a webcam as the reason. I do think that asking them to borrow someone else’s equipment was just completely out of touch.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          We have remote workers in rural areas. They can do their job, but their video lag is often terrible.

          The library solution might not be possible. My local library has computers available for public use, but they don’t have webcams. (Not even the laptops.) And right now, you can only go into the library if you make an appointment, which would require additional planning to coordinate. (In normal times, I’ve used my library’s excellent wi-fi & conference rooms for video interviews – using my own laptop, of course.)

          1. Really Just a Cat*

            That’s a great point. What would LW do if they scheduled a video interview, but connection issues meant that the candidate had to turn their video off to reduce lag and improve connectivity? We do that all the time–Zoom and other programs require a lot more bandwidth with video turned on.

            If that had happened, would LW have stopped the interview? Cancelled? Stopped considering their candidacy? Is the only reason to require video is so the candidates ‘prove’ their intense interest in the role (via getting access to a webcam)? It just seems an odd requirement for an otherwise strong candidate trying to find a job in pandemic conditions.

          2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            At my public libraries, you’re not supposed to take phone calls in computer labs, which are quiet spaces. I assume video calls would also apply. Also, even if you could, who wants a bunch of strangers to be around, walking behind you and overhearing your job interview?

      2. Caroline Bowman*

        Sure, all of that may be true, but the thing is this: It was a stated requirement and there is already a sizeable pool of candidates to choose from to interview. I am ex recruitment and learned over the years that having a set of reasonable parameters for a role, which these actually are, weeds out candidates who are not willing or able to do what is expected of them.

        I happen to think a phone interview at first round level would suffice perfectly, but the hiring manager didn’t. Maybe in future they could do it differently, but the notion of trying to imagine every possible reason why a candidate cannot do what is reasonably expected (and would be reasonably expected during the course of the role, from the sounds of things) is a bit much. Recruitment is discriminatory by its nature. Humans are. When you have 20 possible applicants who fit the general requirements, you’re looking to narrow the pool. Being met with barriers and ”yes but I can’t”, for whatever (entirely genuine) reason is not the recruitment manager’s problem to solve. Clearly there are plenty of candidates who are willing and able to meet quite reasonable expectations.

        For future roles, especially more junior positions, they might want to turn that into a phone call rather, but having set the course, they’ve got their candidates and that’s that.

        1. AprilShower*

          It is most certainly a good way to filter out certain undesirable candidates without having to spend any time on them.

        2. No camera*

          Except it wasn’t a stated requirement. The OP invited her to a video interview, the candidate said that they didn’t have the tools to make that happen and asked for a phone interview and the OP decided not to interview her at all. I can understand that they may need to keep the interviews as similar as possible (so all four on zoom or all four by phone) but it sounds like that was not conveyed to the candidate. At the very least the candidate should be told that the interview must be a video interview and asked if they could work something out or would prefer to withdraw.

          1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

            This. Some communication from the OP to the candidate would have been nice.

        3. I edit everything*

          But there’s no indication that it’s a stated requirement of the job. It’s just how they would prefer to do interviews.

        4. singlemaltgirl*

          agreed. while i agree about making reasonable accommodations to encourage a broad range of candidates, this was a remote position and i’m sorry if people don’t or haven’t realized that video tends to be a preferred method of interviewing for these types of roles currently. alison’s excuse about ‘what did we do before?’ doesn’t hold weight. before cars we used horses. so what? the modern age has made tech, particularly in the western world, the common approach to biz.

          presumably this person is writing about a company in the western world so yes, candidates, particularly for management (this is not an entry level, fresh out of school, doesn’t know biz norms candidate) to have figured that not having a web cam and not figuring out a way to accommodate video interviews will negatively impact their ability to get remote jobs.

          and why pursue a candidate who, if shortlisted, will still not be able (or is unwilling) to do a video interview at some point? a week’s notice is adequate to figure it out and you won’t be figuring it out. an employer has a reasonable expectation to recruit in a way that fits common ethical biz practice. this appears to be one.

          1. Weekend Please*

            Often the first interview is a phone screen. It isn’t clear that they would never be able or willing to do a video interview. It isn’t unreasonable to not want to borrow or buy a device for a first interview, especially if they don’t know how many other candidates are being interviewed or how many rounds of interviews there will be.

            1. Really Just a Cat*

              That’s a great point. Purchasing equipment for a job that requires it is different than purchasing it so you can be considered for that job. Although actually, the company should provide it themselves in that case.

            2. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

              Right. And the candidate could have also wanted to know things like salary range during that initial phone call, which would have helped determined whether she wanted to move forward or not at all. I wouldn’t want to jump through hoops to borrow equipment from someone who may or may not be using it themselves for work at the moment for a job I might not even want when all is said and done.

            3. Joielle*

              Yeah, but then the interviewee could have said “I’m sorry, I don’t have a webcam right now. I’m trying to order one online but anywhere that has some in stock will take more than a week to ship. Would it be possible to do the first interview without video?” I think if there was any sort of attempt to solve the problem or work with the LW, it would have come off a lot better.

              Or if the candidate is opposed to appearing on video at all (or their internet is slow, or whatever reason they can’t ever do video), they could have explained that. I mean, worst case scenario is they don’t get an interview, which is what happened anyways.

          2. It Might Be Me*

            This whole thing IMO quickly veered into “some people can’t eat sandwiches” territory.*
            The LW stated that she Googled the availability of resources in the applicant’s area. It seems that the applicant should also be trying to actively problem solve this as well. If there was a recent facial surgery the applicant could mention it. I interviewed once with cracked ribs. In person.

            Yes, the LW could have done a phone interview. But, before committing to a face-to-face interview there would probably be a video interview. 15000 miles is a long way to travel before that step.

            *–Sandwiches refers to another AAM letter.

            1. Dahlia*

              …just because there are public computers in the area you live in doesn’t mean you can do a JOB INTERVIEW on them???

              1. C is for Cookie*

                Agreed. Has everyone forgotten we’re in the middle of a GLOBAL PANDEMIC?????? :facepalm:

                Also the fact that LW is trying to solve the problem for the applicant instead of just communicating with the applicant about why having video is required just sends red flags all over the place for me. It sounds like LW feels the application just isn’t willing to solve the problem and maybe there was a better way for them to communicate about that together.

          3. A*

            Except that the equipment needed to work remotely is typically provided by the employer. So if the candidate wasn’t already in a remote position, it’s not unreasonable for them to not already own that kind of setup. I also think it’s worth noting that for large parts of the pandemic… web cams were sold out across the board. Heck, at one point even the low quality ones were selling for HUNDREDS on ebay.

            100% reasonable to expect them to use company provided equipment for video calls, not so reasonable to expect that setup to already be in place and/or be put in place during the pandemic on the candidates dime one week out from an interview.

        5. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’ve been in corporate staffing almost 40 years, and have also used certain parameters for initial candidate selection. A certain degree, minimum years of experience in certain subject matter, certifications? Sure. A consistent interview process? I’m all for that…but that does not automatically mean The Process is sacrosanct.

          What I see in OP’s case is a demand for a certain process – video interview – that seems to be important because…well, that’s what she wants. I also see that a request for accommodation is viewed as a challenge, rather than a request. But then she indulges in reasoning and rationalization about the candidate’s situation! That tells me she wants The Process more than she wants to learn about the candidate in the best way possible at the moment.

          Yes, I’ve conducted video interviews, and been on some myself. I’ve asked for a phone interview for myself, when circumstances wouldn’t allow for a video interview. No one complained or declined my candidacy. And when candidates explained why they were requesting a phone interview, I didn’t hold it against them.

          OP, please rethink your rigid stance, and PLEASE don’t speculate about a candidate’s situation and abilities.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Also: ‘Still, if they hadn’t thought to borrow a friend’s equipment or make some kind of arrangement, I’m having a hard time believing they’re interested enough, or resourceful/creative enough, for the role in question.’

            A candidate indicates their interest by applying, and by agreeing to an interview. Expecting anything more, mainly to serve the OP’s belief, aggravates me. It’s one of the reasons why hiring managers and/or HR folks can have a bad reputation.

            1. Archaeopteryx*

              I agree that the “interested” part of that statement isn’t great. And there are plenty of reasons someone might not be able to borrow a phone/computer or find a public resource with a week’s notice – but I think the “resourceful” part is saying that whatever that reason is, the candidate should’ve told OP. Like how there are circumstances where one might not be able to change into interview-appropriate clothes beforehand, but it’s up to you to share what the reason is or else people will wonder why you didn’t make it work.

              I do think OP should’ve still done the phone interview – whatever disadvantage the candidate would be at due to being only heard while the other candidates are seen as well isn’t super correctable, but there’s a chance they’d be wowed by her in spite of that disadvantage and if so, that’s someone you really want on your team!

              But her saying “my webcam is broken” when that isn’t enough of an explanation as to why none of the obvious secondary solutions work isn’t communicative enough. Expecting that she’d say, “I’m sorry, my webcam is broken, I’m new in town and don’t have close friends here, and the library is shut down – would it be OK to do the interview by phone?” if that is indeed the case is pretty reasonable. Sure, maybe there’s some reason she’s not sharing the real reason, but this is the risk you run when being cagey – the interviewer having to wonder what’s up.

              1. Ethyl*

                “obvious secondary solutions”

                I’m not so sure borrowing a phone or laptop, or suggesting public computer access during a pandemic are “obvious,” or even reasonable.

                1. Bree*

                  So much this. That LW1 actually took the time to research public computing resources to confirm their theory that everyone has access to video chatting technology is mind boggling. My local library is my favorite place in the world but a) their computer lab is closed because we are in a pandemic and b) even if it wasn’t, their machines don’t have cameras and c) the computer lab is a quiet space so no talking.

              2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                ‘But her saying “my webcam is broken” when that isn’t enough of an explanation as to why none of the obvious secondary solutions work isn’t communicative enough. Expecting that she’d say, “I’m sorry, my webcam is broken, I’m new in town and don’t have close friends here, and the library is shut down – would it be OK to do the interview by phone?” ‘

                This is an interview, not an IRS audit, deposition, or war tribunal. None of these explanations or justifications are necessary, nor should the lack of same be held against the candidate.

                ‘Sure, maybe there’s some reason she’s not sharing the real reason, but this is the risk you run when being cagey – the interviewer having to wonder what’s up.’

                Then the interviewer needs a lot more experience and training, if they think the candidate is being cagey in a case like this.

                1. Anonapots*

                  Exactly. “I’m sorry, my webcam is broken. Can we do this over the phone?” The end. At that point, the OP can decide to do the interview via phone (do the damn interview). Don’t follow up by asking “well, what about your phone camera.” Just do a phone interview.

                2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                  Especially since the interviewer didn’t go back and ASK. I’ve always been taught–by Alison, no less–to keep explanations simple. I don’t need to tell employers or interviewers the details of my medical appointments. I don’t need to go into a huge, involved excuse for everything. If someone wants more info, or to explore alternatives, they can ask. If I have easy alternatives in mind, I can offer them, but especially if I don’t know how important something is (as in this case), why would I go on a huge explanation of why I’ve already tried every possible thing? I haven’t, because I didn’t think it was a big deal.

                3. EventPlannerGal*

                  @Princess – I just don’t think you can use that as a one size fits all strategy, even if it does come from Alison. Simple explanations are fine in a lot of contexts, especially with people you already have an established working relationship with! But I think some occasions merit a slightly more involved explanation – not necessarily a huge one, but some kind of acknowledgement that the situation isn’t ideal and you don’t have an alternative – and IMO something like the setup for a job interview is one of those.

                4. Self Employed*

                  If the candidate had listed all the reasons why they can’t borrow anyone’s equipment or that the library didn’t allow Zoom calls, then LW would be writing in to gripe about the candidate spending more time coming up with excuses than they did trying to replace their webcam.

              3. Ace in the Hole*

                I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest borrowing the equipment from a friend or using a public space during a pandemic. I certainly don’t know anyone who could loan me a webcam on short notice, and I’m not even new in town or financially insecure. Given the pandemic is still a going concern worldwide, it’s certainly not reasonable to expect someone to use a public computer for their interview… even if said computer HAS a working webcam, which many don’t. Not to mention how disruptive it would be to, for example, have a zoom interview in a public library.

                I think it would indicate a lack of resourcefulness if the candidate had asked to postpone the interview entirely based on a lack of camera. However, requesting a phone interview to accommodate technical difficulties IS being resourceful. The candidate suggested a solution that would result in a perfectly functional interview at little to no expense or inconvenience for either party.

                1. Llama Llama*

                  About two years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do a zoom interview from home. My personal laptop had recently died and I didn’t want to purchase another at that time and my phone was old and wouldn’t have been able to download the zoom app. Requiring applicants to have certain access to technology on their own dime is discriminatory. I was fine with what I had, I didn’t need a laptop so I didn’t buy a new one. I still haven’t. I’m employed and middle class but I get to choose what I spend my money on and since I didn’t want or need a new laptop I don’t have to have one. During the pandemic making these assumptions is even worse. I still don’t have a personal laptop, what I have at home right now is my work issued laptop that I wouldn’t want to use for an interview at another company. My phone has been upgraded but easily could have not been. My library is closed. Period. I don’t have close friends in the area I work in who I could borrow from and yeah in a pandemic who is loaning someone their phone or the laptop that they are also probably using for work. I think what OP did is really pretty bad and made all kinds of assumptions, first about why the candidate SHOULD have all these things and then about what was WRONG with the candidate because she didn’t have them/couldn’t access them. I think it’s pretty elitist and rather discriminatory behavior on OP’s part.

              4. Peg*

                Agreed–this feels like the out-dated ‘show them you have moxie!’ mentality and assumes that the person in question should be going after this job at all costs, even before she’s had a single conversation with the potential employer to determine whether she wants to go forward with the process. Interviewing should be a two-way street.

              5. Amaranth*

                I don’t think that the applicant owes LW an awkward recitation of all the possible options for video in their area and a list of excuses. They did request an alternative solution and were told no. Its a bit much to expect an applicant to lease meeting space for an initial interview, in my opinion – the starting price here is about $50/hour.

        6. Czhorat*

          Yes, recruitment is discriminatory, but the goal is to discriminate in favor of the candidate most likely to be successful at the job. Whenever you remove a candidate for an unrelated reason you are damaging the integrity is the process.

          1. Jackalope*

            Yes, this exactly. As Alison pointed out, if video is an important component of the job then this is relevant. If it isn’t then discriminating against someone who doesn’t have the video ability for a first interview is weeding people out for reasons that aren’t related to what they need to be able to do for the job. At some point in time if you have 20 candidates and 1 position that will happen anyway if there are multiple candidates who would all be good, but if this candidate was one of the best options and they were early in the interview process it doesn’t make sense to screen them out for something that wouldn’t keep them from excelling at the job.

          2. KRM*

            Exactly. This is more like eliminating someone because their broadband is terrible and video isn’t an option, not because they don’t have the qualifications for the job. Many people have no to limited options for broadband, and have to take what they can get, which can include terrible video feed that they don’t want to deal with in an interview.

        7. t*

          >the notion of trying to imagine every possible reason why a candidate cannot do what is reasonably expected (and would be reasonably expected during the course of the role, from the sounds of things) is a bit much.


        8. Gan Ainm*

          For me I think it comes down to the lack of additional or mitigating info from the candidate. If the candidate said “normally I’d do X to get a camera but can’t because Reasons, could we do this first session without video?” it would feel very different. Just a blanket “no” doesn’t give the company much to go on and since hiring is a situation where you assume the candidate is putting their best foot forward, and is being their most accommodating in the hopes of getting a job, it leads me to wonder what they are like when they are not at their best.

          1. Observer*

            Just a blanket “no” doesn’t give the company much to go on and since hiring is a situation where you assume the candidate is putting their best foot forward, and is being their most accommodating in the hopes of getting a job, it leads me to wonder what they are like when they are not at their best.


            The candidate DID give a reason – no access to the appropriate equipment. The idea that a “good” candidate also needs to come up prove that even if they twist themselves into a pretzel they “can’t” do it is just an abuse of the power disparity between employer and applicant. And it arbitrarily knocks out people who might be very good candidates.

            1. Archaeopteryx*

              But I think in this case, for most people, “borrow a device from a friend for an hour” is a really obvious next step that doesn’t require any kind of pretzel twisting. So thinking they should acknowledge if/why that also doesn’t work for them isn’t unreasonable.

              1. Observer*

                But I think in this case, for most people, “borrow a device from a friend for an hour” is a really obvious next step that doesn’t require any kind of pretzel twisting.

                No it’s not. Borrowing someone’s personal cell phone for something like this is actually an extremely unreasonable request. Most people I know would NOT give even a good friend their phone for an hour, especially during the day. People use their phones way too heavily, and have waaaay too much personal information on there.

              2. ErinWV*

                I think the borrowing option is more complicated than people are considering. I honestly don’t know who I would borrow a device from at this moment in time. I don’t have close friends near where I live. My family lives two states away. I have some acquaintances in the 60-min drive range. Now I’m making a 2 hour+ round trip on my work day (no reason to assume OP’s candidate is not working a current job) to use someone else’s computer (which they themselves may need at 11:00am on a Monday or whenever this interview is meant to take place)? When I could just do a phone call from my own home instead?

                Having said that, I think the broken equipment was an excuse by someone who did not want to appear on camera for other reasons.

                1. Amaranth*

                  And…pandemic. If someone is okay with me breathing on their phone I’d still need to stay out of their bubble and that means probably driving to wherever they are and then sitting in my car outside their house for the interview so that I can have some kind of privacy.

                  It seems unusual that both cameras would be out at the same time, but until fairly recently it was taking a very long time to get tech parts and repairs accomplished. It could also be that the applicant couldn’t afford a laptop and/or smartphone, and was embarrassed to say so. Personally, if a company wasn’t interested enough in me to do a phone interview when I stated I had a tech problem and suggested another option, that’s not a company I want to move 1500 miles to work for anyway.

              3. a clockwork lemon*

                The list of people whom I would allow to borrow my laptop unsupervised for an hour is my husband and literally nobody else. The list of people I would allow to borrow my PHONE (!!!!) for an hour unsupervised is nobody. Even removing the obvious issues of “what if I need it during this time period,” my phone and laptop both are full of incredibly sensitive personal information that I don’t want anyone to have unfettered access to. My credit cards, my work emails, communications with medical professionals, and frankly some really embarrassing romance novels I’d rather not have to explain to people.

                Borrowing a piece of technology from someone in 2021 is a huge ask, especially if the someone you’re trying to borrow from is someone who doesn’t already live in your house, and in terms of etiquette and privacy it’s up there with asking someone if you can borrow their diary to take notes for class.

              4. Just a Cog in the Machine*

                My cell phone is my only phone. For most of the people I know, that’s the case. I’m working (from home, but working) during the hours an interview would take place. I am also getting my work calls forwarded to my cell phone. (I’ve received very few as most people are using Teams to call me, but there are a few people who are still using the regular phones.) I’m not going to loan my phone to anyone if I’m not there. I’d have to unlock it or add a user or something (I don’t even know what that would require). My only laptop (other than my work laptop) is a Chromebook. Can you even download the software required to do the video call on that? I have no idea.

                If I were in this situation (either as the interviewee or the interviewee’s friend), I wouldn’t have an easy solution to this, either.

              5. TheWalkingRed22102*

                Agreed. I’m seeing other comments where everyone has Pentagon-level paranoia about their friends and loved ones stealing their sensitive info, but I can’t think of a single friend (or hell, a couple of my coworkers) who wouldn’t say “yeah no problem dude, I need my phone but you can borrow my laptop or camera for the afternoon” or “drop by my place, I’ll run some errands while you do your call”.

                At the very least, we’d pitch in to get someone a camera for the interview. LA isn’t exactly known for its neighborly warmth but people are good.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              I mean, ultimately I would have liked the OP to have done the interview by phone, but I just don’t think that showing you have thought of and eliminated some fairly obvious next steps constitutes “twisting themselves into a pretzel”. That’s pretty dramatic.

              1. Observer*

                but I just don’t think that showing you have thought of and eliminated some fairly obvious next steps constitutes “twisting themselves into a pretzel”. That’s pretty dramatic.

                Except that none of these suggestions is in the least bit obvious. I’m pretty stunned that anyone thinks that they are.

                1. EventPlannerGal*

                  I think the “public resource” suggestion is pretty silly, sure. But simply saying “I can’t get hold of any other devices with video at the moment” or something along those lines would at least show that they recognise that the situation isn’t ideal and they don’t have any other option. It’s just about how they present themselves/the situation. But hey, maybe they did say that and the OP hasn’t mentioned it!

        9. Observer*

          It was a stated requirement and there is already a sizeable pool of candidates to choose from to interview

          Actually, having a webcam was NOT a stated requirement. The OP made it one, when someone said that they had a problem. And their reasoning for this requirement is nonsensical. There is NOT “reasonable” about this requirement. It really is not.

          Sure, the OP is probably on solid ground LEGALLY. But knocking out a candidate over something this stupid is really bad hiring practice.

          And that’s aside from the jaw dropping lack of understanding that is on display here. The suggestions that the OP makes are pretty ridiculous.

      3. Tired of Covid-and People*

        I keep the camera on my laptop covered up. I keep no video conferencing apps permanently, have to upload and delete each time after using. Both the camera and microphone are off. I hated that Covid required me to use video conferencing for doctor visits. My concerns are strictly privacy related. However, I would have used vide conferencing for a job interview if requested to do so by a prospective employer.

        Since folks are speculating, I imagine the candidate has privacy concerns also since they have two broken resources and declined to fix either one. The employer needs to be equitable, and if one candidate can decline a video interview, they should all be given that opportunity to do so. If there is a compelling reason other than nah, just don’t want to, for not doing a vide interview, use your words and say why.

        1. Anonapots*

          It is literally none of the OP’s business why. Mind your own, do a phone interview, and at that point make a decision about moving forward.

      4. Archaeopteryx*

        How is borrowing a friend’s phone to do a job interview “mixing accounts”? If they don’t have anyone close in their area, that’s fine, but it’s not that wild to suggest that borrowing a phone or computer for an hour is a pretty reasonable solution if you have any friends in town.

        1. GothicBee*

          I can’t imagine loaning my phone to someone to use for an hour. That’s a major privacy concern. I could maybe do it for close family if they really needed help, but I’d be with them while they were using it. And it is mixing accounts because you can’t set up separate user accounts on most phones. So they’re using your phone and either using your account for the video interview or they’re signing out of your account and signing into their own.

          A laptop is less of a privacy concern because you can set up separate user accounts, but even then, I wouldn’t just loan my laptop to a friendly acquaintance. We’d have to be pretty close before I trust them enough for that.

            1. Theo*

              On that line, what if the candidate doesn’t want to potentially expose herself to Covid by borrowing a phone?? I could maybe borrow my husband’s, but if I couldn’t, there is *no one else* to borrow from, and no safe public internet resource. The candidate doesn’t have to detail her medical concerns to interview. “I don’t have access to a webcam” is sufficient and shouldn’t be held against her, and if she was a strong candidate, this is a petty reason not to interview. (And it sure feels like it could be economic discrimination to me.)

      5. Kaiko*

        If she’s a top-tier candidate, then scrounge up an iPad and send it to her to borrow for a video interview. This is not different from organizations paying to fly candidates out for a meeting.

        1. Willis*

          I think this is a really reasonable approach by a private company, but I bet it could be harder to do in a gov’t agency.

      6. Lime green Pacer*

        A few months ago, I was in a group for people who had family members with mental health issues. It was on Zoom. One of the other participants would use his phone in his garage for the sessions, because that was the only way he had any privacy from his spouse.

        1. Self Employed*

          I’ve seen people calling into public meetings (City Council, Planning Commission, that kind of thing) from their garages because it’s the only space they can use.

    3. Jackalope*

      Or maybe they don’t have the bandwidth for a video call, and prefer not breaking up/going to dead air regularly over having their video on.

        1. Bluesboy*

          Not sure about this. The letter doesn’t say if the candidate would be working from home or relocating if offered the position. If working from home, I don’t think I would feel comfortable telling the interviewer that my internet connection might not be sufficient to do the job! Maybe she would upgrade her home internet if she got the job, but doesn’t want to do that for a one-off interview.

          1. Mongrel*

            Unable to carry video data is not the same as unable to do the job.
            Documentation, even over a VPN, is trivial bandwidth compared to a streaming video call\conference.

            1. Bluesboy*

              Sure, but we don’t know the job. I have to do video calls every day.

              I mean, I’m not saying that she COULDN’T do the job. I’m just saying that if I were applying for a job working from home I wouldn’t want to indicate in any way that I have issues with my internet connection.

                1. t*


                  I equate this situation with my own interviewing experience from a few years ago. I traveled extensively for nearly a whole year to various interviews. Along the way, I ditched my flip phone and got a smart phone because it made sense to upgrade for all kinds of reasons, including being able to communicate more effectively with interview hosts.

                  In this situation, I’d do my best to find a way to be interviewed via video. To just outright decline without reason potentially signals entitlement. Unless illegal or criminal, you flex with what’s necessary to try to get the job, and if you can’t abide by the perameters of the interview, you say why.

              1. Yet the latest in a long string of Anons*

                We know it’s a manager job, which presumably means managing staff. If those people interact via video regularly and their new manager does not, that will be something to work through.

                But I think the OP needs to think through and articulate that better if that (or some similar, legitimate business reason) is why she is insistent that candidates for these jobs interview via video. “This is a 100% remote management position and we expect our team leaders to interact with their staff and clients in various ways based on their staff/client’s preferences and that includes video. Will this be an issue for you if you get this job?” is reasonable.

              2. Anonapots*

                Hi gang. We don’t know what the actual needs of the job are. The OP is writing in about asking to do a video interview and that’s it. If you notice, the OP said nothing about the high bandwidth need of the job for people working from home, and because there was concern the candidate wouldn’t be able to do that because their equipment was sketchy, they decided not to move forward.

              3. Mongrel*

                “Sure, but we don’t know the job.”
                So we’re all speculating. I tend towards if the OP had required video calls as part of the job they’d have mentioned it.

                “I have to do video calls every day.”
                I haven’t been on a video call for months, who’s anecdotes wins?
                And most things that people insist ‘must’ be video calls aren’t, a voice call with screen share is often the most that’s required.

                1. Bluesboy*

                  Ok, let me clarify. Some people have to do video calls every day, some don’t. We don’t know the nature of this specific job.

                  Jackalope suggested that the issue might be bandwidth, and KateM suggested that if that were the case, surely OPs candidate would have been comfortable saying it.

                  My comment is just to say that it isn’t necessarily the case, it depends on the job, and that IF the job involves working from home, and potentially using video, she might not have been comfortable saying it. She might prefer to say something that feels more temporary, like I need to replace my webcam, a relatively easy fix. Consider that even if the job doesn’t involve using video, the candidate might not yet know that.

                  Yes, there is some speculation involved, as there often is when there is missing information in a letter, but I’m not saying that this IS the case. I’m just responding to KateM that there could be reasons why the candidate might not feel comfortable saying that they don’t have sufficient bandwidth for a video call. Saying instead that your webcam is broken feels like a temporary issue that can be addressed quickly if you get the job. Saying that you don’t have bandwidth suggests a problem that might be more concerning to an employer.

          2. KateM*

            If employer is requiring her to work from home over internet, shouldn’t they be the ones to upgrade internet to one that’s sufficient to her job? They would be the ones to do so if she worked from office, wouldn’t they?

            1. Grits McGee*

              I don’t know if OP is working for state or federal government, but if it’s federal they almost certainly wouldn’t.

              1. Federal Internet*

                I work for the federal government. Prior to the pandemic, I had no home Internet. I now have a government-supplied WiFi hotspot with unlimited data, and I’m not the only one at the agency to make this arrangement. It took an ungodly amount of time and a lot of support work from my boss, but it can happen.

            2. LQ*

              To my knowledge in the US there is almost never a “look how poorly government employees are treated” stories in the news. Every agency I know of can point to an “undercover investigation” story that showed the one jerkhole who was scamming or the one excess event that happened (often decades ago) and is the thing that always gets brought up as a reason to not do things like pay for upgraded internet. So if you really want this to change you have to start changing that narrative. There may be some states or some agencies that would pay for this, but not many.

              (And whenever you start to see agencies slip on stuff like this it’s always for the appointed folks at the top who are not committed bureaucrats who remember last time they were in the news, that appointed person gets to lalala off to a shiny new job somewhere and that agency has to continue to suffer. The fancy folk get all the shiny moments, the staff, not so much.)

            3. Tired of Covid-and People*

              Uh, no. I work for the feds and they do absolutely nothing to update your home internet.

            4. Mimi*

              In my experience, “fix employees’ home internet” is a can of worms that IT departments prefer to avoid opening if at all possible.

            5. Natalie*

              Government employees often have to buy their own Kleenex. They’re not getting their home internet upgraded FFS.

              1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

                Hell, even some of us outside of government who work remotely don’t get this perk. I mean, my company offers stipends for paying for home internet (up to $75/month) should you choose that option over getting a company paid cellphone; however, if your basic internet package costs $75/month and the broadband still isn’t sufficient for doing video calls and such, they’re not going to kick in additional funds to help you upgrade to a business package – they expect you to do so yourself since you chose to work from home and, presumably, use that internet for non-work matters as well.

            6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              I see this suggestion a lot, but I’ve never seen it actually happen.

              I think employers see it like transportation to work. If the job is 110 mi away, and your vehicle is an electric car with an 80 mi range, would you expect every job to provide you with a company car?

            7. Observer*

              If employer is requiring her to work from home over internet, shouldn’t they be the ones to upgrade internet to one that’s sufficient to her job?

              Not necessarily. But it’s not really relevant. The question that the OP can and SHOULD ask, if this is a potential issue is “If you were to get the job would you be able to get the ability to do video calling? Understand that we will not be able to provide the equipment or pay for your internet access.”

              At that point the candidate may will have to make a decision, and possibly share information. But that’s something that is for later in the process. And if it’s really just a specific technical issue, the candidate is quite likely to explain how she would deal with the issue . eg “If I need it for the job, I’ll invest in a webcam” or “I’m in the process of moving to a location with better internet service.” Or, of course, the candidate might come up with a reason why they cannot and will not be able to make video calls. In which case, the OP is going to need to decide if that’s really an issue.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Ish. I know I can’t video call my parents because their internet service is really old and slow (they live in a small village where I grew up and no company is interested in running cable or fibre out that far) but they don’t like to admit it because they say it makes them sound ‘too rural’.

          1. Venus*

            The irony is that at the start of covid a lot of highly urban neighborhoods had bandwidth problems as they were planned for personal use in the evening and not for work all day. The companies have largely addressed this, but I still encounter problems with some coworkers in big cities when they use video.

            I rarely use video as it isn’t needed for my work, although I don’t say anything and just show up with video turned off. For something special I would turn on the video and if it lags, which happens sometimes, then I would turn it off again.

            1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

              The irony is that at the start of covid a lot of highly urban neighborhoods had bandwidth problems as they were planned for personal use in the evening and not for work all day.

              This happened in my city. I had been a full time remote worker for almost a year prior to the pandemic, and then suddenly everything shut down, and everyone was sent home – then my internet kept dropping during the day. I was highly annoyed since I never had that problem (I live in the city), but they seemed to get it together about a month or two later (and I now see that my internet company actually upgraded my connection at some point either last year or this year without me having to ask).

            2. Keymaster of Gozer*

              I still get bandwidth issues at home even now. I can’t do a video call at the same time as my husband is.

          2. Charlotte Lucas*

            We have remote workers in rural areas. They can do their job, but their video lag is often terrible.

            The library solution might not be possible. My local library has computers available for public use, but they don’t have webcams. (Not even the laptops.) And right now, you can only go into the library if you make an appointment, which would require additional planning to coordinate. (In normal times, I’ve used my library’s excellent wi-fi & conference rooms for video interviews – using my own laptop, of course.)

          3. Self Employed*

            I have a long-term friend who is far enough out of her small town that she can’t get internet service AT ALL. I think she can get a cell signal, and of course landline, but then her landline goes out when it rains because in California they don’t expect anything to get wet ever. I don’t know if she can get LTE data on her phone or just voice/text.

      1. Amy*

        If you didn’t have good enough bandwidth to handle video calls, you wouldn’t be able to work from home in my role. You’d need to go to the office and video call with clients there.

        1. skunklet*

          We have zero evidence that either of these is the case with this job.
          We don’t know it’s a WFH/remote job. We don’t know if the job requires video cam. We don’t know if the candidate is in a Customer Service role.
          All we know is that the candidate couldn’t/wouldn’t do a video call for an interview and gave two reasons why. Everything else OP surmises. And there’s tons of surmising here.

          At my current job, no one cares if you’re on a conference call and your video is on or off. Frankly, almost everyone’s is off, we have lots of folks that take calls on the road or in airports or in their hotel rooms overseas. I mean, who cares?

          1. Amy*

            We don’t know but presumably the LW does. If it’s important to the LW, it could be because they are ridiculous and irrational. Or.. it could be because it’s a standard part of doing business at their company.

              1. Amy*

                Again LW gets to make the determinations about what makes the most sense for her team. I’d guess this is a WFH position since they are posting nationally and not interviewing in person. A good friend of mine in a manager level in remote state-level Department of Health job and they are constantly on video calls throughout the day with internal and external stakeholders.

                1. Anonapots*

                  The OP, at no time, said the reason she didn’t move forward with the candidate was because her lack of webcam would have had a serious impact on her ability to do the job. In fact, the OP said clearly the reason she decided not to move forward was because, in her opinion, the candidate didn’t show enough gumption to do the interview.

        2. Observer*

          If you didn’t have good enough bandwidth to handle video calls, you wouldn’t be able to work from home in my role.

          Which is really not relevant to the discussion. For one thing, it’s quite possible that if this is a job requirement and the candidate got the job, she’d deal with whatever the problem is.

          Also, given the OP’s reaction to this, I can’t imagine that they would fail to note that video calls are an actual requirement of the job.

          1. Em*

            This. I work from home in a job that requires a good, reliable high-speed internet connection. I upgraded my internet service after getting the job, rather than shelling out for an interview in case I got the job.

            1. Amy*

              The candidate also could have said “Look, I don’t have a computer with video / I’m having a bandwidth problem right now but if I get the job, I’ll have 100% of what’s needed to be fully online and available.” Instead they just said no.

              I wouldn’t hire someone under one circumstance and expect things would be completely different when they are hired unless they spoke to that.

              And as for video not being a requirement either, this could easily be one of those things where you look up one day and everything has changed. I never would have said “video is a requirement for my job” even two years ago, but little by little, there was more expectation around it, we got Teams, clients started asking for it, Covid happened. The LW’s reaction makes me think it’s very commonly used at her work, so much so she’s surprised when someone flat out says they can’t/ won’t. For a remote managerial position 1500 miles from the site, it doesn’t seem unexpected in 2021 that use of video might come with the territory, both for the interview and for the job.

              1. Amaranth*

                OP doesn’t say the job is remote or involves remote work at all, this was all addressing the interview process. Its a bit strange to me that OP is invested enough to google options in the candidate’s town — that seems to indicate they were really aggravated that the applicant didn’t have a solution. That whole bit is a little vague, I can’t tell if OP mentioned it was a deal breaker before they said ‘okay thanks for your time’ and hung up, or the applicant doubled down on audio being the only option. If someone is my top 4 in a nationwide search though, whether they could get on zoom wouldn’t be my primary concern.

    4. MassMatt*

      Webcams do not spread Covid. I find it impossible to believe someone working full time in a management role cannot afford or obtain a webcam. They can be purchased online and delivered to your door for $20 or less. IMO someone in a job search with no webcam in 2021 is not serious about the job search, or hiding something. At the very least I would expect an explanation why they are not able to meet the norms.

      1. Philly Redhead*

        No one said webcams spread Covid. You sound very judgmental. IF this is a budgetary issue (which we don’t know for sure that it is), $20 can make or break someone’s budget, even in a mangement role depending on other expenses.

        As for “hiding something,” they may have very legitimate reasons for that. Many have already been pointed out in earlier comments.

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          You are incorrect. Read the first comment. Poster said the candidate was possibly avoiding a video call because of Covid.

          1. Morning Glory*

            I think that comment was specifically in response to the OP’s argument that if the candidate could not afford one, they could borrow a webcam or go to a public computer for the interview.

          2. RagingADHD*

            Meaning that borrowing one might involve interacting with people, not that the video itself was a risk.

            But your point is well taken that there’s no real obstacle there.

          3. Observer*

            Poster said the candidate was possibly avoiding a video call because of Covid.

            No, the poster said that the candidate might be avoiding the OP’s ridiculous suggestions because of Covid.

      2. DataGirl*

        I haven’t checked lately so it may have changed but for a while there home office equipment like webcams were nearly impossible to get because everyone was trying to buy them. And with mail delivery issues in the US, unless you have Amazon Prime any online order could easily take more than a week to deliver. Lastly, you know nothing about this person’s home situation. If they are the only working adult in the household, if they have children or other adults to support, if they have significant debt (say, medical expenses) or live in a HCOL area, it can be easy to not have $20 disposable income. You really need to check your privilege.

        1. M2*

          I think the OP should have done the phone interview and if the person was a top candidate explain why a webcam is necessary for the job and that on the next interview they’d need a webcam. I agree with the poster who said why can’t you send the candidate an IPad or even webcam to borrow? You can order them for under $30 on Amazon. If it is a requirement of the job working from home then you should be clear and work with them.

          Making someone go all over the place to borrow or use the library during Covid is a bit much. To me that’s like pre-Covid making a candidate pay to fly to an interview.

          I don’t want to speculate but so many people have financial issues or maybe they feel they would be discriminated against if they were on camera. Either way I think OP you did not do the right thing here.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yes! Right after our university closed because of Covid, I felt like 90% of my job was trying to find webcams for faculty members, and there were none to be found anywhere — not online, not anywhere in town.

      3. Self Employed*

        We are having a worldwide supply chain failure for many products containing computer chips. I know there was a run on webcams last year, so I wouldn’t assume it’s easy to get them now because with the chip shortage, they may not have been able to restock.

    5. Tired of Covid-and People*

      I’m confused. How does using a webcam increase Covid risk? There’s no physical interaction.

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Mail order or internet shopping? Like everyone else? This is a stretch.

          1. DataGirl*

            Specifically avoiding COVID in response to the suggestion to borrow a phone or laptop. As for mail order/internet shopping- unless you have an Amazon Prime subscription it will probably take longer than a week to get something delivered, with the state of the postal service in the US.

          2. Jackalope*

            Having ordered things by mail in the past year that I got rush shipping only to get the notification that they were going to take 2 weeks instead of the 2-day or next-day shipping promised, if I had an interview and this were a requirement I would not be willing to trust that a mail order web cam would arrive in a timely fashion.

            1. DataGirl*

              I have had many things take weeks longer than expected. I ordered something from a neighboring state- perhaps a 4 hour drive away- it took 6 weeks to get to me. Things get stuck in processing centers and just don’t move.

              1. Self Employed*

                I shipped an order USPS Priority Express Next Day and it got stuck in a processing center until I filed an insurance claim over a month later.

          3. GothicBee*

            I’m assuming the covid risk is in reference to the LW’s suggestion that it should be easy to borrow a webcam or go to a public library, not in reference to buying one.

      1. Elenna*

        Borrowing a phone or going to a shared computing area, as LW suggested, increases Covid risk.

        1. It Might Be Me*

          Wipe it down. My local libraries (academic and public) have been wiping down everything between use. Borrow someone’s phone and wipe it down. This is not impossible. Not to mention surface transmission has not been the big problem that was predicted.

          1. Observer*

            The problem is not surface transmission, but needing to go out in public. And you have no idea about th candidate’s vaccination status.

            1. SummerBreeze*

              You are stretching harddddddd in this comment thread, my goodness! We are 13 months into a pandemic (with a significant number of vaccinations already in effect!); if a job-seeking candidate hasn’t managed to find workarounds for things like webcam, I wouldn’t want to hire them either.

              1. Observer*

                I hope you don’t make hiring decisions.

                Approximately 30% of the adult population is fully vaccinated, which means that it’s hardly a “stretch” to think that they might not be vaccinated and / or living with someone at higher risk.

                if a job-seeking candidate hasn’t managed to find workarounds for things like webcam

                Evan assuming that she hasn’t had one since the beginning of covid, what difference does it make? The idea that having (or not) a webcam that’s available for non-work purposes (even job search) says anything about competence, resourcefulness or seriousness about job hunting is simply not based in reality.

          2. Nanani*

            Wipe it down after you’ve gone into someone else’s space? Possibly a public space?
            Think for five seconds will you?

            1. Allonge*

              Going into a building for the time it takes to borrow a webcam does not kill you. You wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hand after. Or you can meet a person outside. Billions of people do all this every day.

    6. Artemesia*

      I think given that anyone can get vaccinated now, the reason is more likely that she doesn’t want them to see what she looks like. This might be some peculiarity but it is more likely that she has some facial scarring or acne or feels she is unattractive or whatever. It is also possible that she is a minority race and feels she has been discriminated against in the past and this will avoid that. I think anyone could manage to figure out how to get a web cam if there were not some important reason to hide their face.

      If the role is not one in which appearance is an issue then do the phone interview. In fact, I’d go ahead and do it that way anyway and see how she stacks up to the other candidates.

      1. Metadata minion*

        Everyone in the US is eligible to get vaccinated, but that doesn’t mean vaccines are actually accessible to everyone on anything like a rush schedule, not to mention the fact that the entire process from first dose to immunity takes at *least* 2 weeks, and up to 8 depending on which vaccine you’re getting. I got my first dose within a week of my group being eligible and it’s still going to be mid-May before I get my second dose and have full immunity built up.

        1. Koalafied*

          This, also worth noting that every adult in the US is eligible for vaccination. Children aren’t and that could still be a relevant risk factor for many households even where the adults have reached immunity.

      2. Autistic AF*

        In the US maybe, but there are plenty of other countries where vaccine eligibility is still limited.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        I don’t think assuming vaccination and that the webcam avoidance is unrelated is reasonable just yet. My state opened registration for all adults two days ago. Prior to that, they were only serving priority groups (healthcare/essential service workers, elderly, health conditions, etc.). I am still waiting for my first dose as are many of my team who were not in a priority group.

      4. Just a Cog in the Machine*

        I received my first vaccination before “everyone was eligible,” and I don’t get my second one until next week. So, I am “sort of” vaccinated, but certainly not fully.

      5. DarnTheMan*

        Where I live I’m not eligible for vaccines until at least July so please try to remember that not all OPs or commenters on the site are American and that “anyone can get vaccinated” doesn’t apply everywhere.

    7. DataSci*

      My area is neither under strict lockdown nor seeing a surge in cases, but public libraries are still totally closed and most people are working from home – everyone is *using* their laptops for work and can’t loan them to a neighbor.

      It’s also possible that it’s as simple as “I don’t feel safe getting a haircut, and my roommate / SO did a lousy job at the last quarantine cut”, and they were embarrassed about the reason. If they didn’t know “Lack of video is a deal-breaker for this interviewer” they’d have no reason to go to great lengths.

  2. Dan*


    I got $20 that says your candidate’s phone camera works just fine, and that she just doesn’t want to use it.

    But I’m firmly in the “who cares” camp, I never use mine. Why does it actually matter what your candidate looks like? And TBH, when I need to “read the room”, web cams are just unsatisfying, *especially* when I’m giving a presentation.

    Side note: We just hired a recent college grad. Nobody has ever met him in person. I work with him closely and I’ve never even seen a picture of him. And it doesn’t really matter.

    1. MK*

      That’s great for you, but preentation matters to a lot of people and jobs. And if she really has a camera and no other reason not to use it other than “I don’t wanna”, then I have little sympathy for her for missing out on an interview, if you want to be pointlessly contararian, you get to live with the consequences. But I frankly don’t think that’s likely.

      I will say I find it unusual that someone has no camera one year into the pandemic that forced our lives online, but that’s probably a prejudice. I do wonder why the OP didn’t just tell her a video interview was required and asked her if she could make it work, instead of just deciding not to interview her.

      1. MK*

        To be clear, I doubt the candidate refused to use her camera just because she didn’t like to. If this happened, it’s because she thinks her appearance will influence the interview.

        1. Lucky*

          “she thinks her appearance will influence the interview.”

          Well, she may have some very valid reasons for being concerned about discrimination.

          Also, you’re assuming that everyone who has been working from home during the pandemic uses video, but that not true. I’ve worked from home every day for over a year and never once have I turned on my video during a zoom call and my coworkers don’t either. Some workplaces just don’t bother with video.

          1. AprilShower*

            Others actively discourage camera use, because they prefer the bandwidth of the company VPN to not be hogged by small video frames around the important part, the screen share with the issues under discussion.
            I turned mine on exactly once and that was for a training on something involving face to face aspects. We certainly saw the bandwidth going to crap as other our subsidiaries in other parts of the world woke up. Pixelated choppy out of sync video is extremely stressful.

            1. irene adler*

              Exactly! I’ve had several fantastic phone interviews with very interested employers who suddenly went lukewarm once we got to the video interview stage.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            I have only used outgoing video once in my job in the last year, and that was to show someone just how adorable my dog was being. My coworkers are about 50/50 on video use. Fortune 100 tech co.

      2. münchner kindl*

        We’re one year into pandemic, too, but when my employer started doing zoom, and when I wanted to buy privately a web cam, delivery time was 3 months minimum, 6 months in reality because production was overwhelmed from sudden spike in demand (even more for headphones with microphones).

        So if she didn’t have a webcam before, she might still not have gotten one.

        And US has internet problems in many regions especially for video.

        1. Renamis*

          That was at the beginning, though. The few times I’ve been in the tech section of the store lately I’ve seen the shelves full of webcams again, and Amazon does have them too.

          1. skunklet*

            But the US still has an internet problem in many regions. That hasn’t changed one iota.

            1. Self Employed*

              I live in Silicon Valley and there are (formerly redlined) neighborhoods that still don’t have enough internet bandwidth for the kids to do school on Zoom so presumably the parents (and older siblings) wouldn’t be able to interview on video. I have a friend who lives in the boonies outside San Diego and has NO internet. I don’t even know if she has cellular data or if it’s just too expensive–I know she can’t stream video and only watches broadcast TV.

        2. Yorick*

          So, you could have gotten a webcam 6 months ago.

          Last fall, my husband ordered one online about a week before our Zoom wedding, received it and found out it wasn’t actually the one he ordered, and was able to get another one from a different store with plenty of time to test it out first.

      3. JM60*

        But what’s the point of making her present herself in visual form? Unless it’s a type of job that needs to be done on camera, I don’t see why it should be important enough to insist that she be on camera.
        BTW, I have coworkers on my team who did see my face for years, and I gained some new coworkers during this pandemic who have never seen my face. The lack of them knowing what my face looks like wasn’t/isn’t a problem.

        1. Roscoe*

          Really? I’d honestly question if it really isn’t a problem, at least depending on how your roles interact. Maybe its not a problem for YOU, but that doesn’t mean that it is as good of a work relationship as it could be. I started my job right at the height of the pandemic, and have only met a handful of employees in person. But I at least feel that I know my other coworkers because we do so many zoom chats, and they aren’t just a mysterious email address or voice with no face to put to it. If I had one coworker who refused to do that, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t feel quite as close with them, and would be more likely to initiate contact with them. Its just a familiarity thing. Its the same reason I feel more comfortable going to people I have met in person than people I haven’t.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I work almost entirely with teams from other countries, and have for over a decade. I’ve had warmer relationships with a couple of them, but it was entirely based on one of us making some comment about our personal lives and the other one taking a few minutes to have a conversation about it.

            Relationships are built on shared knowledge. How you look / react is one kind of knowledge, but it is less valuable than spending time getting to know the person behind the job.

            In interviews, how you look not only doesn’t help, it *hurts* the sharing of good information. Far too many people place value on superficial similarities and miss red flags or good candidates. There are studies that show people are often rejected because of looks / race / age / gender, when they have similar or better qualifications.

            I’d avoid video interviews myself, in that I’d want to sort out managers and companies who value looks over qualifications.

          2. JM60*

            I get that it’s important to some people, but it’s very superficial. There are other ways to familiarize yourself with others (as Jules the 3rd notes). I get that this is a subjective thing that varies from individual to individual.

            Also, you don’t necessarily need to feel close to someone to work with them. This too varies from individual to individual, but knowing someone better doesn’t really affect how I work with them very much at all. My brother use to work in the same department as me on a team I often interact with, and the fact that I knew him very well didn’t affect how I worked with him compared to others very much at all.

            Maybe its not a problem for YOU, but that doesn’t mean that it is as good of a work relationship as it could be.

            Thankfully, cameras off has been the norm for my team. Even if it would improve our working relationships with each other a bit (which I doubt it would), I would rather forgo that improvement to keep cameras off.

            I also usually participate in weekly meetings with another team where camera on is the norm, and I don’t feel any closer, or better able to work with, them due to me seeing their faces.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          Why is the standard interview in person where someone has to present themselves in physical form?

          I’m on the fence about if this guys should have rejected the interviewee for not being able or willing to video interview (he did have 3 other strong candidates), but you and others don’t need to act like expecting the see the person you are interviewing is that shocking and rare. It’s perfectly normal for an in person interview where the interviewee is seen and possibly judged for how they look and this was until recently the overwhelming majority of all job interviews.

          1. Willis*

            Yeah -the idea that we all made do with phone interviews pre-pandemic may be true for a first round, but subsequent in-person interview were very much the norm for tons of interview processes!

            In this case, yeah, a phone interview for the first round could have worked but I understand wanting an in-person or video interview before hiring someone if some component of the job includes interacting with people via video or making video or (eventually) in-person presentations, leading meetings, etc. The OP doesn’t specify that, but it seems pretty plausible to me for a manager at a govt agency. It’s great if some commenters here do their jobs well without anyone every seeing them, but there are also plenty of positions where you do need to be visible to people.

          2. JM60*

            Why is the standard interview in person where someone has to present themselves in physical form?

            Mostly because most jobs are in-person jobs, and if you’d need to be there in-person to do the job, it makes sense for you to be there in-person (at least once) during the decision process.

        3. I hate recruiters*

          It’s very likely to see what they look like and see if she’s what they’re looking for. Many employers use this so they know of a person is a minority, disabled, older,etc since they can’t actually ask straight out on the application. I know there’s the EEO thing but I don’t believe that goes to the hiring team so they have to figure out how to discriminate.

          1. NeutralJanet*

            It seems like an uncharitable reading to say that the ONLY reason an employer would want a video call is to discriminate! That is a possibility, sure, but some people also just strongly prefer video—at my organization, we’re all strongly encouraged to turn our cameras on, even though we did work in person before so management does already know what we all look like and which of us are visible minorities. It bothers me, I’d rather leave my camera off most of the time, but it’s not for discriminatory reasons.

              1. JM60*

                Sadly, I suspect that it is discriminatory reasons are (unconsciously) partly why people want to see what candidates look like. They want to see if a candidate looks the part, and that judgement can sometimes include valid concerns (e.g., if they’re in a customer facing role, some superficial concerns are valid), but it can also include all kinds of unconscious unjust discrimination.

              2. NeutralJanet*

                With respect, I’m not sure that you understood what I wrote? I’m specifically talking about my organization, which worked in person before going remote, not about hiring new people. My department worked together for almost two years before we all started working from home; everyone is already aware of what everyone else looks like and whether anyone is a visible minority. The point of my example was to say that some people just like using video, and I don’t really understand how seeing someone over video whom you have seen in person for years is going to result in unconscious discrimination.

          2. Public Sector Manager*

            At my government agency, we’re working remotely until September 2021, and then will have some form of work-from-home availability for our team. We have to have web cams or video access to do our jobs, and for a manager not to have those resources, it is a deal breaker.

            Unfortunately, what the OP didn’t do is explain in detail how the information on the lack of a camera was communicated to the candidate. Did they explain and the candidate refused? Did they say nothing and just sent a rejection letter?

            Notwithstanding all this, how is any of this helpful to the OP?

            1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

              Yeah, I’m curious about the questions in your second paragraph as well.

              1. serenity*

                Me as well. I’m on a hiring committee right now and the expectation is that candidates, a year into the pandemic, will be ready and prepared for video interviews if contacted. I see hundreds of comments here saying that requiring candidates to be on camera is discriminatory; I get why, but this is a bit ridiculous (is the expectation that, post-covid, no one will ever be doing in-person interviews ever, it’s all just by phone now?).

                If a candidate responded to an interview request with “My webcam is broken” and just left it at that….that wouldn’t really be an appropriate or full response. I’m very curious if there was a back and forth here.

            2. Joielle*

              Yeah, I think the LW should have at least asked if video would be possible for a second interview, or something like that. If the candidate is unwilling or unable to appear on video ever, maybe that’s a deal breaker, but if it’s really just temporary then a first round audio-only interview seems reasonable.

          3. It Might Be Me*

            In some instances we’ve been actively working to add diversity. It’s not always coming from negative motivations. I remember the federal questionnaire that asked how many LGBTQ+ staff members we have. We didn’t know because unless someone told us we didn’t care.

      4. meyer lemon*

        Or why didn’t the OP just interview her anyway? Is it really that much of a burden to do one phone interview? This really doesn’t rise to the level of flat-out disqualifying an applicant, whatever her reasons are. If they really need to do a video interview, they could try to work something out for the next round.

      5. Llama Llama*

        Umm the only camera I have access to at home is on my work issued laptop. If I were interviewing for other jobs would you suggest I use that to make a video call? Because I would not want to use my current employers hardware to interview for other jobs.

        The level of assumptions being made about what everyone *should* have access to in this thread is really kind of appalling and I agree with you, I do indeed think that statement is prejudice.

      6. Observer*

        but preentation matters to a lot of people and jobs.

        Given the OP’s behavior, it there were any way in which actual presentation were the issue, it would have been in the letter. Instead the OP is claiming that it’s proof that she’s not “resourceful” or “creative” or “interested enough”.

    2. Ellie*

      I agree, but without knowing why, its a bit hard to judge. Does she fear discrimination? Does she have a problem with technology? Or was she just not very invested, as the OP seems to suggest? But I agree that having no webcam, no mobile phone camera, not being able to borrow one, and making no effort to look into local libraries/etc., was odd.

      I’d have tried to work with her though – start with the phone interview, and then look at other options if she turned out to be the top candidate.

      1. rudster*

        Maybe OP1 still has a non-smart phone, or a very old one? And lots of people keep their webcams covered for security reasons – I hear that even Mark Zuckerberg does this. If she has an older laptop, or desktop, it might not even have a webcam. And going to *the library* (if even open) in the middle of a pandemic to use *public*, germy equipment? No thanks. And I would never think of borrowing someone else’s phone, or lending mine, outside of my immediate family, unless it was to call 911. OP1 needs to seriously think about what she hopes to see on video that can’t be discerned from audio – age, sex, race, gender presentation, possible disability, home living situation? – these are all open doors to unconscious and irrelevant – and in some cases possibly illegal – biases.

        1. rudster*

          To be clear, I’m not a monster – I actually have to upgrade equipment frequently so I have a drawer full of old phones – and several old computers – that I would be willing to wipe and let someone in need use – or probably even just give them to keep if they really needed it. But lending my current phone or computer with all my accounts and data – that’s a non-starter.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I only just got a smartphone in the past year, when my old phone started to fail. That one had a camera for photos, but no webcam. It’s possible she doesn’t have a smartphone, but is too used to people making it a Thing when they find out.

            And I don’t know anyone in my city well enough to borrow their phone for an interview. (Maybe a relative, but they all live in different states.)

          2. AprilShower*

            The only spare phone I have is a dumb phone. All functional smartphones went to other good homes or recycling. And I’m actually using everything else that has a camera attached or it is so heavily customized that it’s more than likely not going to do what you want it do without me being at hand to babysit it.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              My main phone is 5 years old, and the backup is almost 9 years old. (Yes, I’m due for an upgrade; my main phone will become the spare/backup). Most people I know don’t even keep a spare phone. (My use case is to use as a voice phone if I’m working somewhere on my Chromebook via my main phone’s hotspot connection).

              I think trying to do a video call on a Nexus 5 in 2021 is its own punishment.

          3. GothicBee*

            Yeah, the suggestion to borrow a device is pretty weird to me. Maybe other people are more cavalier with their devices, but I’d be really hesitant to loan my personal device to anyone except my immediate family (and not my phone, who would loan out their phone????).

        2. Darren*

          Even a lot of newer laptops and desktops have deliberately moved away from including webcams, a lot of gaming-grade ones (which can definitely do every bit of business work you’d want to do on them, plus have spare capacity left) especially (because gamers rarely use webcams, they are either streamers with proper streaming cameras, or they don’t need them).

          1. Amy*

            That may be happening on the top end of the market but I haven’t seen that on the bottom end. I just recently looked at a ton of inexpensive Chomebooks and tablets to buy for my kid – video/ camera was standard on all of them.

            1. WhoCares*

              I had a Chromebook for a while and the integrated webcam was a joke. Fuzzy, low-quality picture every time I used it. May as well not have had a camera.

                1. WhoCares*

                  Yeah, I bought it in late 2019 for about $200-250. Absolutely terrible! I think the quality of webcams differ so much model to model that some Chromebooks just can’t be used for video calls. I think that’s sort of the point here though, right? Devices are so different that what may work for OP could legitimately be not an option for the candidate.

        3. Quoth the Raven*

          Furthermore, I’m struggling to think of a library that would not kick me out for being loud if I tried to take a video call (maybe there are facilities where this would be possible, but at least the ones I’ve been to wouldn’t let me), or a place where I would otherwise feel comfortable conducting an interview in public and discussing potentially personal information.

          1. Run mad; don't faint*

            I agree. Plus, many libraries are still not open to the public in the same way they were pre-pandemic, limiting the applicant’s access to a computer there. My local libraries are only allowing a limited number of people in for forty-five minute appointments. The time slots are sometimes filled a week in advance.

            1. Llama Llama*

              My library is still closed except for ordering books that you pick up on the porch. There is no access to the building. And even if there were there is zero privacy where the computers are, which is in the middle of the stacks basically, so there is an expectation that you will be quiet. I can’t think of anywhere else that there is a publicly available computer anywhere near me.

          2. It Might Be Me*

            My local public library has a lab set-up just for this purpose. It has a whole job center. Don’t have a tie? They have brand new, or back from the cleaners, ties you can have. Combs, pillows to go behind your back, hints on how to look best on camera, etc. They have the ring lights that you can use if you need to balance lighting.

            1. Ellie*

              Yes, my local library has a similar thing – small bookable rooms, with printers, etc. They don’t have clothes you can borrow, but there are mission employment facilities around here that do. Our local social services has the same setup, with computers, etc., expressly for people to use to apply for jobs and conduct interviews.

              Maybe this is an Australian thing? I assumed the U.S. would have better facilities than us, but maybe not. Its not so much though that she didn’t have a webcam to use, but that there seems to have been no effort to find one, or explain why she couldn’t find one. I’d have thought that someone who wanted the job would have pushed a bit more for a solution.

      2. Caroline Bowman*

        As someone who used to be involved in a lot of hiring, I must disagree. Why would a hiring manager who has got a wide pool of suitable candidates want to work with and coddle along a candidate who doesn’t want to do what is asked of them, a very normal, reasonable interview request. Sure, I don’t personally think anything more than a phone call at first round is warranted, but that’s me. Having decided that it is for this role and laid that out, then having to try and nurture one candidate along and intuit how to better support them is… not really reasonable to expect.

        An employee or someone who the business very much wants to bring on-board, sure. Then 100% it’s a good idea to really work with them, make fair accommodations, never mind legalities, just ethically and in the spirit of a happy and inclusive / fair working environment. But someone who is one of many possible candidates? No thanks.

        1. Oh Snap!*

          I agree. If I was short candidates, sure I’d still do a phone interview. But if had food candidates I wouldn’t bother with someone who can’t solve a video interview problem, at least not unless they explained it beyond “I can’t get a camera”.

          I’m a person who generally never has camera on and dislikes it for normal work. But I would strongly want it for an interview as I am trying to pick up some nonverbal cues. And I don’t have time to add more layers of screenings because this person can’t solve a fairly simple problem (or won’t disclose what is really going on).

        2. I edit everything*

          I don’t thing doing a phone interview instead of video counts as coddling. It’s a minor adjustment.

        3. Tuckerman*

          It’s interesting to me that when we see someone struggling financially, people are quick to say that if they can’t afford to pay their bills, they shouldn’t have bought an iPhone. But then when we see someone who doesn’t have expensive technology, people say that they should buy the technology if they really care about getting the job.
          If an organization truly wants a diverse applicant pool, it should consider how it’s hiring practices encourage or discourage people from applying.

          1. Jennifer*

            I do get your point…but is a phone with a camera really considered expensive technology nowadays? It doesn’t necessarily have to be an iPhone.

            1. BlogFrogMog*

              YES. The answer to your question is yes, most phones with cameras that support video calls are expensive and in the $70-$100 range. Considering how financially difficult the pandemic has been for so many people, dropping $100 on a new phone to do a job interview is just impossible for many.

              1. BlogFrogMog*

                *I meant that the lowest end phones with cameras are at least $70-$100. Obvs higher end phones like iPhones and Galaxies are much pricier.

            2. Le Sigh*

              I don’t have an iphone because they’re way too pricey for me. But my Pixel was still $300-600 depending on model and any deals. The budget friendly smartphones I’ve seen run $150-200, which for some people is affordable and for others is the difference between eating/paying rent and not.

              Expensive is relative. For some people, $30 is expensive.

            3. Tuckerman*

              To get a smartphone, you need cash up front or good credit to be eligible for a payment plan. Then, you need to pay for a data plan on top of other charges, and probably a home internet connection so you’re not always running on data, which gets expensive. The monthly investment for a smartphone + payment plan (if you qualify) + home internet could easily be $150/month. When I first started out in my industry, after bills I had $25/month left over.
              And it really doesn’t make sense to purchase all this if you only need it for an interview. Especially during COVID, when there’s so much uncertainty around employment.

              1. Martina*

                In the US, anyway, you can get a brand new smartphone that supports (lower quality but perfectly usable) video calls for $20-40 total. Not on a payment plan. Data is admittedly more, although I have unlimited data/call/texting for $40/mo. Those phones don’t last forever, but spending $20ish on a new phone every 18mo is still pretty budget friendly.

                Source:Being low income in America.

                1. matcha123*

                  Yeah, I think most people commenting are not low-income and do not understand that there is a large market of budget smartphones with prepaid plans. My mom is very low income and has a limited budget and she has been able to get a smartphone and does a prepaid plan or something like that. There’s not a lot of data, but it’s enough for what she needs.

                  Perhaps the hiring manager should have been more open-minded, but commenters here seem to assume that being low-income means you are using flip phones from 2001?? It’s more likely that the applicant just didn’t want to do a video interview for any variety of reasons.

                2. Llama Llama*

                  Yeah I think suggesting that the interviewer get a new phone just for an interview is…kind of Ludacris to be honest. A year ago I had what was technically a smart phone, but it had reached the age where I couldn’t purchase and download any apps. So, even though I had a camera I wouldn’t have been able to do the call. Eventually I did get a new phone but I did it on my time, taking time to figure out what I wanted and making sure I had the money for it. Meanwhile, the cell phone I had functioned well enough for what I needed it for – calls, texts, photos, and emails. It’s totally possible that the candidate had a phone, just not a phone that could do a video call.

                3. Observer*

                  In the US, anyway, you can get a brand new smartphone that supports (lower quality but perfectly usable) video calls for $20-40 total.

                  Not if you have to actually pay up front for the phone. This only works if you can get it with a subsidy. And that requires signing up for a data plan that’s more that many people need. Technically not on a payment plan – but you DO need to commit to the data plan.

                  And while FOR YOU that extra $40 per month is fine, it’s not fine for a lot of people.

                4. Observer*


                  commenters here seem to assume that being low-income means you are using flip phones from 2001??

                  Nope. It’s that I happen to be aware of what the real costs tend to be for most people (it’s part of my job). It’s also that I’m assuming that it’s possible that if someone has a setup that doesn’t work for video calls, and it’s been working for them, getting to that point in short order can be a real cost issue.

                  It’s more likely that the applicant just didn’t want to do a video interview for any variety of reasons.

                  It’s possible. And most of the possible reasons are such that they have no relationship to whether they would be a good candidate. On the other hand, given the OP’s response, if the candidate has options, they have probably dodged a bullet.

              2. Jennifer*

                I guess expensive is relative. If she had been unemployed for a while, I’d agree with you. But honestly it just sounds like an excuse. She didn’t want to be on camera for some reason, which is fine. The interviewers wanted to see her on camera, which I think is also reasonable. It just wasn’t a good fit.

                1. Willis*

                  Yeah, she may have also assumed that saying she had no camera available meant they would just talk by phone, instead of them cancelling the interview altogether (which seems like a relatively fair assumption, for a first round interview).

                  But if it was a situation where OP’s org relies heavily on video to stay connected (internally or with external stakeholders) and the applicant is steadfastly anti-video in a way that wouldn’t be remedied by providing her a work laptop, yeah, it may just not be a good fit. But that actually could have been discussed in an initial phone screen…

              3. Jennifer*

                That’s just not true. There are many low budget plans out there. I’ve been pretty broke and had to take advantage of them.

                1. lost academic*

                  Low budget plans don’t necessarily support the kind of data quality that could be used for a video call. They are also very different in cost, availability and scope based on where you live.

                  We simply cannot compare our past or current financial situations to a person we know nothing about. Or to people we DO know something about, to be honest. At the heart of it is always a vein of “I managed so if you can’t it’s your fault”. (AKA BOOTSTRAPS)

                2. Jennifer*

                  That’s pretty unfair. I’d never tell someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. I’m just saying that getting a phone with a camera isn’t nearly as expensive as some comments are making it out to be.

              4. NotAnotherManager!*

                We’re my rural in-laws’ tech/phone support, and we were able to get them used phones and an inexpensive plan pretty easily. They don’t need a state-of-the-art smartphone, so we got them used ones that were a few generations old. (I’m on a five-year-old smartphone because I don’t like any of the newer options enough to spend money on them, and it works just fine.) We have them on a low-cost, prepaid plan because they simply don’t need a full-only monthly phone and data package. It’s through a prepaid service that uses a major carrier’s network, so the quality is good but the cost far, far less than I’ve ever paid for a monthly VZW plan.

                Personally, I think OP should have done the phone screen – we offer candidates an option of phone or video for initial interviews, and it works well – but it’s not that hard to get a functional device and minimal data plan if that’s what’s required to interview for managerial positions. I do take their point that you’d hope a manager candidate would be looking for solutions to the request or more forthcoming about why they won’t do a videocall.

            4. Observer*

              It can be. The cheapest phone with a halfway decent selfie camera is going to cost a couple of hundred dollars, and then you have the cost of a data plan. It may not be an enormous amount of money, but if you are on a tight budget, it can very easily add up.

              1. t*

                I paid $65 for my phone. From Target.

                Meanwhile, the candidate is in a managerial position, as the OP states. It’s highly unlikely she’s poor.

          2. It Might Be Me*

            We don’t know the person’s financial situation. The applicant is currently in a managerial position. Also, no one said iPhone.

            One thing I’ve not seen is that they may not have the latitude to deviate from application procedure. Yes, the co-workers said to just do the phone interview. Some agencies require that every applicant have the same type of interview. I lived 10 minutes from a job and had to video interview because that was the requirement for all applicants.

            1. Observer*

              One thing I’ve not seen is that they may not have the latitude to deviate from application procedure.

              Except that according to the OP, that’s not the issue. The issue is that the applicant is not “creative” or “resourceful” enough, or is not sufficiently interested in the job.

              1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

                Right, because even OP said her colleagues said she was wrong not to make an exception and interview the candidate.

                1. It Might Be Me*

                  I just had to quote a Supreme Court case to a colleague because she had no clue that the “very nice thing” she wanted to do was illegal. Co-workers don’t always know what they’re talking about.

                2. Observer*

                  @It Might Be Me, which is all good and fine. But the OP clearly doesn’t think so. They are not saying “my coworkers want to do this, but we have a legal problem.” (in which case I would be sympathizing with the OP, because that kind of thing happens.) They are saying “We could do a phone screen and my coworkers think I should, but I think that she’s just not good enough if she doesn’t have the capacity.”

        4. Jennifer*

          This is a good point. They already had some good candidates and apparently nothing about this applicant stood out enough to make them change their interview requirements.

        5. Mockingjay*

          Wow. So do your job descriptions specify that candidates must have video equipment for the interview?

        6. SomebodyElse*

          I’m leaning in the same direction you are. I’ve done all of my hiring for the last 5 years remote (I am always hiring for different locations). Generally speaking I do first round via phone and pre quarantine would often do second/final over phone too, only because the candidate was in the office for other interviews and trying to find a laptop for them to use was too much of a hassle and I was confident that the in person interviewers would alert me to things like face tattoos or dressing like a clown with a red nose and floppy shoes.

          I’ve since learned that phone calls are not ideal in some cases, most notably where english (my native language) is not the candidates native language. Some of the phone only interviews have been brutal for both of us. On video, I can clearly see if the person didn’t understand my question and rephrase immediately over phone they have to tell me… which can be a blow to confidence.

          But the bottom line is that the hiring manager gets to set the parameters of the hiring process. They do this knowing that they might eliminate good candidates with their criteria. As long as it’s not based on a condition which would be illegal they are well within their rights to do it.

          1. Observer*

            But the bottom line is that the hiring manager gets to set the parameters of the hiring process. They do this knowing that they might eliminate good candidates with their criteria. As long as it’s not based on a condition which would be illegal they are well within their rights to do it.

            This really cuts to the heart of the issue. The OP is claiming that this parameter actually reflects on the quality of the candidate. But it really, really doesn’t.

      3. BethDH*

        I wonder whether an option would have been to do a Zoom interview and not have the camera? I’m not sure whether everyone is using “phone” just to mean audio-only or literal phone.
        A panel interview is really hard to do on a phone because there are no visual cues about who is talking. A zoom call even with no video highlights the square of whoever is talking and has ways to signal who is next (in our 3 person panel interviews, we have a set series of questions that the lead asks but if one of wants to ask a follow up question we use the hand-raise feature).
        It sounds like the issue was “no webcam” and then everyone jumped to “then it must be phone” and it seems like there’s a lot of room to think about the goals.

        1. Mockingjay*

          I disagree that panel interviews can be difficult over the phone. In my industry we routinely do audio conferences with 50 – 100 participants successfully – have done so for years. We never have issues figuring out who’s talking – people simply identify themselves when they start to speak. We use a screenshare tool to display briefs and documents, but don’t care about waving to each other Brady Bunch-style. I’ve worked well with people for years without ever seeing their faces.

          Five years ago teleconferences for interviews and meetings were the norm. Just because “new” tech is out there (Teams, Zoom), combined with the higher bandwidth offered these days (I know Skype has been around forever but the quality sucked), doesn’t mean that you have to forego an older, reasonable method for communicating. Do a phone call.

          1. Artemesia*

            When I ws hiring we always did a phone interview of our top half dozen candidates and used a three person panel — it was just not difficult to do and we could almost always quickly screen out about half the finalists and choose those for in person interviews.

            This situation would be a red flag for me because one possible bit of information here is that you have a person who is not resourceful or willing to do what is required. Are they going to be an on going PITA to work with? But I suspect the person is not unable to use video but unwilling for some reason and that reason is almost certainly that they feel their looks will torpedo their candidacy. Could be race discrimination fears, or appearance or it could literally be the face tattoo or other factor that might genuinely get them excluded in an in-person interview.

            1. Self Employed*

              I know a civil rights attorney who has congenital facial differences–no need to go into detail, but cleft palate was the least unusual one. I don’t know if they would try to avoid video interviews to prevent discrimination or use video to screen out employers who would be weird about it.

    3. singlemaltgirl*

      it’s not about what she looks like. communication is more than what you say. it’s your body language, presentation, non verbal cues. i want to see that.

      1. Aquawoman*

        As an autistic person, I’d ask you to think a little harder about that. Especially if a lack of eye contact is going to lead you to make negative assumptions about a person.

        1. Anonapots*

          Yeah, it’s time to move away from this as some sort of marker of a “quality person.”

        2. Self Employed*


          So tired of people misreading my nonverbal cues and assuming I’m angry/bored/untrustworthy when I’m not.

    4. MissGirl*

      My old manager once hired someone entirely by phone. When the person started, it became clear after a bit that the person who interviewed was not the one who showed up to work. It took them a bit to figure it out and fire the person. Now he insists on at least one video call. I don’t think wanting to see the person you’re hiring is that bad of thing. Refusing to do a video call in today’s world is like refusing to show up in person in the old world.

      1. jcarnall*

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to insist on at least one video call. I do think it’s unreasonable to refuse to give someone an initial interview by phone rather than Zoom.

        1. Malarkey01*

          Is this just an initial interview though? I’ve done a lot of hiring p, even for managers, where there is just one interview.

        2. Amy*

          Would the candidate be able to do a second interview by video after a 1st phone interview though?

          1. jcarnall*

            If after the phone interview they decide the candidate isn’t right for the job, obviously not. If they decide to offer this candidate the job, they could say that their standard input procedure is to have at least one video chat with candidate before they start work, and see if the candidate can arrange that (for an informal video chat, I can see being willing to go to a more public place, whereas I wouldn’t want to have a full job interview in a cybercafe / library, or on a borrowed phone).

      2. Caterpie*

        Workplace catfishing! This concept is intriguing, if there’s more to the story I’d love to see it on a Friday Open Thread.

      3. Anonapots*

        I don’t think that’s how this works. For one, that’s an anomaly. Two, refusing to work with a candidate is going to be the sort of thing that impacts a specific group of people over others, which is aggravating. It annoys me to hear so many people say how “obvious” it is that you have a webcam by now, or how not having one shows some sort of character flaw. It’s aggravating and exhausting.

    5. RagingADHD*


      If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen this site (Alison included) suggest using tech problems as an excuse to avoid video, I could buy a much nicer webcam with all those nickels!

      1. SomebodyElse*

        This comment made me laugh… all I could hear in my head was “DING DING DING… We have a winner”

    6. Nanani*

      I hope the candidate #1 is talking about reads this post and pats themselves on the back for successfully weeding out unreasonable employers with their “no cam, sorry” strategy.

  3. D3*

    My first thought re: letter 1 was that the candidate may have something they are worried will lead to discrimination. A disability, their age, living somewhere they are not comfortable showing, etc.

    1. Specks*

      That was my first thought too… those sound like excuses and in reality she doesn’t want you to see her because she has been discriminated against in the past. I really think you made a mistake there, OP, not considering this reasoning and instead automatically jumping to thinking she’s not resourceful or not interested.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I nth this and I concur that “webcam on phone is broken” is probably a fib. She doesn’t want to be on camera, for presumably some good reasons. Maybe she’s a hoarder, or has crappy pandemic hair, or extremely noisy relatives, or a disability, or a random case of Bell’s Palsy right now, or god knows what.

        Now, if this is a job where you expect everyone to camera up 24-7, then I guess you’re right to not interview her. But I kind of feel bad for her.

        1. me*

          i read a funny story set at the beginning of the stay at home orders, when people were sorting out their video call options in their respective homes. one character had to use the bathroom for privacy on calls because his cat got grumpy when the character used the bedroom for calls. i imagine this hits home for many people and possibly the applicant

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            We lost our 17-year-old cat a couple months before WFH started, and we joke all the time that he would have LOVED everyone being at home all day (more attention and petting for him) and probably would have been the star of Zoom. He was very friendly, loved people, and was curious, so I think everyone I work with would have met him by now, were he still with us.

            The weird cats we still have are antisocial, and the closest they get are one that has his own personal, loud crazy time every day after lunch. You can hear him yowling all the way across the house. A closet or bathroom wouldn’t block it out, he is very loud.

        2. rudster*

          That’s was my first thought too. I have a condition that has an affect similar to Bell’s Palsy (facial hemiparesis, but due to a tumor that damaged that branch of my facial nerve beyond repair), so I can’t move one side of my mouth, can’t do a proper smile (it ends up looking like a sneer), and I sometimes slur my words. I don’t have to do video meetings so I never thought about how this would look, but it can’t be good.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            I imagine it would look the same as an in person interview. Additionally I would think that as an interviewer I would be able to put any slurring into context with your facial expressions which would be harder by phone only.

        3. BookishMiss*

          I mean… i dropped my phone on its face and the shatter happened right over the selfie camera, so the camera on my phone really doesn’t work. It’s definitely possible and very easy to do, unfortunately.

          And yes, my phone has a case, etc. I’m just that lucky…

          1. EPLawyer*

            And then to accuse them of not being resourceful because maybe they don’t have the money right now to get it fixed? Or not being resourceful because they can’t go somewhere public to conduct a job interview? Will your side of the conversation be in a library or a starbucks? Of course not. Because you need to be in a quiet place to focus. So does the job candidate.

            Quite frankly I think the candidate dodged a bullet not getting interviewed in this company. If this is the reaction to someone who is asking for a reasonable accomodation, I can only imagine what its like to work there after the “everyone is on their best behavior to make a good impression” phase is over. LW remember, interviewing is a two way street. You’ve just shown your company is inflexible and demanding.

            1. HungryLawyer*

              Totally agree. The OP has shown they’re unwilling to make minor accommodations for others, makes unreasonable assumptions (who can go to a public library for an interview in the middle of a pandemic??), and, most concerning, seems unwilling to take other people’s words at face value. The OP’s letter implies that they don’t believe the candidate is telling the truth. I wonder how often OP doesn’t believe their employees when someone says they’re sick, have a tech issue, need project assistance, etc. Bullet dodged for sure.

              1. BookishMiss*

                Definitely agree. The LW makes lots of assumptions and judgments in this situation, and i can’t see that getting better if hired…

          2. GothicBee*

            Exactly, it’s not that weird to have a broken front-facing camera on your phone. And really, people are acting like the candidate made some big stance on how she would never ever be willing to do a video call when in reality this sounds like a reasonable request for a first-round interview when you don’t have easy access to a video camera.

            I feel like it’s not that weird to accommodate this with an initial phone interview and specify that if there’s a second interview it needs to be done by video (assuming that’s a necessity).

        4. Guacamole Bob*

          Also, doing an interview on a phone camera sounds awful. Hard to see the people you’re talking to, hard to keep yourself in frame, jumpiness from holding the phone, balancing audio pickup with video if you set the phone back from yourself in a fixed position, accidentally knocking it out of place, weird angles, etc.

          I’m on video calls all the time and it’s fine, but I basically never video call from my phone unless it’s for my kids to talk to their grandparents or something. Definitely not something I’d want to navigate for a professional interview!

          1. Not sure of what to call myself*

            Yup. I interviewed someone a couple of weeks ago who phoned in from a mobile. Although you would have thought they would be able to use their screen to keep themselves in the frame, most of the time I got a view of the wall above their head with the top if their head at the very bottom of the screen. And at other times when I did actually see their face, it was usually a lovely view from below looking fight up their nostrils. They also waved their hands a lot when they spoke which almost induced motion sickness at my end.

            They had managed to keep the camera on their face properly for the first few minutes but for the rest it was top of the head or nostril view. There are only so mant times you can interrupt someonw to tell them that you can’t see them properly. All in all it sucked as an interview.

            So, if you do choose to call from a mobile, sit at a table and balance the phone infront of you, don’t slouch on the sofa and wave the phone around.

            1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

              That interview sounds like every FaceTime call I have with my 6 year old niece! Lol

          2. DarnTheMan*

            My director wanted us to do a walking catch up meeting last week and even as a super informal team meeting I still turned my phone camera off after a minute because there was no conceivable way to walk and hold the phone that didn’t end up with me forgetting, moving my hand and then everyone was getting a close-up of my nose or eyeball.

        5. Don't Lie*

          I don’t like the idea of starting off an employment relationship w/ a lie. It’s not a fib. If she is saying her phone camera doesn’t work when it really does, she is lying. That is what would turn my off from accommodating her. If she instead said I’m not in a situation conducive to a video interview right now, can we make the first interview by phone, I would view that in a much more positive light.

          I had a client pull this same stunt last minute during a mediation. He claimed tech issues that I later realized were not true. I was really peeved because I had now lied to opposing counsel and the mediator by proxy.

          I suspect my client was also concerned about discrimination but I would have much preferred that he discuss that with me and that we come up with other ways to address it . . . or agree to say that he would not be on camera, rather than him making up tech trouble 5 seconds before mediation started.

          1. Autistic AF*

            The solution to this issue isn’t telling people not to lie, it’s making them comfortable sharing the truth – and not penalizing them for it, intentionally or otherwise. I don’t like lying either, but I like being discriminated against less.

          2. Observer*

            That’ you and a client who should have been able to have some confidence that you would be in their corner. But you really can’t blame someone for not trusting an unknown interviewer. And besides, for the OP that would not have been good enough. Because according to them, it’s easy to work around this. After they think that a public space with a shared computer is conducive to an interview.

        6. Nanani*

          Considering LW’s colleagues thought it was a mistake, that’s probably not the case. LW might just have out of line expectations about constant caming.

        1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

          Nope – my hair is a mess too because I refuse to risk my health to go to the salon. I just do it myself to hit-or-miss results.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            This is the first time I’ve dyed my own hair in decades. The first run at it was… not good. Second attempt went better but still miles from my normal state. And my hair is always up because I desperately need a haircut. I’m sure my stylist is going to have a fit when she sees what she needs to clean up. An interview would involve a lot of prep time.

            1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

              Oh, you’re brave dyeing it yourself! Lol, I could never. My hair seems to be still in good shape (my curls still curl up like they’re supposed to when wet, so that’s a good sign that I haven’t totally effed up my hair), but the styles just don’t quite come out the way I envision them – I’m very uncoordinated with my hands and can’t do the things my stylist could do. She would cringe if she saw what it looks like today, lol.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                Semi-permanent dye only! I consider it my gift to my stylist – I can only make so much of a mess with something that will substantially wash out in a few months. I also consider it optimistic – by the time this dye job washes out, I can go get it done right… okay, no? Maybe the next one will be. I’m not even buying more than one box at a time in the hope I won’t have to use it again.

    2. AprilShower*

      That was also my thought.
      As previous letters and discussion show, even the color of your walls and lighting gets held against you. Even more costly and space intensive to change and then someone complains because your webcam has shit audio or heaven help there’s a head board or poster in sight.
      Requiring camera is a very good way to screen everyone out who doesn’t have the option to video interview in a professional space. But then many companies do expect that you have an extra unused room available so set up just like one of their offices.

    3. Wendy Darling*

      I’m fat and my success rate in phone interviews is way higher than in-person or video interviews. There’s plenty of evidence that interviewers discriminate against fat job candidates, especially fat women (and I’m already in a male-dominated field, yay). Half of the jobs I’ve had I got after audio interviews only. If I thought I could get away with no one knowing what I look like until after I’m hired I would be very tempted to try.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Fat and disabled and not white, I’d love to not be on video because yeah the discrimination can crop up real fast. There’s still a lot of ‘IT is a job for young fit men’ bias in my industry.

        1. Wolfie*

          Yeah this to me is the reason the OP shouldn’t have taken the decision they did. We *know* this kind of discrimination happens, so it’s an entirely reasonable response to try and avoid it by asking for a phone interview.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Agreed. I’ve done interviews over the phone where a candidate didn’t have video capability. I didn’t ask why.

          2. Tired of Covid-and People*

            Yeah, but to be fair, then the OP shouldn’t know what anybody looks like. Believe it or not, conventionally “pretty” women get discriminated against too. Remember the letter from the person who was jealous of their report?

        2. virago*

          It makes me so angry that this is still A Thing. I closely follow everything you post on this site, and someone as sharp as you are should not lose out on work for which they are eminently qualified based on characteristics over which they have no control.*

          I would love to be able to opt out of the video portion of Zoom meetings. As a single person who struggles with depression, I’ve found that WFH, COVID, isolation and living in an apartment that gets relatively little light have done nothing to enhance my housekeeping skills, and my space is cluttered, to put it mildly.

          My boss has given me gentle reminders (as gentle as they could possibly be — he’s a friend, and I could tell he hated saying anything). I’ve done some cleaning, moved some things around and angled my monitor so it shows the most cleared-out corner. But still.

          * Note to any and all reading this: This is not an invitation to debate weight and the degree to which it is in our control. Just don’t go there.

          1. Mockingjay*

            I’ve been thrilled that our work laptops don’t have webcams installed. (Pre-COVID we used a conference room with audiovisual equipment as needed). Just got notice this week that my manager wants our team to have them so we can see each other on our weekly feelings – *cough* – I mean team meeting. I’m going to put off the IT request as long as I can. (My supervisor is into warm fuzzies and a good portion of the team is too. There are several curmudgeons like me, though, to balance things out.)

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            It got a lot worse the last year due to ‘fat people are more at risk to Covid therefore it’s in our company best interest to only hire healthy people’ (replace ‘fat’ with ‘disabled’, ‘over 40’, ‘not white’ etc.)

            Hundred percent with you on the depression clutter. There’s nowhere in this house that looks good on camera! I’ve taken calls in my car outside a few times…

      2. Jackalope*

        I’m reminded of the way that for years mostly white men got into orchestras and other such things that required auditions and many people thought it was because they had more chances for in-depth music study, etc. Then they started doing completely blind auditions and suddenly the number of women and POC shot up. I’m guessing most of the people doing the auditions didn’t think they were being sexist or racist, but those are powerful beliefs that are deeply ingrained. Having a “blind” interview makes a lot of sense from the perspective of someone in a minority group. Which may or may not be the case here – obviously we don’t know – but this is a really good and legit reason not to have a video interview.

        1. WindmillArms*

          I immediately thought of the orchestra phenomenon! Considering applicants without knowing what they look like is actually a really good practice for hiring.

        2. e271828*

          This. The blind audition phenomenon came to mind at once. Even if the job requires video work, the first interview(s) should be blind, to keep the hiring process honest. The LW in this case, working for a government agency, should be taking pains to remove their own biases from the process. Requiring a video first interview is unnecessary.

  4. nnn*

    #1: I’m surprised that a government agency hiring process has the leeway to simply decide not to interview someone like this! The government hiring processes I’m familiar with have had strict rules about who does and doesn’t move on to the next stage of the process, and the hiring committee can’t include or exclude someone on a whim.

    1. Stephen!*

      Yeah, pre-pandemic, I had to do a phone interview for a job, because there was an out of state candidate and they weren’t able to come in person. Everyone had to have the same type of interview.

    2. NotKKzj*

      I work for a government agency and sat on an interview panel within the last year. Not only could we decline to move forward with an interview for a reason like this, without needing to document why, but we had an HR rep sit in on interviews and everyone was required to have a camera and have it on. No idea why, although I truthfully didn’t ask.

      1. Anon for this*

        Especially for management-level positions. And in a case like this where it could reasonably described as a scheduling conflict, no one would ever look twice at it (but it’s still a terrible thing to do and will disproportionately impact parents, low-income folks and people in rural communities or with medical conditions that preclude them from doing anything that could increase their exposure).

      2. Green great dragon*

        We need them to be there and show ID. I assume it’s so we know they haven’t got someone else to do the interview on their behalf

    3. lailaaaaah*

      Same here! I used to do recruitment for a gov agency, and our interview process was pretty clear – if a candidate had what they needed to move to the next round, we moved them there and found a way to interview them. It’s like interviewing IRL and having to find a physically accessible location to hold the interview.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        even if this was the first, earliest selection round? Like, you couldn’t not interview someone if they even basically hit the criteria, even if there were many other qualified candidates?

        That’s onerous.

        1. nnn*

          In the government processes I’ve been through, interview was always towards the end of the process, likely for that very reason. They’d screen people in or out based on their resume, then conduct a written exam or skills test of some sort to screen more people out (the test being more efficient to administer because they could do all the candidates at once).

    4. Green great dragon*

      The flip side of government processes is that if it says ‘interviews will be done with webcam’ you can just quote that as a reason for declining, even if in fact it was a default rather than a requirement.

    5. LDN Layabout*

      I recently interviewed for a civil service position. Part of that included sending copies of IDs and then showing those on camera prior to the interview formally starting.

      No camera would have meant no interview.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        In which case hiring manager says ” I would like to interview you, but the agency rules require an ID check at the start, and I’m told that means video. Can you find a workaround by (day)?”
        This letter sounds like OP didn’t bring it back to the applicant. In my book, that would be like not negotiating when someone’s requested salary is a few hundred dollars higher than you want to pay.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          I mean, in that case you’ve already made the decision to hire someone, which is at least one or several stages on in the process.

          We don’t know how the OP relayed the decision, or if they just said ‘no’ to the phone interview, but they made it pretty clear that the video interview was important to them (which was shut down twice by the candidate without giving an alternative audio-visual option).

          I don’t think it’s the right decision, but I can see how the OP came to it.

    6. Asenath*

      Not a government employee, but I did work for a long time with a sort of related organization with very strict rules about interviews – everyone got the same. So, theoretically, I suppose we could have insisted everyone used video, but in fact, we stuck to the lowest tech option – in person interviews. Except the year we had horrible weather at the worst time – then we switched to phone. No video.

    7. GovEmp*

      I work for a state government agency, and there would be no issue in declining to interview this person as long as we interviewed the minimum number of required candidates and as long as she wasn’t a qualified veteran. It really does just depend.

      1. Anonapots*

        It varies a LOT for the Federal government. State has a lot more leeway than the Feds.

    8. doreen*

      This is exactly sort of thing a government agency would be allowed to do in my experience. They may not be able to decide not to interview someone who meets the standard requirements for a title, but not what is desirable for a particular position. They can’t ask questions of one candidate that hey don’t ask of another, so there can’t be any questions specific to a candidate.

      But they can absolutely refuse to interview people who can’t interview under the required conditions – whether that means being available during a time the interviewer has an open slot, whether it means being willing/able to travel from NYC to Albany for the interview, or being willing/able to interview via Zoom. In fact, in my government experience, if they allow this candidate to interview by audio only, they would either have to 1)allow the others to do audio only or 2) change every candidate to audio only, thereby allowing this candidate to determine the format of their interviews.

    9. Governmint Condition*

      I am honestly not sure how my government agency handles this, as we’ve been in a hiring freeze since the virus restrictions started.

      On one hand, I know my state would absolutely not allow any interview condition that would create a financial barrier, like requiring a camera. On the other hand, if some people have cameras for their interview, they may be perceived as having an unfair advantage (or maybe disadvantage if they have bad body language). We might have to change the rules and have all candidates for the position do an audio interview only.

      One thing I do know for sure is that all of our jobs have only one interview round, so there is no next round to have the candidate on camera as Alison suggests.

    10. Brooks Brothers Stan*

      When I was a member of the civil service a few years ago, I interviewed for the position via phone from roughly 2400 miles away. There was a big mix between in person, and phone interviews, and after joining and participating in hiring committees this was exactly the norm for the agency I was a part of. It was less about how you were interviewed and more about the interview itself. It wasn’t unheard of for people on the hiring committees to be calling in themselves due to the nature of the job.

      I’ve noticed in the pandemic (and in this comment thread) that a lot of people have started taking the ability to do something as a must instead of an option. If you wouldn’t have required it before COVID turned the world all catawampus then you should be giving pause to if it’s required now.

      1. doreen*

        I don’t actually think anyone is doing that – I suppose there might be a place or two that did phone interviews pre-COVID and is now switching to video, but I’m sure those places are greatly outnumbered by those that did only in -person interviews pre-COVID and are now switching to video.

  5. Erin*

    LW 1 – a lot of people also don’t have a spare phone or laptop they can readily loan out, especially right now when more people are working and attending classes from home. I had to send my laptop into the shop for repair this month, and it was significantly more difficult than I expected and than it’s been in years past to find a computer that does what I need it to do for work to borrow from a friend. Even for a couple of hours, especially if the interview was set to take place during the work day, and the model I was able to acquire within a week’s notice is an old model with no webcam capability – you know, the kind people tend to have on hand they can easily loan out.

    1. lailaaaaah*

      Yep. My IT department has been really struggling to get any sort of equipment right now, including webcams, because the tech supply line has been so snarled up and depleted since COVID began. A week’s notice might genuinely not have been enough time!

      1. AprilShower*

        And it’s not like the tech manufacturers are twiddling their thumbs. We are running fully loaded to push out parts that aren’t just going into cameras, but everything technical needed in relation to the pandemic. Parts for laptops, parts for communication infrastructure, parts for printers, parts for sure purifiers, etc, etc. Highest priority parts for medical products, which means everything else is delayed since our machines are literally sitting idle for a time so the medical parts run through as fast as possible instead of waiting for a machine to finish the previous run.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          For me in New York City I can walk into a store and buy a webcam easily. Ditto order from big vendors such as a Amazon, Best Buy, etc and have it in a day. I see a low-end ($30) and high-end ($170) webcams from Logitech available for next day delivery (in the US) and/or in-store here in my city.

          Maybe they cannot be bought in quantity through business procurement channels, but webcams are out there are at reasonable prices. I’m not saying OP1 was right to exclude that person.

          1. Ethyl*

            My sister in NYC ordered *stamps* from the post office, paid for overnight delivery, and they took a month to get there. In fact, everything that she has ordered or had sent to her has experienced serious delays from days to weeks, regardless of service (USPS, FedEx, UPS). Your experience is not universal.

            1. Erin*

              Same situation here! Letters, stamps, packages, etc. in my area too. Everything has been on a serious delay of upwards of several weeks for some months. It’s not a guarantee this is what’s going on in LW1’s employee’s situation, but it does strike me as a strange hill to die on right now.

      2. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Not sure what country you are in, but I can have a new Logitech webcam (industry leader) or off-brand webcam delivered in one day via any of several vendors. I’m a big city, and name-brand webcams are in-stock in stores here too.

        There was definitely a massive shortage a year ago – I had to go to ebay at crazy prices then. But the supply has drastically improved.

        Not commenting on the OP’s situation, but at least in the US it’s not hard to get webcams.

        1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

          For what it’s worth I also live in a major city and was recently shopping for webcams. While the expense was trivial *for me* I was still shocked at how much they cost. Yes, they can be delivered in a day or two but the prices for them vary GREATLY and the average person is not going to understand the quality differences between them. A $36 webcam (which is a lot of money for a lot of people, and not just an expense they can splurge on) isn’t going to produce great quality, at all. Especially if someone is coming at their job candidates as ‘what is your commitment to this interview’ which they seem to want demonstrated via having a working webcam.

          Just because something is available doesn’t equate to attainable.

  6. caffiend*

    LW 1, I’m sure lots of people will speak to specifics about why an applicant might not have access to a camera, or why, having one, they might not want to use it.

    I will confine myself to saying that you cannot genuinely claim “I have a lot of sympathy for those who aren’t in the best financial situation” and then follow it up with “but they had a whole week to get over it” or “but meeting with me was so important they really should have tried harder.” Do you not see the disconnect there? And why does the fact that this is “particularly during a pandemic” only elicit extra expectations from you instead of some of that vaunted sympathy? And going to the length of googling other options in her town??? You just seem overly invested in finding ways to blame a person you’ve already eliminated from the running, or perhaps to justify your having done so.

    Please take a hard look at your priorities and assumptions.

    1. Out of touch*

      100%. Personally, I’m a bit skeptical of someone having a broken phone camera and no webcam. But honestly, the perspective here is so off.

      I legitimately do not understand how people are supposed to get ahead sometimes. Like a week to fix an expensive issue? Googling to see if there are places she can go? I would not want to do an interview in a public place even if we weren’t in a pandemic. And if she isn’t working she might not have health insurance and might not feel comfortable going out amount at people even if she feels she can do a decent interview at a Starbucks (also probably she cannot – I would feel so self conscious). I was laid off and my parents paid for cobra because they didn’t want me to not have health insurance during a pandemic. You know how lucky and spoiled that makes me? Pretty lucky and spoiled.

      So I actually kind of get thinking it’s weird that someone might not have any access at all to a webcam, but this is a bit out of touch.

      1. PspspspspspsKitty*

        Just to answer your skepticism, my phone biffed a couple weeks ago and the screen shattered over the webcam, making it unusable. Many laptops in the past few years are foregoing the webcam feature because the majority of people didn’t use them personally until covid happened.

        1. Out of touch*

          To be clear, I’m more likely to err on the side of forgiveness on this one!

          Also interesting insight on Webcams that I totally understand. I have used mine one time (job interview).

          I might not have been clear that although I am maybe a bit skeptical about the webcam and phone camera, I totally think this person should have been given a shot. I would rather be wrong about the camera than rule out someone who doesn’t have the resources to immediately recover.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Another type of person you will have eliminated is anyone whose employer allows people to use their company laptops for family video calls….so hasnt had to upgrade their personal system…and who has too much integrity to use that equipment for job hunting.

          1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

            But if that were the case for the candidate in this letter, I would’ve hoped she’d be smart enough to say, “I know you would like to do a video interview, but the only webcam I have is attached to my current company-issued laptop, and I really don’t feel comfortable using work resources to find another job. Are you okay with me just doing the interview by phone?” Or something like that.

            1. t*


              Or, “I tried ‘x’ and ‘y’ as ways to video interview and they didn’t work out. Until I am able to secure a camera, can we talk by phone”?

              How hard is it?

                1. Anonapots*

                  Right?! It’s not difficult. The candidate doesn’t owe the OP any kind of explanation.

                2. t*

                  Of course it is. Employers set the parameters of the interview process, and if you can’t meet them, you say why, and request a different arrangement. But to not even try to participate sends a warning flag.

                  Why is that so unreasonable?

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        And as someone else mentioned above that that candidate might be in an area where they’re under a stricter lockdown than OP – even if OP Googled and found places in the area, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re open for the candidate to go to. I know I’ve definitely seen Google indicate that places are open when I’ve known that England lockdown rules in place at the time mean they’re not.

        1. DarnTheMan*

          +100; the lockdown restrictions where I live keep changing so fast and furiously that now when you Google a lot of places (primarily stores and the like that have been open, then closed, then open with restrictions, then closed again), Google now displays the same warning that “COVID-19 may impact store access and hours” because even they couldn’t keep up with what is and isn’t allowed to be open.

    2. lailaaaaah*

      Honestly, that candidate dodged a bullet there imo. If LW was going to be so strict about a webcam in early interview stages, what else might have posed a problem later?

    3. Queer Earthling*

      But but but poor people can just pull themselves up by their bootstraps, like my trust fund and I did! If they’re still poor it’s because they aren’t trying hard enough to not be poor! /s

      1. t*

        “The person is currently employed in a management role…”

        The chances of the candidate qualifying as poor seems low.

        1. Autistic AF*

          Why? It’s not like a manager title automatically comes with a certain salary, or prevents someone from being in debt, or having an expensive medical condition…

        2. Observer*

          Well, “management role” doesn’t actually tell you all that much about what they are earning, never mind what their financial obligations are.

          I just googled “store manager salary”. Officially these are ‘management positions” and are exempt. Starting salaries? $31 K. $590 a week before taxes is not exactly wealth, especially if you are in a high rent area. Office managers much the same. etc.

        3. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

          This isn’t true. I had a manager title at my last job, and was severely underpaid and living paycheck to paycheck. I still sort of am (though it’s gotten better since I left that job and moved into tech), but even if I were making six figures, with my student loan debt, I still wouldn’t be considered “comfortable.” At least not comfortable enough to be able to go out and buy a whole new laptop/phone in a week without sacrificing some other bill or my groceries.

        4. DarnTheMan*

          I had a manager title at my last job; my pay after taxes was about five dollars over the hourly minimum wage and I live in one of the highest cost of living cities in my country.

    4. Smithy*

      I think another factor with this can have a lot to do with whether someone does or does not feel comfortable using their current work computer for interviewing.

      Right now, my work computer basically stands in for my personal computer. My personal laptop I have been saying I need to replace for years, but it’s never a priority because for all of my primary needs – I can use my work computer.

      However, my friends who work for the government -they are FAR more sensitive around using computers for personal use. Therefore instead of saving up for the exact MacPro of their dreams for their personal life, they’ve been far more likely to get a string of cheaper laptops that may not always have every bell and whistle (i.e. a camera). And while this strict dichotomy I’m very aware of for people who work in government, I’m sure there are other employers/sectors where people adopt a similar perspective.

      1. Llama Llama*

        Yeah, the only laptop I have is my work laptop and I wouldn’t want to use it for a job interview personally. I do have a cell phone now but about a year ago I didn’t have a phone that could do a zoom call. These things happen to perfectly nice, reasonable, hardworking, qualified people. Requiring people to have specific technology to do a first interview seems over the top to me.

  7. Happy It Isn't Always Monday*

    LW 3. This could be sexism or it could be the candidate sees your boss as the one with the authority and influence. Or both!

    I had a similar situation but the candidate was a woman. I hadn’t been clearly introduced to her but was snagged at the last minute to join two interviewers and the candidate for lunch. One was the hiring manager and the other was a (fairly young) project lead (both were men). The candidate & I would have been peers — similar level of responsibility, education and experience. During the lunch she addressed all answers to the two men even if it was something I asked.

    Towards the end, the hiring manager mentioned that my role was at the same level as she was interviewing for. Then she became interested in what I had to say, made eye contact, answered to me directly. The best theory was that she saw the managers as having status & influence and this random worker as not being as important. The candidate did not receive an offer.

    1. Tired of Weird Interviews*

      It does seem likely that seeing them as having status was at least part of it. But it’s worth remembering that women often have unconscious (or sometimes conscious!) bias as well against women (there’s lots of research that shows this, I bring this up as a woman with a very strong feminist streak).. So it may also be a situation where the men did have the power, but if you had been a man, she would have implicitly acted more as if you also had some power.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        It might not have been deliberate, but it still marks the candidate as being a bad risk as a potential future coworker. I also worked with a woman who was a little senior to me and who made a point of ignoring lower or equal status women in the larger group unless we could be of use to her. When she left the company, it was noticeable that the vast majority of her well-wishers were male and equal or higher status to her – very few of her female coworkers had much to say.

        1. Happy It Isn't Always Monday*

          >it still marks the candidate as being a bad risk as a potential future coworker.

          Yes, that was our reasoning. We work on teams that include technicians as key contributors. Some are more valuable than a half dozen PhDs. If you treat people differently according to perceived status, then that would not be a good teammate.

    2. RG*

      That’s still odd though, to not address you when she answered your questions. Even if she assumed that she wouldn’t report to you, you’re still a potential co-worker, and she should be able to have an amicable conversation with you. That includes addressing you when responding to questions you asked.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        So much this. Even a possible future subordinate can be on an interview panel –and should be answered when they ask the question.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        Yes–“they’re not sexist they’re just rude to coworkers they don’t think are important” is not exactly better

    3. Lucious*

      It is sexism, full stop. Using ones last name is a courteous formality , and the 20 something candidate’s making it clear the female participant is unworthy of this courtesy.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yep. The only time I’ve used titles like that in my work life was when I worked in an insurance company. The medical directors all insisted on being called Dr. (Insert Surname Here). The weird thing is that nobody else, not even the CEO, did. Really, really odd dynamic. (I did briefly work for a small company in the 90s. Everyone was on a first-name basis. Except the very elderly owner. Everyone called him Mr. Last name. And ignored it when he walked around in bedroom slippers.)

      2. Allonge*

        Frankly, it would still be sexism if it were the other way around (Bob / informal for a man, Ms. Spruyter / formal for a woman).

    4. SMH*

      We were hiring for a VP role and the director that would be reporting to them was included in the interview process. It became very clear to everyone who was involved in these meetings that one candidate was very level orientated and didn’t want to address or talk with anyone they viewed as beneath them. Both the applicant and director were woman but the applicant wasn’t hired because they needed someone anyone could go to if needed but she only wanted to interact with those at ‘her level.’ Very eye opening for us and we make sure to include different levels in interviews when possible.

    5. EmmaPoet*

      Yikes. Way to blow her interview, but at least you all found out in advance that at best she disregarded anyone she didn’t know was important, and at worst she blew off another woman because how important could she be?

    6. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      It could be a cultural thing (not an excuse for sexism) – in some cultures you don’t call someone in authority by their first name unless/until you are very familiar.
      I’m German, and this leads to the weird situation that I may switch between calling the client “Herr Meier” and “Hans” several time on a call depending on the language! We might start doing Small talk in German, with honorifics and last names, then English – speaking people join so we switch to first names and once they left return to German with the higher level of formality.
      Somehow we learned to accept it so it feels almost natural.

  8. Torch the patriarchy*

    Frankly, LW # 3, I don’t even know if it matters whether this guy is being sexist or if he is just giving more respect to your boss. Either seems crappy. If I go on an interview and people involved in the process are my would-be peers, or even a lower level than me, I’m going to treat everyone with the same amount of respect. So he is either sexist (probably) or has an annoyingly hierarchical perspective

    1. Annoyed Interviewer*

      I agree quite strongly with you. This is something I deal with semi-regularly. Let’s say I’m a teapot sculptor who frequently interviews teapot painters and I’m also typically the only woman interviewing the, virtually always, male candidate. There are times when the candidate treats me totally differently than the teapot painters, and not in a good way. For various reasons, it often does seem to be sexism, but it’s ultimately kinda irrelevant- the teapot painters have to work with the teapot sculptors, so whether the behavior difference is because of gender or role, it ends up a no hire because it’s a problem either way.

      1. Anon Dot Com*

        This. I was recently the only woman in a panel interview where the male candidate talked over me repeatedly. I was also the only non-technical person, and the candidate was interviewing for a technical role. Whether it’s sexism, or elitism about non-technical roles being less important, it doesn’t really matter. I would have to work closely with this person, and if they won’t let me finish a sentence, they’re not right for the job.

      2. Torch the Patriarchy*

        I actually had a manager who would always have me do interviews with him and the other mama get. I was a mid level employee with good instincts on people and a strong understanding of what to expect in the role (note: it is always good to have people who DO the job participate in hiring because they might know more of the questions to ask), but was also young and female. My boss said he wanted people to interview with other than two middle aged white dudes and also wanted to see how they treated everyone. Btw, he was absolutely one of my all time favorite bosses.

    2. Ellie*

      Yes, communication skills are a key part of any interview. If you think you’ll have problems working with the candidate then why would you hire them? Whether its sexism or elitism or just plain rudeness, its not a good sign.

    3. twocents*

      I’ve dealt with people that aren’t (obviously anyway) sexist but they are hierarchical, and it’s annoying af when they perceive they are the top of the hierarchy and can steamroll everyone else.

    4. Des*

      I agree. Recently interviewed someone who would be at my peer level and the candidate sent a thank you email with Mr/Mrs to both me and my boss. We found it overly formal (our workplace is quite casual and it was obvious in the interview) but since it was courteous to both of us, it didn’t raise red flags. If it had been courteous to only one of us, it would have had a serious impact on our opinion of the candidate.

      Looking forward to seeing if the formality will quickly go away, since we extended an offer.

    5. Bibliovore*

      It sure sounds like it was being sexist or… hm, hierarchist? And that’s certainly the most likely explanation. There could be others, though, particularly at the interview stage. For instance, did anyone else in the company (or a recruiter) refer to “Mr. [Boss’s last name]” but not “Ms. [LW#3’s last name]” at some point during the process — perhaps in emails specifying whom the candidate would meet with when, or when telling the candidate someone was ready to meet with them, or even a casual/joking greeting to him in the hallway? If that happened, I wouldn’t necessarily fault a candidate for trying to pick up on such a (mis)cue. Alison’s questions about things like differences in eye contact or addressing of answers would definitely help pinpoint the candidate’s own attitudes.

  9. me*

    LW4: its also possible that, while driving isnt a job requirement, having government-issued ID is occasionally needed, for example if you need to go to a courthouse.

    regardless, thank you for the reminder about thinking of what is *actually* necessary for a job and how this type of listing might turn potentially excellent employees away, even when a license wouldnt be regularly, or ever, used.

    good luck in your job search!

    1. Liane*

      “…having government-issued ID is occasionally needed…”
      In the US, there are also passports (not just for international travel) and state issued non-driver IDs. I suspect other countries also offer something similar to the latter.

      1. WS*

        In Australia the alternative is a proof of age card, mostly used by teenagers who have just turned 18, but I recently helped process an application for a man in his 90s, who no longer drove but needed ID to buy a mobile phone to run his medical alarm.

      2. KateM*

        Where I live, driving licence is not an official government-issued ID (some laxer places may allow them though) – you either need passport or ID-card to prove your identity.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, same thing applies to me. The driving license doesn’t have a spot to indicate citizenship, unlike passports and IDs. That said, restaurants usually accept a driving license as ID, although they’re going to have to be more careful in future, because the drinking age here is 18 but the legal driving age was recently lowered from 18 to 17. It’s supposed to be an exception and you have to apply for it and give a reason why you need it, but in practice almost everyone who applies for it gets the dispensation. Reasons to qualify include getting to school in areas with relatively poor public transport involving a commute that’s longer than 1 hour in one direction, work, and a “serious extracurricular activity,” such as competitive sports.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            In the U.S., where the driving age is generally 16 and the drinking age is 21, those who are underage get a different ID – in my state, it has a different color and large letters saying “under 21.”

            1. NotMyRealName*

              In my state the underage driver’s licenses are formatted in portrait to differentiate from the over 21s in landscape.

              1. MCMonkeybean*

                They started doing that in my state shortly after I turned 16, so it was odd because I had a landscape license then a portrait one then back to landscape!

      3. turquoisecow*

        My mother-in-law and my sister have both never driven a car and also have both been successfully employed for many years. They each have a passport and a non-driver identification issued by their state, and that serves all the identification functions a driver’s license does.

        There are a number of disadvantages to not driving, but identification is not one of them.

      4. FrivYeti*

        It’s not uncommon for jobs to either not think of those or not include them just because they’re so used to driver’s licenses being the only way to do things.

        (It’s also an easy and deniable way to discriminate against people with a variety of physical disabilities, much like many jobs that say “must be able to lift 40 lbs” when that’s not actually part of the job requirement, but obliviousness is more common than malice.)

        1. Selena*

          It’s a big aspect of making job-ads more inclusive (wrt disabled and poor people).
          Getting employers to think about which talents are really needed to do the job well and which ones they’ve been mindlessly copy-pasting under the assumption that ‘any responsible adult could do that’

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve mentioned this in previous columns, but it’s relevant again because it’s one or more possible explanation for why the driver’s license requirement. (I’m not commenting on this particular instance, just filling in an option.)
      A friend temped for the power companyas an office administrator. He could not be hired permanently because they required not only a driver’s license but a 7-year clean driving record. His one recent speeding ticket was enough to disqualify him.
      Why required for an office admin? Because in case of emergency or strike, office admin staff would be sent on jobs. Two people are required onsite for safety, but one is there to do first aid & call 911 if needed.

      1. PT*

        It could also be the job is just being a jerk. I had a job in the city, where most people lived in the city and took the subway to work. Our work did not offer parking, you would have to park in an expensive pay lot, so people who relied on cars were typically not interested in working at our workplace because it was too expensive to park there.

        In the four years I worked there, I was sent out to three random 1-day trainings in the suburbs that were not accessible via mass transit, along with some other coworkers from our location. And when we pointed out that it was impossible for many of us to get there, we got told, “Tough crap you’re responsible for your own transportation to work, this is your assigned location for this day, figure it out or lose your job.” One of these trainings was set on a day of a major city event that led to half the city’s roads being shut down and we were still told that if we were late we were fired.

        A good number of our staff were too young and/or broke to rent cars (which they would not pay for, because “commuting is your responsibility not ours.”) So organizing carpools was difficult.

        It was just an excuse for them to be cheap, and for them to place the blame on us when they were being cheap.

    3. Snailing*

      Yep, it could be that photo ID is need, or could be that they want to ensure their employees have reliable ways of getting to work. In my previous job, the ad used to say driver’s ID was necessary, and I was able to change it to “reliable transportation necessary” instead. We didn’t need the ID, we just needed to know people would arrive to work on time every day, whether they drove themselves, rode a bike, or had someone drop them off.

      Letters like these are such a good reminder to really examine job ads to list the actual needs so candidates are clear on the job and the employer doesn’t end up in disparate impact discrimination territory.

    4. Self Employed*

      In the US, Federal offices will require “Real ID” or passport cards for entry, not just any old driver’s license as of October 2021. So if the reason a job requires a driver’s license is to drop off paperwork at Federal offices, that will need to be updated by this October to specify the stricter ID requirements.

  10. John Smith*

    #1 I honestly cannot understand this obsession with webcams, video calls etc. Sure they have their uses, but it seems to me that they are being used purely for the sake of it. I’m getting fed up of people insisting on video calls to ask how many paperclips we have left. Just because video calling exists does not mean it has to be used Each. And. Every. Single. Time.

    And as for reactions when you decline a video call and opt for voice only, it’s very disconcerting how aggressive some people can be and, frankly, rather sinister that preferring voice only seems to be taken as having something to hide or doing something wrong.

    For an interview, Alison is spot on. It could have been easily done by phone call and you may have lost an ideal candidate for the sake of not being able to see her face. Just….Why?

    1. John Smith*

      Ps. Rant over! Lols. Sorry for any aggressiveness shown there, but video calls really gets my goat!

      1. t*

        ““it seems to me that they are being used purely for the sake of it. ”

        That’s a really immature take on things. Interviewers have all kinds of valid reasons why they’d want a video interview, even in the early stages of it.

        1. Lana Kane*

          I do phone interviews for the first round, but I don’t see how an expectation of a viceo interview if you move forward is so weird. Under normal circumstances, it would be an in-person interview.

          As an interviewer, and as a person who processes information muuuuch better when I can see the person I’m talking to, I would at some point want to do at least a video call with a candidate.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “it seems to me that they are being used purely for the sake of it. ”

      There is now way I could have the same quality of interaction in small working meetings with just voice. No way. Properly used, video is a such a huge bonus. Yeah, it can be a drain too, but it can be great. We just don’t connect the same way – particularly in a pair or very small group – with sound only. Especially with new relationships.

      I don’t believe in video-required or video-always-on stuff. But one big, good thing in this pandemic has been the rise of remote face-to-face communications.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, video can be useful sometimes, and I thought it was beneficial in my recent 1:1 with my manager. In our meetings we usually do a starting round-robin with cameras on, but when someone shares their screen, most people won’t be seen so only the presenter has their camera on. We use Skype, so the presenter wouldn’t be able to see the audience anyway and the unnecessary video uses a lot of bandwidth.

        1. Fitzroy*

          Since it is government hiring, and normally all candidates should be treated the same, does that mean if #1 interviews this candidate without a camera on, they have to interview all others without video also??

          I have to admit I would be very hesitant to hire anyone I have not seen at least on video for a bit. Might be bias, but I think things like contempt for female interviewers or eye rolling at exercises, are helpful in making a decision, and can be seen much more clearly with video.

        2. KateM*

          I just noticed yesterday with a lecture we were having – while there were around a dozen people, they kept cameras on and chatted. Once the lecture started, everyone but the lecturer had video and mic off. That’s in my opinion rather a polite thing to do? The same way as, if it was a lecture with everybody in a conference room, you wouldn’t go and stand in front next to presenter when you are just a listener.

          1. Untethered by Cellular*

            Excellent point! I was watching a recorded Zoom training on listening skills and understanding other people’s perspectives and it was actually distracting to see all of the participants fidgeting, rearranging their workspace, or constantly moving in and out of frame or light. It was just as distracting to watch people turn on an off their video and have the attendees’ video boxes constantly reshuffle. I want to focus on the presenter. The irony of talking about listening skills on a medium that actually makes that difficult and talking to to at least a portion of the group actively displaying the behaviours to avoid was not lost on me.

      2. AnalystintheUK*

        I have to say I really disagree here – being on video, particularly with someone I don’t know, causes me massive anxiety, which in turn prevents me from engaging with the content of the call or the person on the other end. The assumption that video is better for connecting with others is only true for some, and assuming it’s to the benefit of all just isn’t helpful.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “The assumption that video is better for connecting with others is only true for some,”
          Yup some. And probably most. There’s a reason why voice calls have taken off in most domains.

        2. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “assuming it’s to the benefit of all just isn’t helpful.”

          I wrote “it can be a drain too” but go ahead and act like I wrote “every” or “all” or “always.” Not helpful either. Just not helpful.

      3. LQ*

        There are a couple folks I have a really hard time understanding and the difference of voice only and video is night and day. I understand that some folks are really angry with it and some folks want to not be on video as an accommodation, but honestly, lip reading is huge and between lip reading and body language I can go from having to ask someone to repeat every single sentence they say to getting 90% of it on the first go.

        Please stop screaming that web cams and video are an absolute evil and that anyone who wants to use them is a monster.

          1. LQ*

            You’re right, they just said that people who want to use video are “aggressive” and “sinister”. Thanks for the help.

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              They used those words but that is not what they said. They didn’t say there is anything wrong with *wanting* to use video, if you’re not being a jerk to people who only want to use audio then they were not describing you.

      4. GothicBee*

        Just my experience, but in my workplace people have been surprisingly more willing to participate when video is off versus on. When we were initially working from home and would have department meetings (5 people total), everyone kept their video off due to poor connection and people were willing to jump in whenever. Whereas now that we’re back in the office (but distancing, ergo still meeting virtually) we use video and there’s a noticeable decline in how quick people are to speak up.

    3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Ugh folks at my job want webcams on for meetings that don’t require it. I won’t be speaking at all or maybe for 15 minutes out of two hours so why does everyone need to see weird tics like finger chewing and shit? ( The web meeting still feels like I’m alone so I don’t have enough ” pressure” to not be weird and end up being weird. Great, guys. …why?!

    4. Allonge*

      I mean, for random meetings, sure (well, maybe), but an interview? The whole idea is that you want to learn about the person as much as possible, including their presentation which yes, can lead to problematic places but also can be important for the job. I would find it really weird to hire someone without once seeing them.

      1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

        My company did it with me and most of their remote workforce, and they don’t seem to have run into many issues with it *shrugs*.

      2. Untethered by Cellular*

        I work on projects for groups in different office locations in my country and other countries and will never meet 98% of the people I work with or ever see 95% of the people I work with. While this situation may be easy because my job is done completely with a computer, not *seeing* people has zero impact on my performance. Communication and collaboration is, of course, vital.

        I’m not sure what is required by local HR standards now for initial hiring procedures, but it might be a good time for companies to reassess what makes an excellent employee.

        1. Allonge*

          It totally depends on the field. Once upon a time I worked at a place where a third of our budget went to paying for people’s travel costs so they could sit down for a day around the same table in a soundproof meeting room. From what I hear from my ex-colleagues, videoconferencing is a poor replacement and going to phones only would just kill the whole idea.

          I don’t doubt you work well the way you do! But it really varies.

          1. Untethered by cellular*

            Interesting! My company budgets for site visit travel by key engineers and for manager visits for project scope containment issues, but a third of a budget for travel would be a no-go project. I understand the point of view of video conferencing being a poor replacement for in-person though. There is an in-person energy that is lost. For my work, in video versus audio-only, audio is the best option to avoid the distraction of visual information that has little value. But, like you said, the viewpoint is field-dependent. My data mindset would likely clash with someone from our marketing department.

    5. Malarkey01*

      I understand for regular meetings and calls but we do in person interviews in normal times. People travel in for them, so to me, this is the same requirement only using technology in place of in person. After CoVid we’ll go back to in person.

    6. mf*

      I agree that using video for every. single. meeting. is totally unncessary. If you’re a manager, give people a break from the camera now and then.

      However… I really do find it a lot easier to build rapport with people when we use video vs. just voice. I feel like I connect with the other person more when I can see and read their face. So for an interview, I think there’s huge value in using video–I get a much better sense of who the person is.

    7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I’m still reeling from a post further up where someone was hired after only phone interviews and after a while they realised that the person who reported for duty was not the person they spoke to on the phone.
      Wondering now just how much of a mess the report made before they worked it out!

    8. bananab*

      Lol. Ever since the pandemic made zoom so ubiquitous I keep getting invited to zoom meetings where previously a very brief email would suffice. Once I declined and they insisted on sending me a screen recording where they just rambled for a few minutes and moved their mouse around.

  11. Language Lover*

    LW #3

    Do you sign off on your emails differently?

    For instance, I will sometimes add my first name to the end of emails to signal even when there’s a signature included but that little gesture usually signals to candidates that they can call me by my first name.

    However, if that first name isn’t included and all they get is the full name in a signature, it might lead the candidate to think they need to be more formal.

    But if this isn’t the case, then it is worth investigating if there were other things that gave you pause.

    1. John Smith*

      I was thinking this. Could also be down to other interactions “thank you for coming to this interview, I’m Jane”. Maybe a difference in formality of emails (boss is very formal, manager not so formal)? Maybe candidate felt very comfortable with manager and not boss so naturally inclined to use first name? Who knows. I wouldn’t assume sexism as readily as Alison has, but would bear it in mind.

    2. Bluesboy*

      This might be the case sometimes, but the letter says “We’re pretty informal in our office, were relaxed in our interviews, and have always signed our emails with just our first names”.

      So presumably both are signing off in the same way.

      1. Alex*

        I suppose it depends on whether they first had contact with the OP and the other person at similar stages of the process. Many candidates will default to last names when addressing their covering materials so if Bob Smith is listed in the advert as the hiring manager and the candidate refers to him as Mr. Smith in his cover letter he unlikely to change his address later in the process unless actively invited to do so even if later introductions in the hiring process are done in such a way that makes it clear that the first name can be used.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          Just adding, sometimes people are sexist due to past experience with hierarchy and overt sexism – where they have suffered from not being sufficiently deferential to more senior men. I’m not saying passing along that sexism is good – they’re somewhat complicit in perpetuating it. But perhaps we should not be too hard on the lowest-power person (interviewee) in this situation.

          I would keep my eye on it closely and see how it plays out in other interactions.

    3. Chickaletta*

      Even if this was the case, it would be weird for the candidate to refer to each of them differely in the same email. There are lots of ways around this when one person has signed using their first name and the other person hasn’t.

    4. ecnaseener*

      I’m wondering if the boss just was never the one to directly email the candidate and never had a chance to sign off with his first name. (Or maybe his signature is First Last and he doesn’t sign off otherwise.)
      I have had this happen with doctors — some of whom really do expect you to use their title, so I’ll start off a conversation with “hi Dr Smith and Dr Jones,” and then if Dr Smith responds and signs off as Jane, it’ll turn into “Jane and Dr Jones” — which looks weird, but at least I’m not disrespecting Dr Jones if they want to use their title

  12. Anon for this*

    Yeah. Not to pile on to LW#1 but you really can’t judge people’s financial situations based on their jobs.

    I make ~100k annually. Most years, my partner makes about the same (he has a business in the food industry). He has now had no income for over a year despite working full-time (I don’t want to get into details so I’ll ask that anyone reading this trust that this was the best decision for us long-term). All this to say that most people perceive me as making plenty of money, but truthfully we have been broke for over a year and are just barely scraping by.

    On top of that, we live in a rural community where it’s not unusual for me to lose my network connection 2 or 3 times in a meeting (and there’s a 90% chance that my youngest will crash any given meeting to demand a snack or a video). I often have to call people to finish a meeting after losing my network connection; I generally grin and bear it but I could see someone else deciding it would be more effective to just push to have a phone call rather than to spend half the meeting/interview apologizing for technical issues, especially an interview where you can’t easily just call the interviewers if you lose your connection.

    In my case, I’ve given up on my career for the foreseeable future because I just can’t deal with it all. As an employer, though, you should want to attract the best candidates for the position, and excluding people for something that has no bearing on their ability to do the job well is not conducive to attracting the best candidates or having a diverse workforce.

    The solutions you propose are not very realistic for most people right now. Even if I didn’t have someone high risk living with me, I am terrified of getting a severe case of COVID and being unable to care for my kids (there’s not many people that want to take two kids that have recently been exposed to COVID-19). I also would have to bring my kids if I wanted to use a public computer – there’s just no way.

    In the before times, I might have been able to borrow a laptop from someone. Now, I rarely see other people and no one I know has a laptop that isn’t in use (we have 4, which seemed excessive before the pandemic and is something I’m now continuously grateful for).

    It’s frustrating, because I could see myself saying “my internet connection is poor,” and being judged when it’s actually 5-6 issues that collectively make video difficult. It would sound weirdly defensive to list the myriad reasons that video isn’t an option, though. It would truly be a loss to draw conclusions or exclude strong candidates over it.

    FWIW, resourcefulness is arguably one of my biggest strengths. In this case, the person may be being resourceful by realizing that phone interviews resolve a majority of their barriers to interviewing well under challenging circumstances. Or they might be making the best of an impossible situation. Neither of these have any bearing on their ability to be an excellent employee.

    1. t*

      Candidate: “I tried ‘x’ and ‘y’ in order to try to secure a camera for a video discussion, but was unable to. Until I can arrange for a camera should I move further in the interview process, can we talk by phone?”

      Is that really so horrible?

  13. PspspspspspsKitty*

    LW 1 – Oh, oh no. You are very out of touch with this issue. I can list many reasons why each of your suggests wouldn’t work and most of them are crazy expensive. The most concerning thing here is that you came up with a detailed story about how she isn’t resourceful, what her budget is, and fixes she should have done (that aren’t even realistic) just to justify not interviewing her. If she were to write in a say that she was rejected for an interview because she didn’t have a webcam and therefore was unresourceful, many would tell she that she dodge a bullet. I would encourage you to look at why you would jump to so many conclusions.

    1. Data Analyst*

      Totally agree. I saw misplaced judgment, unacknowledged privilege, and disinterest in giving someone the benefit of the doubt in this letter. I encourage the LW to think about that.

  14. HA2*

    #1 – it seems like the right question to ask is WHY, specifically, interviewing via video was a job requirement.

    There could be good answers to that! But your letter didn’t have any indication why the job required assessing the interviewer’s on-camera skills. And so all the commenters – and Allison – are reacting to that, since it seems like your webcam requirement was “just because that’s how we do it” rather than for a job-related reason.

    That, honestly, goes for many job requirements and interview practices. It’s just good practice to know why you’re requiring certain skills, or why you’re following certain interview procedures, so that you can judge whether changing things makes sense or does not. Honestly, this is the flip side of letter #4, where the candidate can’t tell whether a drivers’ licence REALLY IS a job requirement or whether it’s there “just because” and is no big deal to just ignore.

    1. mf*

      Yeah, I agree. There are some really good reasons why interviewing via video could be important, but beyond that, employers and managers should be rigorously vetting their interviewing practices to ensure that the interview accurately reflects and tests for key job requirements. (In my experience, very few employers actually do this well!)

  15. Seal*

    #1 – After a year plus of Zoom meetings, surely you’re not assuming that nothing will go wrong at the worst possible time, are you?! What is your backup plan if one of the other candidates has last-minute computer or internet issues or worse, their internet or yours cuts out in the middle of the interview? Will any of those very common scenarios knock that particular candidate out of the running? If the answer is no (and it absolutely should be!), then you need to interview the candidate without the webcam. BTW – you need to give all of the candidates a phone number and have theirs just in case something goes wrong and you need to conduct or finish the interview by phone because shit happens.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      That’s a good question: would a candidate be rejected if their video didn’t work during the interview? If yes, someone needs a refresher on hiring practices. If no, then why does it matter when the video option is unavailable?

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Yes it’s always best to have a backup plan in case of technical issues. About six months ago I was supposed to interview someone in a video meeting set up by the HR team. Well it turns out they accidentally set themselves up as the host instead of me, meaning the meeting couldn’t start until the HR person joined. Fortunately the meeting chat function still worked without a host, so I was able to message the candidate and ask if I could call them instead, and we ended up doing an old-fashioned phone call. It was stressful enough for me to have to quickly pivot, I can’t imagine how the interviewee felt.

      Technology can fail in the most surprising ways, especially when you least expect it, it’s good to have a backup option and be willing to be flexible.

    3. Fashionable Pumpkin*

      that’s a good point- my current job was cross country, 4 years ago. I was scheduled to do a skype interview, which I bribed roomates to stay scarce during, scheduled while my son was at school, and took time off work for. And cleaned a corner of the shared space and set up lighting (all the lamps we owned, lol).

      The employer had tech issues and we ended up doing most of the interview by phone.

  16. Andy*

    > but there are also disadvantages, like the well-documented drain from the constant gaze of the camera and the slight delay in virtual responses.

    Another disadvantage is how looks influence perception of peoples capabilities. We are not “objective” nor “fair”, hiring managers included. Maybe especially managers. How she is pretty, how symmetric her features are, that sort of thing influences a lot normally. If someone cant interview without camera and position does not inherently require certain look, that makes me think about why exactly the camera is missing. How much the decision actually depends on these.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      ‘How she is pretty’ should not even be in an interviewer’s mind. At all.

      1. Your Local Password Resetter*

        Shouldn’t be, but it’s going to influence them all the same. Even if they’re prepared for it and would never do so deliberately.

          1. Julia*

            Pretty priviledge is a thing, unfortunately – although I think that if you’re *too* pretty as a woman, people might assume you are actually dumb and slept your way where you are.
            Of course not everyone thinks like that, but it’s definitely a thing, just like less pretty people are sometimes assumed to be less smart.

            1. I edit everything*

              Yeah. And we’ve been trained well. Glasses = nerd. No glasses = pretty. Blonde = dumb. Blonde with glasses = fake, because there’s no such thing as a nerdy blonde. (Note that I am snarking here).

              Slightly chubby with frizzy hair: invisible

              1. Julia*

                Slightly chubby with frizzy hair and big breasts – probably wants me to give her attention by touching inappropriately

          2. I edit everything*

            Unconscious/subconscious bias happens with pretty much everyone. It’s human nature. It might not be centered around attractiveness, specifically, but many factors come into play. The only way to counteract it is to be aware of it and consciously reject it.

          3. mf*

            Actually, it is very normal. There’s research that supports the conclusion that attractive women are more likely to get hired than unattractive women.

            But I would also guess that this outcome could vary a lot by industry and job title. In traditionally male industries (engineering, for example), I wouldn’t be surprised if attractive women have a harder time getting hired than unattractive or average-looking women.


          4. meyer lemon*

            I think there is actually fairly robust research showing that attractiveness bias exists in hiring, unfortunately (although it’s certainly not unique to hiring). Although for women in male-dominated roles, attractiveness can be a problem, because hiring managers will assume attractive women are less competent. Yay.

          5. Pescadero*

            “Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.”

            Maestripieri, D., Henry, A., & Nickels, N. (2017). Explaining financial and prosocial biases in favor of attractive people: Interdisciplinary perspectives from economics, social psychology, and evolutionary psychology. The Behavioral and brain sciences, 40, e19.

          6. Observer*

            As someone who recruits people, no, I don’t agree that this is normal

            The numbers don’t agree with you. Study after study indicates that looks influence decisions.

    2. matcha123*

      Wouldn’t this be a problem without Covid? Most places do in-person interviews and might judge the candidate negatively at that point.
      It’s not like until now the average job candidate would communicate with the employer solely through written communication until the day they show up at the office.

      1. AprilShower*

        Typically at that stage there already had been some rapport between both parties and the company is not going to judge you for the My Little Pony poster on the wall behind you.

      2. Jess*

        Yes, it is a long-standing problem. That’s why we all know about it. But since the interviews are being done remotely b/c of covid, if we *can* avoid a situation that may involve unconscious bias, why don’t we avoid it? Use the phone. We don’t have to continue dragging problems in hiring with us through the pandemic.

    3. Anon For This*

      Yep. I believe I experienced this when I was turned down for a promotion. They didn’t state it outright but they let something slip in the rejection that implied that they had a “picture” of the person who’d fill the role and I wasn’t it even though I’ve had excellent performance reviews and the support of my department.

      I don’t even think they were aware of it. The person they eventually hired looked like the hiring manager.

  17. Insomniac*

    #1 My computer was essentially broken when it came to Zoom. My microphone was so sensitive and couldn’t be adjusted that I would just call into meetings from my cell phone (without camera because FaceTime from my phone for a professional meeting? That’s incredibly awkward), and I had to use my phone or else no one could understand what I was saying.

    Regardless of the reason, I agree that there is some kind of bias occurring here and you need to do a deep internal dive to find out why you felt so personally about it.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      If you have a smart phone it’s possible to use Zoom video for meetings. I’ve seen people at all levels use a phone to join meetings on Zoom, and the quality of video is often better than the webcam built into a laptop. Perhaps Facetime the app is unprofessional (I’ve never used it myself or seen it in business) but a phone to Zoom is quite normal.

      Some hold the phone but more normally they prop it up with some books or something. Quite normal.

      1. WS*

        I do this, but I have to drive about two kilometres to get the good 4G connection, so I do all my telehealth appointments in the car. It doesn’t matter for medical appointments (though both specialists have commented on it) but wouldn’t look particularly professional for interviews.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          A few years ago, I was sitting in my car for phone interviews. I can’t even imagine doing this for a video interview!

      2. SaeniaKite*

        Last time I used Zoom, the audio wouldn’t work on my phone and the video wouldn’t work on my laptop. So I had my phone propped up on my laptop with both connected to the same call. It was extremely awkward and that was just for a meet up with friends. I think I would have to politely decline a video interview because the amount of times I had to reposition my phone/the call dropped due to my Internet not being able to cope with both devices broadcasting would not look great on me anyway. And it would be easier for me to say I didn’t have the capability than explain the whole situation

      3. BookishMiss*

        Assuming your camera works – my phone faceplanted and the shatter is centered over the front facing camera. And yes, my phone is in a case, etc… just bad luck on how it landed. I don’t know many people who could afford a new phone when a broken camera is the only issue.

        1. Self Employed*

          If someone is job-hunting, they may not want to be without a phone for some time just to get the camera fixed (or pay for an “exchange” instead of a repair). My previous phone faceplanted on a bumpy parking lot where the edges of the case were shallower than the height of one of the chunks of gravel and the screen shattered. It was my busy season so I paid for the exchange phone, but now with shipping being delayed and all, I wouldn’t want to count on this working properly for an interview.

  18. Niii-i*

    LW: I thinks Alison is right, you are basically rejecting a candidate because they can’t have a video interview with you. And written out, that does sound odd.

    Besides, video is not always the best option. I just had an hour-long interview, where: one of the interviewer’s sound and picture froze for over a minute, three times. They dropped off once. Two times my monitor went black. (it had never done that before, still don’t know what happened)

    I had checked everything on my part half an hour prior and just before the meeting, and I can only assume they had too. I hope we had scheduled a phone call…

  19. North European*

    I also think like Alison suggested that the question to show your texts was just naivete and/or politeness. My hobby is classical singing (think operas and symphony choir). It is not uncommon that if it comes up during a work dinner, people ask ”Oh please sing something to us tonight!”. They do not understand that I always need a pianist, I do not always have repertoire prepared and practiced, the pieces I sing are opera arias, not popular songs they might recognize if they do not listen to opera, the voice is very loud (you need a suitable room) etc etc. It is fully understandable and I would probably ask equally naive questions about someone else’s hobby such as golf or crocheting. They say it only out of politeness. Luckily it has not happened in an interview though!

    1. Julia*

      Yeah, I also mentioned singing as a hobby in interviews (having a strong voice was a plus in some of my jobs) and have gotten, “you must sing for us then”. Even without your listed issues, that’s just a huge yikes from me.
      My other hobby is writing, though, so I’m right where OP2 is…

      1. Liane*

        I sing too, in church choir,* but although I have a relatively large range, my voice is only choral quality alas. (I do instrumental solos only.) So I too must go back to writing/editing for a games blog.

        *in Before, & hopefully After, Times

    2. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I read the situation as the hiring manager showing a polite interest. The awkward pause was probably either not really an unusual boss or the manager wondering if he made a faux pas.

    3. JustEm*

      Yep, I dance argentine tango as a hobby (social dance, not ballroom/competition) and have had multiple people suggest I should dance and show them, not realizing I need a partner who knows how to lead tango and ideally also music

    4. Smithy*

      In addition to the naive/politeness – I also think that when talking about hobbies at work, it’s always helpful to have that follow-up answer in mind. It may be to about finding comfortable ways to demure or have a follow-up comment that can either end or continue the conversation in an easy way.

      I really like cooking and can certainly geek out about food. But as a single person, I also do a lot of cooking that’s not exactly “here’s an amazing recipe to share with the group!” That being said, having a couple of straight forward or more impressive recipes to refer to, or even just types of cuisines or ingredients helps keep the conversation at a fun work level. As opposed to discussing that I’ll get into a rut and make the same food for lunch every day of the week cause it’s easier and not terribly exciting.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        I agree. In my most recent interview, I was asked what my hobbies are. I mentioned pottery and board games. I was asked why pottery? And which is my favourite board game? Neither awkward questions, but i wasn’t expecting followups.

        1. Smithy*

          Right – the other day I was excited to share that I’d found fresh chickpeas in the pod. In retrospect, a very normal question is “what do you make with those”.

          As it had happened, I had just tossed them into my weekly lunch veggie saute that stores easily and I don’t mind eating for a number of lunches in a week. Being mindful that was a road I didn’t really want to go down, having another recipe in mind and also sharing that they cook like fresh peas was just a much nicer way for the conversation to go.

          I think that work social chat certainly can have that awkward moment where it’s fun and nice to share – but not necessarily the more unfiltered side. Let alone in an interview. That being said, once you have thought through some nice follow-up responses, it’s easier and does allow to for that personal connection that is often helpful.

    5. mf*

      I totally feel you, @Northern European. I have a background in classical singing, and when I tell people this, they inevitably say, “You have to sing for us!”

      Um… No, I’m not going to burst into song and belt out an aria in the middle of this restaurant, thankyouverymuch.

    6. Margaery Tyrell*

      LW2 – Solidarity, as someone who writes creatively (mostly fanfiction haha) for fun, this is my nightmare LOL

  20. LDN Layabout*

    While I think there’s no reason to turn down an interviewee because they can currently only do phone interviews, I do wonder where in the process this becomes a red flag. Especially if everyone is working remotely etc.

    Is it getting to the offer stage and then not being able to confirm identity etc.

    1. Niii-i*

      Well, if everyone is working remotely, I hope the employer offers needed equipment…
      The identity confirmation might be more valid concern.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        I meant more in terms of if everyone is working remotely, having a socially distanced in person interview likely won’t be an option.

    2. münchner kindl*

      Do people in the US pre-pandemic regularly confirm their identity when starting a job? By showing driver’s license or similar?

      1. hi*

        Not at the interview stage, but to legally and properly process payroll, yes. Either 1 item from column A (passport) or 2 items from column B (driver’s license, Social Security card, or birth certificate). Signed, the person who signed I9 forms for my company for a while.
        (They also have to fill out their name and address and eligibility to work and sign it etc., and the employer’s rep has to sign it.

      2. londonedit*

        In the UK you also have to prove your right to work in the UK, when you start a new job, which for most people means showing your passport/other proof of UK citizenship or work permit to the HR department.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. For a lot of interviews I’ve had they’ve taken photocopies of my passport and supporting docs at the interview stage so they can check everything is in order if they offer me the job. Part of it is confirming identify but as Londedit says a lot of it is about confirming someone has the right to work in the UK.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            Yup. As I said above, I had a civil service interview recently and it was three forms of ID with one having to be something like a passport (photo ID) and others being proof of address.

      3. Jam Today*

        Yes absolutely, when filling in the tax forms and I-9 you typically have to show proof of identity with a government-issued document (state-issued ID or passport are the ones I’ve been asked for in the past.)

      4. Heather*

        Genuinely curious, not trying to be snarky: Where do you live, if you don’t? I would assume on-boarding paperwork included that everywhere, for tax and immigration status purposes if nothing else.

  21. Former call centre worker*

    I make clothing as a hobby, and I’ve been asked in an interview if I made anything I was wearing at that time (I wasn’t). The interviewer was probably just expressing interest and maybe didn’t fully think through what they were asking.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I hate paying through the nose for smart clothes, so the answer to that is usually yes for me. It was the case when I was hired at a translation agency specialising in the fashion industry. I had no idea that they were specialised in that, and have no particular interest in following fashion, but it turned out to be a clincher, because it showed that I knew the terminology involved in garment structure etc.

  22. Dap Stylez*

    OP2, the reason your interviewer seemed surprised and disappointed is because you volunteered that you write fiction – but then you said you had no fiction writing to show. There’s a good chance the interviewer didn’t believe you’d actually written anything.

    Your expectation that you would have the writing there to show them on the spot isn’t a reasonable one to have – nor would be playing a song on guitar if you had said you were a musician. Clearly they were asking you to send them samples of your writing or links to it after the interview. You basically said “nope – I write but I can’t/won’t show it to you” which is indeed a bizarre response that can only elicit the kind of reaction you received. Truthfully you’re very fortunate to have been given the job after that.

    1. Homophone Hattie*

      It’s really not that bizarre, if the job doesn’t have a writing component! A lot of writers, especially those who just do it for fun, don’t want to show it to just anyone. Especially in a professional context. It might be very dark, or erotica, or just very personal. Just talking about your writing doesn’t mean an invitation to show it!

      1. Grace*

        Yep. If I’m asked for a hobby I might well, on the spot and slightly panicking, say reading or writing since they take up the majority of my time – but I’d be reluctant to volunteer what I read since many people still view fantasy as a childish genre, and I certainly wouldn’t send them samples of my fanfiction (not least because even if I send them a very respectable sample, it would be incredibly easy to then find my very NSFW writing). I don’t show my writing to friends or family I know in real life, let alone coworkers.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my writing; I think I’m pretty damn good at it, and I’m well-regarded in the niche that I write in. But it’s all anonymous on the internet and not connected to my real name for some very good reasons!

      2. Allonge*

        I agree – that said, I think it can seem bizarre for a person who is only familiar with traditional publishing (so, expects a book or similar).

        It’s really strange from this side of the divide, but a lot of people are not aware of fanfiction, writing on tumblr, or may have heard of blogging but it does not translate to them as ‘writing’.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      What? I don’t think that’s bizarre at all. If anything I think it’s bizarre to think it’s normal to demand evidence of hobbies unrelated to the job. I mean, why on earth should the interviewer need the OP to email them a writing sample if the job does not involve writing fiction? I ride, should I be expected to email my interviewer videos of me doing a jumps course to prove I really do it?

      1. Myrin*

        I 100% thought your last sentence was gonna go “I ride, should I be expected to mail my interviewer my horse?”.

        1. JustaTech*

          I knit, what am I supposed to do, make them a pair of socks on the spot?

          I run, are they going to ask for my race times? I’m not very fast, so I might not want to share that. (It has been awkward when a coworker and I ran the same race and he was literally twice as fast as me. I didn’t care, I know I’m slow, but it was clear he felt sort of weirdly embarrassed about it.)

    3. Beehoppy*

      I wrote a blog about traveling the country with my dog which was just silly and exposed my personality in a way I wouldn’t do at work right off the bat. It was my main hobby and writing at the time, but I would not have felt comfortable sharing it.

    4. BRR*

      Woah this is an extremely harsh reaction. It was just a slightly awkward interaction (and really not even that awkward).

    5. twocents*

      Despite how harshly this is worded, I wonder if you’re on to something that, after she declined, if he maybe potentially thought “Oh you just made that up, you don’t actually write.”

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Still weird. Do people ask for other proof of hobbies? I really like to hike? Do you need to see my worn-out shoes? And writing can be intensely personal. I would never presume to ask to see it in this way.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          As Alison said, the interviewer may have been inexperienced and not thought through. As an avid reader, he may just have wanted something new to read.
          After all, OP got the job in the end.

      2. Fashionable Pumpkin*

        What an odd reaction that would be. I grew up taking lots of dance classes, but I sure as heck would not produce a single tap, pirouette, or shoulder shimmy on command while interviewing for a fast food job when I was 18. I also wouldn’t have sent them my vhs taped performances as proof, because my employer doesn’t need to see me in a leotard.

      3. Des*

        That would be extremely weird. If I say I eat lunch but didn’t eat it on camera in front of the interviewer, am I lying?

    6. LadyByTheLake*

      What a strange reaction. If I say that I knit or garden vegetables or write songs or cook succotash or ski any of a million other hobbies that have nothing at all to do with the job there is no expectation AT ALL that I would provide a sample or prove my skill at the hobby. Same with writing.

    7. Rusty Shackelford*

      LOL no, it’s not bizarre AT ALL to (a) not bring your hobby work to an interview, and (b) not offer to send it afterward when it’s not related to the job at all.

      1. boo bot*

        LOL no, indeed. “I write fiction as a hobby” is such a low-stakes claim, anyway – why on earth would it be a lie? If someone didn’t bring a sweater, or a potted plant, or a grain of engraved rice, would you assume they were lying about their knitting, gardening, or rice writing?

        It would be troubling if someone did lie about something so unrelated to the job, but I feel like there would be other, more relevant red flags along the way.

        In fairness, I think some people (possibly including the interviewer) might be hearing “I write” as “I am a published writer,” but that should be easy enough to clarify, and misunderstanding is not the same as being lied to.

        1. Self Employed*

          Typically when people I’ve met lie about things, they lie about having won prizes in the activity. They haven’t just taken karate classes, they claim to have won some special competition. And so on. It isn’t as though OP claimed to have won a writing award.

          OP: “I won the Hugo Award for Best Novel!”
          Interviewer: “Really? What year? I thought NK Jemison won it that year.”

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      What? No.

      Outside of work, my main hobby is singing. It has come up in interviews before. I’ve also been involved in the management of the large groups I have sung with. Sometimes someone asks to hear me sing. I never take that as a serious request, I usually laugh it off, and it would never occur to me that an interviewer would think my refusal was “bizarre”, nor would I think my interviewer expected me to send a recording after the interview.

      “Oh, can I read some of your writing?” strikes me as a polite/interested request, not an expectation.

    9. Sara without an H*

      Ummm…you really, really don’t want to meet writers who always have a manuscript handy to show you. Trust me on this.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yikes you just brought back memories of an accountant at work who kept foisting copies of his vanity-published autobiography on us all, then a week later would ask what we thought of it.

    10. Queer Earthling*

      Thank God I don’t have to interview for stuff anymore, and thank some additional gods that I’m not interviewing with you in particular.

      I’m a published writer and blogger, and almost all of my time is taken up writing my monetized hobby blog & articles related to it, so if someone asked my hobby, that’s the first thing I’d think to mention, because I spend a lot of time on it. The topic? Most decidedly NSFW content. I tend to euphemize it as writing advice about relationships, which it is as well, but either way: no, you can’t read it.

      I mean, my other hobby is watching Columbo, so I guess I could say that…do I have to bring in a picture of Peter Falk to prove that I do indeed have a hobby?

    11. darsynia*

      This comment is making me strongly uncomfortable.

      I think it’s more bizarre that the assumption you would make is that the letter writer is trying to hide something simply by being reticent to share their creative writing. I’m a prolific writer, but of what I’ve written that’s original work and ‘sharable,’ it’s incomplete/as yet unpublished/private. I would call myself a writer, but would never expect to send a sample chapter of a story to a potential employer to ‘prove’ I’m not lying??? I am really just so confused and concerned by everything you’ve expressed here. Not everyone writes short stories, and a ‘sample chapter’ for a potential employer is just so strange as a concept? There are multiple reasonable reasons why not having a sample of writing to ‘prove you’re not a liar’ (???????????) is not a red flag, but I don’t want to pile on.

    12. Archaeopteryx*

      So if I DM, should I have a whole D&D campaign prepared for the interviewer to play? (Because that would be way more awesome than a regular job interview; I’m now 100% on board with this.)

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        “I use VLOOKUP on the Excel Report”
        “Roll for intelligence, with disadvantage because the columns aren’t in the right order”

    13. Des*

      I’m sorry, in what universe is the employer entitled to seeing my hobbies just because I have them? If I like tennis, does that automatically mean I’m expected to play tennis at work? Writing is, additionally, a fairly private process and not something people always feel comfortable sharing in other contexts. That doesn’t mean a candidate needs to lie or make up “acceptable” hobbies for the interview! I don’t think the OP is “fortunate” that the interviewer asked an awkward question and was subsequently treated to baffled silence.

    14. Willis*

      This is a really bizarre take!

      I think it’s more likely this was just a misunderstanding. When the OP said she liked to write in her spare time, the interviewer could have assumed that meant industry-related writing (as Alison suggested) or something like “I had this poem published in XYZ location…” I could totally see myself asking to read something they’ve written just out of general interest, assuming it would be something publicly available, not intending to suggest that the interviewee send me a word doc of journal entries or fanfiction. And I might be slightly embarrassed that it seemed like I was prying when they said they didn’t have anything to send. Seems like just a momentary bit of awkwardness, certainly not something I would assume meant they were lying or shouldn’t be given a job(!!!!!)

    15. Decidedly Me*

      I wouldn’t have thought they were lying by not having anything or not wanting to show me later. I sometimes ask follow up questions to hobbies out of genuine interest, but they don’t need to prove anything to me and if they didn’t want to talk further about it, then no big deal. It just means they don’t want to talk about it, not that they’re lying.

    16. Kaitydidd*

      Nah, I’ve mentioned that I draw, sculpt, and run in my free time, and never had an interviewer ask to see what I’ve made. In my experience, the hobbies portion of an interview is the shortest, if it even comes up. No real follow up questions, just maybe an “oh, cool!” or “I also like to run fun runs, nice.”

    17. RagingADHD*

      I don’t think it’s bizarre to decline, but the response, “I don’t have it with me” was clunky and the interviewer might have been thrown off.

      There are smoother ways to deflect, like saying “oh, it’s just a hobby, I don’t have anything published.”

      Or to laugh and say, “oh, I’m not going to be one of those folks who push their half-finished manuscripts on innocent bystanders.”

      Nobody did anything wrong or bizarre, it was just awkward.

  23. Bookworm*

    LW1: In addition to what Alison mentioned (and already mentioned in the comments), the person may have been uncomfortable with a video interview for the first round. There have been reports and studies about how video conferencing can be even more of a burden on people from certain marginalized groups (women, BIPOC, disabled, neuro-diverse, etc.), especially since many have to “present” in a certain way.

    The candidate may have also felt that a video interview was “too much” (pre-pandemic, how many places would do a video interview as a first round unless the candidate is far away?) and wasn’t inclined to go and get their new gear. I had a temp job where the person pressured me to do video calls and it made me uncomfortable. I don’t believe there was any malicious intent but this was also totally about his preference and not acknowledging that I was not ready for that. My own issues but you also may not know what’s going on with that candidate, either.

  24. moss*

    For the webcam one, in my industry (pharma) it’s standard to require a video interview. I’ve been working from home for years and years and because working from home is the norm, they do require the initial interview to be over video. This is to prevent one person doing the interview and a totally different person collecting the paychecks. One company I spoke with said they had had problems with that in the past.

    So I disagree with the answer here; I think requiring a video interview is perfectly fine.

    1. Fitzroy*

      Yes, I’d forgotten about that! Years ago I interviewed a woman from Russia, who spoke reasonably good English, and some weeks later new employee turns up, who can barely say “nice to meet you!”
      I very much wished I had done a video interview…

    2. GovEmp*

      I totally agree. I am not sure why requiring a video interview would be onerous to the average professional candidate.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        I think it’s not always unreasonable but 1) it’s worth thinking hard about whether you really need to require it, and if you do need it at some point whether it is necessary for the first round 2) at least make it clear to the candidate that they really have to make it work before writing them off.

    3. FisherCat*

      Seconded. I get disliking video meetings/interviews. I do too! But they’ve been the normal way of doing business in most industries (at least in the US, and I suspect in other places as well) for over a year now. Flat out refusing to make arrangements for a video interview is so outside the (new) norms that it has a whiff of “I’m too special for your process”. Not a good look, and I suspect if LW agrees to the phone only interview, there will be refusal or conditions on next steps too.

    4. Tegan*

      Except this is a first interview. Likely, there will be other rounds of interviewing for candidates who make it through the first round. As Allison notes in her answer, they can then decide whether they video is necessary for future rounds.

      1. Malarkey01*

        I think that’s a big assumption. A lot of hiring, especially in gov, is done after one interview.

      2. RosyGlasses*

        We only do one round of “in person” (now video) interviews after a phone screening interview. We’re in a private industry – but we don’t have multiple rounds of formal interviews either.

    5. Colette*

      To me, it doesn’t sound like the issue was entirely the video interview. The OP said “we’d like to do a video interview”, the candidate said “I don’t have a webcam.” The OP then said “can you use your phone?”, and she said “my phone camera is broken”.

      It might have been a different discussion if the candidate had said “Oh, I don’t have the technology to do a video call – my PC doesn’t have a webcam, and I dropped my phone last week and the camera broke. Can we do a phone call instead?” or “I find my connection is bad on video calls, but I can turn on my camera at the beginning to say hi and then turn it off so we can talk without interruptions”.

      But the candidate just kept saying no without explanation or an attempt to resolve the issue.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yeah, I think that the lack of explanation/apparent effort to resolve the issue is probably what made the OP react so strongly. It’s kind of like being late for an interview – if a candidate arrives a few minutes late but calls ahead to let you know and is apologetic when they get there, they’re going to come across better than if they just stroll in a few minutes late and never acknowledge it, even if in both scenarios they’re equally late.

        That said, I wish OP had at least done the first interview by phone if their processes allowed for it – maybe the candidate would have offered an explanation during a longer conversation, or turned out to be a great candidate even just over the phone.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        That is what stuck out to me as well. It is just “Nope can’t” Honestly as a hiring manager I would be wary about how that type of response would come into the job/work. I mean, I don’t expect candidates to tap dance into interviews waving sparklers, but I do expect them to make reasonable efforts to participate.

        1. Shan*

          Yeah, I have a coworker who has apparently really embraced the saying “‘no’ is a complete sentence,” but doesn’t seem to understand that isn’t always appropriate at work. Trying to work with her is a little like trying to do improv with a really bad partner who doesn’t make any attempt to advance the scene. And that’s what I might be worried about here.

        2. Observer*

          Except that the “reasonable” suggestions being made are NOT reasonable in the least bit.

          The person who offered no explanations was the OP, not the candidate. They didn’t “don’t wanna” they said that they don’t currently have working technology! It’s really a bit much to expect the candidate to explain the details of that’s the case.

      3. Shan*

        Agreed! First, I don’t think expecting a video for remote interviewing is nearly as outrageous of an expectation as a lot of people here seem to. But I think it’s the fact the candidate apparently just refused without offering up much explanation that feels off-putting for me. Her response is what I’d say to decline a Zoom catch-up with friends, not someone I’m hoping will hire me. I’m not saying she needed to bend over backwards, but it doesn’t seem like she tried to work with the OP at all.

      1. FisherCat*

        How does a video interview prevent the rolling treadmill of exceptions some people expect?

        It doesn’t, in particular. But its an important cue re: the applicant’s view of workplace norms and whether they apply to her. I would have the same reaction if she, for example, insisted on only wearing athleisure after being informed the dresscode of the office was business attire.

        1. Willis*

          I think Lily meant how does video prevent someone else from doing the interview.

          In some cases, I guess you could compare a LinkedIn photo or headshot from a current employer or something like that. And you would presumably notice if a different person strolled in to the office. But yeah, if the entire job is work from home without video and you don’t have a pic to compare to their video, someone could have a stand-in in a video interview just like by phone. Maybe you could compare a photo ID shared during new hire paperwork with a screenshot of the video interview? Seems a little late then. I guess there are some industries were this could be an issue, but it would definitely be an outlier occurrence in mine, and not something I’d design an interview process around (although I do see other value in meeting final applicants by video).

    6. Observer*

      This is to prevent one person doing the interview and a totally different person collecting the paychecks. One company I spoke with said they had had problems with that in the past.

      Yes, but that’s not the OP’s objection. The OP clearly states that they believe that not having a webcam proves that the candidate not resourceful, creative or interested enough in the job.

  25. Big Brain Boy*

    OP#1, this person was clearly lying to you and you were absolutely correct in denying them an interview.

    Webcams have been standard on laptops for over 20 years. This person is not surviving the pandemic with a 20+ year old laptop.

    Have you ever in your life heard of someone’s phone camera not working? It does not happen. If you want to bet that this person is the single exception who has a working phone but not a working phone camera, then what are the chances they also don’t have a camera on their laptop and have no ability to find or borrow or use one for something as important as a job interview?

    They just don’t want to be on camera. And that’s fine. But they’re also lying about it and you are right to reject them for that. Move on and choose a candidate who is honest and operates in the 21st-century and don’t feel guilty about it.

    1. BookishMiss*

      Wow, there are loads of reasons this person could be telling the absolute truth. Many comments threads above have discussed them. Jumping straight to lying is pretty extreme.

    2. TransmascJourno*

      Having a broken camera on my phone and an unusable webcam on a 10 year-old laptop happened to me. I know a couple other people who have been in the same boat. You’re operating in bad faith and being unduly critical.

      1. pbnj*

        My spouse bought a new desktop computer last year, so no webcam on their computer. I think a lot of people use desktops if they’re really into gaming.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I think a lot of people use desktops if they’re really into gaming.

          Or ergonomics. Or upgrading. Or repairing. Or cost-effectiveness. Notebook are compromise devices.

          1. UKDancer*

            I definitely prefer a desktop. Much easier and more comfortable for the way I use my IT and it stops me from hunching over and ensures I sit upright. Mine doesn’t have a camera and I only got one when we went into lockdown because I want to be able to have zoom chats with my friends and family and go to virtual dance classes.

        2. Observer*

          I think a lot of people use desktops if they’re really into gaming.

          A lot of people use desktops because they are much more appropriate for a lot of purposes. Not just gaming. As a primary work machine, in fact, I tend to suggest desktops over laptops if people have the appropriate space.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      Yeah no…
      My son somehow managed to completely delete the camera off an iPhone. No idea how he did it and even the Apple store people were stumped.
      As for the laptop webcam, I have a 2 year old laptop and the camera just doesn’t work anymore. Again, no idea why. It worked one night while we had a family Zoom call and when we tried the next weekend just nope.

      As it happens, I tend to agree with the LW that if you are 1500 miles away and applying for a somewhat high level position, you should expect that video interviews will be required. Really anyone applying for jobs now should expect at least one video interview and be prepared for it. Maybe not the initial interview (at which point I think a phone interview is fine and if that is the case with the LW, just take the audio call) but if they advance to the second/final round, and the video interview is in lieu of an in-person interview I don’t think requiring video is unreasonable.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Unless being able to do frequent video calls is a major requirement of the job, none of this matters.

      And you sound incredibly judgmental.

      1. kittymommy*

        Same. In fact they just delivered my webcam the other day. Some others here have desktops that are newer (2020) – no built in webcam.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        My office got brand new work desktops last week. No webcam or microphone. We’re going to have to get webcams installed because we do a lot of Zoom meetings and presentations. This is annoying us all.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      Until 2 years ago, my home computer was a desktop with no camera. I didn’t work from home and didn’t need a new laptop. I mean, I kind of agree that no webcam *and* no functioning phone camera is an unusual perfect storm of equipment shortages, and there’s a pretty good chance the applicant simply didn’t want to do an on-camera interview (and possibly for very valid reasons). But boldy declaring that there’s no possible way they were telling the truth is pretty harsh, and probably wrong.

      1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

        This. I have been without both at one point, so I know for a fact it’s possible.

    6. lost academic*

      You are wrong about them being standard and not everyone has a laptop. I do not, even though I am young, a professional with a spouse in the tech industry. My previous personal laptops did not have webcams, I was not interested in paying for something I did not need. My WORK laptop has a webcam, but obviously I wouldn’t use that to do an interview! My current cell phone is the only phone camera I have that hasn’t cracked recently – I have a baby and a toddler and pretty much every parent I know is in the same boat as me with their phone about half the time or more. Given the choice between politely dissembling with an answer of “I can’t do a video interview” and revealing personal information that is likely to cost me the job, legally or otherwise (find me someone that doesn’t discriminate against parents of young children to some degree, I’m waiting…).

      My brother, younger than me and an actual Millenial, does not have a webcam, He does not own a smartphone, He works in tech for a branch of the military.

      Nowhere in the letter did it suggest that the position needed the candidate to have access to a webcam, and if it did, that would be something the company would need to provide. If it’s a matter of a reliable video connection for work from home, that is something that should also have been in the posting and thus the letter as a relevant material detail.

      You may feel that I am piling on you, but you are demonstrating an attitude about hiring practices and qualities in staff that are deeply discriminatory and you need to take a hard look at your assumptions, your privilege, and your professional responsibilities.

    7. funkydonut*

      Why does everyone assume the whole world has a laptop? I have a desktop computer because I prefer it. Webcams don’t come standard with that. During the beginning of the pandemic, webcams were VERY hard to purchase anywhere and there was a lot of price-gouging, too. I think their availability has gotten better in recent months, but we don’t know when this letter was written.

      1. AprilShower*

        My six year old tablet has a webcam, which I used once to see how it works because I never did video calls before that. Last year it’s charging port broke and after I had it repaired the camera started playing havoc and never turning off. So I opened it up and disconnected a piece of it that I had used exactly once while the rest is now happily working on.

        (No, it’s not my only thing with a camera, happily I’m in a position to have several options for video calls. Of which I had only ever one professional so far.)

    8. darsynia*

      Wow, the vociferous nature of this comment is so uncomfortable. Did you read the (multiple) other comments here that stated their phones had broken glass over the selfie cameras and thus rendered their webcam option unusable? Have you never heard of a computer breaking? Or the idea that in a pandemic, it’s not necessarily possible to borrow equipment from (possibly nonexistent/unavailable, due to a move, or sickness, or any number of a million reasons) friends? I haven’t set foot inside a non-grocery store in literally a year, and depending on the candidate’s age, they may be unsure that they could properly install tech equipment/have a flaw in their computer’s USB or other connectors that aren’t easily fixable without spending a LOT of money, JUST to have a video call, which isn’t feasible.

      As politely as possible, to make the snap judgment that they’re DEFINITELY lying because of your stated reasons is short-sighted and biased. If this is the attitude of LW1, I think their candidate dodged a huge bullet.

    9. meyer lemon*

      I have a laptop that doesn’t really work for video calls because the screen is broken and would cost more than the laptop is worth to replace. If I hook it up to an external monitor, I’m either looking away from the camera or I can’t see anyone I’m talking to. If someone asked me about it, I’d probably just say the webcam didn’t work.

    10. Jess*

      I have a laptop without a webcam. It’s a good one – but my company (it is my work one, purchased by them) didn’t order it with a camera because they didn’t see a need. It has a million other great features and it is a solid machine.

      So weirdly hostile that you jumped right to she’s “clearly lying.”

    11. Pescadero*

      We have 5 post 2010 laptops in my house. One has a built in camera.

      My current phone has a useful camera, but my previous phone (over a 4 year span) never had a working selfie camera – which mean you could’t appear in video conference or you could see the vide conference, but not both.

    12. OyHiOh*

      Webcams are only standard if you look at models on which they are standard.

      My brand new, out of the box the day I did onboarding last fall, desktop does not have a built in webcam. Easily half the laptops I’ve owned as an adult (20-ish years) did not have webcams.

      Maybe the candidate doesn’t have one. Maybe they have one, but it’s broken. Etc.

    13. Laura H.*

      Some people aren’t familiar with their computer webcam (myself included, and I’m a digital native),and while phone webcams can be argued more intuitive to use, they can still be just as liable to be finicky.

      An outright accusation of lying is not fair to the candidate at all.

      Also some folks take good care of their older technology and can still use it despite planned obsolescence. 20 years is a stretch but it’s not that far out of the question to promote the longevity of the tech you’ve paid for.

    14. Observer*

      This person is not surviving the pandemic with a 20+ year old laptop.

      You don’t know that. There actually are laptops that don’t have webcams. And there are many, many older laptops that came with a webcam that no longer works. I see them all. the. time.

      Have you ever in your life heard of someone’s phone camera not working? It does not happen

      You’ve never seen one, so it can’t happen? Right. Cameras are actually among the most fragile parts of smart phone, and the hardest to repair.

      then what are the chances they also don’t have a camera on their laptop and have no ability to find or borrow or use one for something as important as a job interview?

      The probability is actually pretty high. Because most people will NOT lend out their cell phone or computer for an hour or so during the day. And the idea that there is a public resource that is both safe and private enough for the purpose is simply delusional.

    15. Loredena*

      My only laptop is employer provided. I’d prefer not to use it for interviews. I game, so my personal computer is a very good desktop, and desktops don’t have webcams by default. We don’t know that the candidate even owns a laptop.

      When covid hit webcams became horribly expensive so I didn’t buy one. The only reason to even want one is Zoom calls with the family for which we use my spouses laptop.

      In theory I could do a video call on my phone but in practice that never works well. Now, I could use my spouses laptop for an interview but not everyone can say the same!

      It does not surprise me in the slightest that the candidate didn’t have a working webcam nor could acquire one on short notice as it likely was not a need until this interview.

      As far as other options as others have stated my local library I’d not open, nor conducive to interviews even if it was. Further, with a disabled spouse there is no way I would risk contracting covid by going out in public for an interview, or even to make a purchase, thus would be relying upon not necessarily timely shipping

  26. Helvetica*

    LW# 4 – I must confess, living in Europe, I have never seen here a job posting where driver’s license was a requirement unless your job was literally 75% driving, maybe as a sales rep or something similar where you’d have to very much be on the road. It’s always up to the person to figure out their transportation arrangements and it’s on them to realize if the public transportation would be particularly challenging or not. But would I be correct to assume that this requirement for a driver’s license in the US may be just an indication that public transportation to the work place would be either non-existent or very inefficient/impractical?

    1. WellRed*

      There are lots of places in US without public transportation but I honestly think the requirement isn’t really a requirement a lot of times. It’s simply a company not taking time to think through and maybe update it’s job ad.

    2. I edit everything*

      Our public transportation in the US, with the exception of the stretch of East Coast from Boston, Massachusetts, to Washington, DC, and within some cities, is pretty much non-existent. It would be possible to have a job that required someone get between two cities that are two hours apart, but there’s no public transit to get there.

      We live about 45 minutes from our nearest train station (Amtrak). The train comes through a couple times a week, either directon, and stops at that station at something like 2:00 a.m.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yep. My job requires occasional travel to a larger city about an hour away and there are absolutely no public transportation options.

    3. lost academic*

      It’s a gatekeeper requirement for US jobs in some cases (sometimes it’s legitimately a requirement though). It is a way of an employer saying that they want you to be in complete control of your commute and don’t want someone who relies on public transportation or someone else. It excludes a lot of people unfairly, though the case is usually made for reliability in being at work on time. (You don’t see that so much in places where mass transit is the standard.)

      For that matter, to get a license you need to show you have insurance on a vehicle (or are covered on some auto policy). People forget about this because they usually get their first license when they are teens and their parents add them to the policy. As a teen that wasn’t an option for my family, we could never have afforded it, so I didn’t get my license till I could pay for my own policy ($$$$$).

      1. UKDancer*

        That’s interesting. In the UK you don’t need insurance to get a licence. You take your theory and practical tests and if you pass you get the licence. Insurance is linked to having a car which you may not do (especially if you’re young because it’s very expensive for young drivers). I didn’t get a car until a couple of years after I passed my test because I didn’t need one. If I wanted to drive somewhere I’d hire a car (and get insurance with the hire).

        In London a lot more people have a licence than a car because hardly anyone would drive into London. So checking whether someone has a licence doesn’t tell you anything about whether they’re equipped with wheels.

        I think this is why it’s good for advertisers to be specific as to what they need, whether it’s someone who can drive, someone with a car or both.

        1. ErinWV*

          @UKDancer said: “If I wanted to drive somewhere I’d hire a car (and get insurance with the hire).”

          Something to note is that in the US, car rental is restricted by age. Quick Google suggests that some places will rent to people as young as 21 (no younger), but often the rental contract is accompanied by a prohibitively high fee until age 25 or 26.

          The US is both utterly car-dependent (outside of a couple of major cities) and actively pricing average people out of being able to own/use a car.

        1. Self Employed*

          You can’t take a driving test in a car you own unless it’s insured, and you can’t rent a car (or drive a rental someone else rented) unless you have a license, so if you don’t have insurance you have to borrow a car for the exam.

          When I did my driving exam, I had bought a (inexpensive used) car, licensed it, and gotten a learner’s permit.

      2. doreen*

        I cannot speak for all 50 states of course- but in my state, you can absolutely have a drivers license without being listed on any automobile insurance policy. I know plenty of people who have licenses and live in households where no one owns a car and therefore no one has auto insurance. ( they take public transit daily and have a license so they can rent cars on vacation) I think what happened to you was a little different- it sounds like your parents did have a car and insurance and in that situation, the insurance company frequently requires any licensed driver in the household to be listed on the policy. ( or sometimes they will exclude that driver from coverage)

        1. Trombones Geants*

          This sounds more correct. As a parent of two teenage drivers, it’s been shocking how much my insurance premiums have gone up, just because the teenagers got licenses. They don’t have cars, but they live in the house, and therefore must be covered as drivers. If we didn’t have cars, there would be nothing to insure them on.

          1. turquoisecow*

            My sister didn’t get her driver’s license – still doesn’t have it now, at the age of 45 – but the insurance company wanted to raise my parents’ rates when she reached legal driving age anyway. They argued that it was likely she would get a license and therefore the car was more at risk. I think that might be when they switched companies.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          And even if your state did require you to be insured to get a *driver’s license,* you can still (at least in my state) get the same state ID that simply serves as an ID but not a license to drive.

      3. turquoisecow*

        This is inaccurate. You do not need to own a car or be on anyone’s insurance policy to get a license in either of the two states I have lived in.

        If you own a car you are likely to be required to be insured, and if it’s a work car you’re probably required to be on that insurance policy, but this is completely independent of driving.

        You do need to drive an insured car to take the driver’s test but you don’t need to be on that insurance policy either – there are many driving schools that provide a car for people to learn on, and then allow them to take the test on that same car.

      4. FisherCat*

        This isn’t true everywhere in the US.

        Source: got a new license when I moved states and did not own a car or have insurance.

      5. KAT*

        In my state at least, you only have to show proof of insurance on the vehicle you’re driving for the road test. So it doesn’t have to be your own (or your parents’) policy.

    4. Wintermute*

      I don’t think that’s a decent assumption. In my experience if they list a driver’s license it’s because you will be driving for the job, OR because they need you to be able to come in short notice reliably without a lot of lead time. Another potential reason up by me and in my field is they need you to be able to get to work even if public transit isn’t running and the weather is bad enough it’s keeping lyft and uber drivers off the road– a situation I have seen before in the winter because especially if the airport has cancelled all flights it’s not worth it for a rideshare driver to go out on treacherous roads for the few people that still need to get around.

      1. Helvetica*

        Interesting. I’m in a job where I need to move about (at least did pre-COVID) quite a lot, though within one city and that is just my responsibility to figure it out. I don’t have a driver’s license and it hasn’t been an issue for me, ever.
        And honestly, if the weather is bad enough to keep ridershare drivers off the roads then I shouldn’t be on the road either! I do acknowledge that I’m in a job or culture where I wouldn’t get penalized for this either.

        1. Wintermute*

          I agree most people should be off the roads, but when you work in cellular infrastructure, or even for an insurance company or a bank or something, they need you to be able to get in reliably despite rideshare being unavailable and mass transit stopped due to the weather. In fact, it’s arguably even more important to have us there, it takes a lot of work to keep a cell phone network running through a major storm, but having it there is literally a matter of life and death.

          My current job in insurance isn’t as dire, no one’s going to die because they couldn’t file an auto claim, but at the same time when the weather is really poor we’re going to see heavy usage of our first-notice-of-loss portals (where either you or an agent you call is telling us there’s been an accident) and the app where you can record accident photos are going to be slammed with traffic.

  27. Former ops manager*

    I’m going to wholly disagree on answer 1. The camera has a few functions in an interview. One is to ensure the person you’re speaking to is the person you’re actually hiring.

    Another is to see if they’re getting assistance or support during the interview. With a visual you can see if they’re reading notes or someone nearby is gesturing to them. A phone doesn’t allow that.

    A significant portion of communication is contained in non-verbal cues. Especially in an interview where you might want to know when to press for more detail the camera can be important.

    Government orgs often have rules about all applicants being interviewed under the same conditions. Allowing one to not have a camera may mean extending the option to everyone.

    Asking for someone to use their camera is a perfectly reasonable request.

    1. Julia*

      “One is to ensure the person you’re speaking to is the person you’re actually hiring.”

      Hm, people do phone screeners all the time and just assume they’re talking to the right person. I don’t think this kind of deception is common enough to worry about.

      “Another is to see if they’re getting assistance or support during the interview. With a visual you can see if they’re reading notes or someone nearby is gesturing to them. A phone doesn’t allow that.”

      This is actually totally incorrect. I have done interviews and Zoom presentations where I was almost reading off my notes, and you couldn’t tell because my notes were on the same screen I would normally look at during a Zoom call. It’s actually just as easy to get outside assistance during a video call without being noticed.

      “A significant portion of communication is contained in non-verbal cues.”

      This I concede is true.

      “Government orgs often have rules about all applicants being interviewed under the same conditions.”

      Since there is no government org that requires all interviews to be video and none to be phone, this fact is inapplicable.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, for a mid-level manager position I really don’t imagine it comes up all that often that one person does the interview and someone else shows up to start the job? One person does the interview and displays expertise in our industry, and then someone else (with a similar voice!) just shows up and… fakes their way through the first weeks on the job? How would that even work?

    2. Esmeralda*

      Government orgs often have rules about all applicants being interviewed under the same conditions. Allowing one to not have a camera may mean extending the option to everyone.

      1. If someone needs to have a different condition for reasons of accommodation, then this may not be true. (For example, I don’t have to offer an ASL interpreter to every candidate, just the one who needs it.)
      2. Don’t see the problem here. If it’s not really necessary for one person, it’s not really necessary for any of them. (We used to phone interview everybody at an early round; later round = in person. If this was a first round, then should not be an issue)

      1. Wintermute*

        The problem is, if they’re not your first applicant and you have already done video interviews, then not requiring one of this candidate would violate the law. Because you can’t unring the bell and go back and offer to re-do the interviews with the people you already required video for even if they would have taken the option of non-video if it were offered.

        1. L*

          Only if the first interview candidate had asked for a phone interview and was told no. Accommodations need to be sought by the candidate.

          1. Wintermute*

            They weren’t asking for an accommodation for a protected reason, they said they couldn’t get access easily and refused to consider options that would let them do so. If they said “I can’t do that because I’m blind” that would have been different. You’re not, as far as I am aware, allowed to just choose to interpret something as an accommodation request without being asked for an accommodation just because they want to do something differently. As a result the fairness rules would apply and they’d have to use the same means as anyone else.

      2. Sandman*

        Agreed, and sometimes government agencies conduct really stilted interviews because they want to ask all the candidates exactly the same questions. The rules – or how they’re applied – are different in that context.

      3. Llama Llama*

        Don’t you think that if OP’s reason to not interview the candidate was that they could only interview candidates under the same conditions that they wouldn’t have needed to write this letter? It would have been cut and dry. I don’t think this was a factor.

    3. JustaTech*

      “Another is to see if they’re getting assistance or support during the interview. With a visual you can see if they’re reading notes or someone nearby is gesturing to them. A phone doesn’t allow that.”

      Not necessarily true. A friend of mine was doing a phone screen and noticed a pattern of him asking a question, faint typing noises, and the applicant answering. So he googled his next question and listened to the applicant read it verbatim. So then he re-phrased the question so it wasn’t so searchable to see if the applicant actually knew their stuff. They didn’t, and weren’t selected to continue.

      Would that have been easier to catch on video? Yes, though presumably the applicant wouldn’t have been so blatant either.

  28. Frances*

    Regarding OP#1 and the webcam issue – If this was a final round of interviews, would people feel differently about the requirement of being on camera?
    I couldn’t tell from the letter if this was a first round or final round interview. If it were first, I agree with many that a phone call makes sense. But if this was a final round, the webcam is important particularly given that this is a manager level position. They do need to be able to connect with others, direct reports and supervisors. And connecting often means seeing each other.

    1. Qwerty*

      If it were a final round, I would still want to see OP#1 try to have a better conversation around making it work before writing off the candidate. I think a huge part of the disconnect is that the candidate didn’t seem to think a phone call would be a big deal for a first round interview while the OP#1 is treating it as a dealbreaker due to a bunch of assumptions (including judgement on finances!)

      Personally I’d turn the OP’s judgement right back at them. They say that the candidate should have known that during a pandemic that video calls are mandatory and have been prepared, but the other side of that coin is the OP should have known that video calls are not feasible for everyone and had alternatives.

      A video call is the substitute for an in-person interview. So to put this in non-pandemic terms, would they have required a candidate to fly out on-site for a first round interview? (I suspect sending the candidate a webcam is a lot cheaper then flying them on-site) Or would they have accommodated a request to first do a phone interview to make sure it is a fit? A lot of the options that OP suggests would require taking a day off work to do (go to a library, stay with a friend in order to use their phone since no one is going to just let you take their phone for a few days, etc). And again – these are all options that require interacting with other people in person during a pandemic! Some parts of the country (and world) are still experiencing surges and people are not able to interact even if they are healthy.

      1. Self Employed*

        If someone has a high-risk condition and lives somewhere like Minnesota or wherever that the pandemic is spiking again, they may not be out and about getting their equipment repaired or buying new webcams or visiting friends to borrow old phones that might or might not be able to run Zoom. And they probably wouldn’t want to bring up having high-risk conditions.

  29. pretzelgirl*

    OP1-I once was on my way to an interview. The highway in which I would drive to the interview was shut down due to a horrific accident. I could take back roads, but it would have taken 2 hours and I would have missed the interview. I called the recruiter and she was not understanding at all. She refused to reschedule. I called the people I was to be interviewing with and they did’nt answer and never called back. I was really upset, but honestly it told me more about the organization. Would they be accommodating for time off? What if I was going to work and this happened?

    Its just something to think about. Sometimes there are barriers to things we don’t think about when we are on the other side of things. Perhaps this person would be a great worker and they truly don’t have access to a webcam at the moment. Or they have other concerns about whether or not they would be discriminated against.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This is a great point. Conversely, I once got stuck on the subway during a thunderstorm on the way to an interview. I had no way to reach my interviewer. I was young and fresh out of grad school. I bolted to the interview and arrived about 10 minutes late. I approached the receptionist panting and sweating and I looked a wreck, and I was greeted with, “Hi! Don’t worry, take a few minutes, get some water, you’re fine.” I didn’t get that job but I was a finalist, and we developed a nice rapport because my interviewer accommodated a situation that could happen to anyone.

    2. Qwerty*

      Great point about what it means about the org! When interviewing for my current job, I came down pretty bad with a cold and was super nervous about asking to reschedule. It really showed me how much they valued their workers when the response was super accommodating – didn’t even ask for new dates, just told me to reach out *after* I recovered and we’d resume the process, which gave me time to both fully recover and still prep for my interview.

      I swear most of my laptops have the webcams spontaneously die when I’m job searching. I’m fortunate that I can take the financial hit of immediately buying a new laptop and paying extra for rush-shipping when mine blue-screens in the middle of the interview process, but I suspect most people do not have that buffer.

    3. Oryx*

      Yes, I had a phone interview scheduled once that I was doing in my car in the parking lot of my then current job. There was no wiggle room in interview time, they basically said “This is when we will call you” and that was it. Zero flexibility so it was a narrow window and then the interviewer was very late in calling me — I think 10 or 15 minutes. I tried calling them but got nothing. When they finally did call me, they didn’t even mention they were so late and seemed put off when I said I could no longer interview at that time because they were late and refused to reschedule. Definitely gave me a lot of opinions about that org, none of them good.

  30. Julia*

    Alison – you mean loath (adjective), not loathe (verb). Sorry for the nitpick; it’s a pet peeve.

    Anyway. I haven’t read the comments, so I’m sure this idea is already mentioned, but LW1, it sounds to me like your interviewer might be making an excuse to avoid doing a video interview because they dislike it. (Speculation, of course, but the circumstances sound fishy to me.) If that’s the case it’s all the more important that you not eliminate the candidate for that preference.

    1. bork*

      It sounds like it is the intervieweE rather than the intervieweR who is loath to do the video interview.

    2. Mami21*

      If you’re truly ‘sorry’ to nitpick, then why do it? Alison is a prolific writer and we’re here to read her advice, not to scold her for the odd typo.

      1. Julia*

        I’m not trying to scold her! I apologize if it came off that way. I’ve seen other people point out typos and Alison has always been polite and receptive so I thought it’d be no problem, particularly as I was going to comment anyway.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          There’s actually a link when you click to comment saying “You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.”
          Alison doesn’t read all the comments all the time either.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      There’s a link above the reply box to report a typo etc. It’s probably more effective to report this sort of thing that way.

  31. Chilipepper*

    If by public computer resources, you mean the library, we don’t have cameras on our library computers either and we don’t allow patrons to talk in the public area (like you would for an interview).

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agree – it would be completely inappropriate to do a video interview at a public place – you can’t control the level of noise or distractions in the background, and in a library, you would be disturbing other patrons.

      1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

        Some libraries have private rooms you can reserve, so that may be what the OP was thinking when she suggested it.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          I just checked every library system in our county, and even the branches that are open have their private meeting/study rooms closed for the duration, with no idea when they will reopen. So that’s probably out.

    2. EmmaPoet*

      This. A lot of libraries either aren’t open to the public yet, or are open for very limited services. We’ve been told we will let people use the computer for one hour per day when we reopen (no idea when that will be), but they won’t be able to talk in the public areas, and the public computers are the only computers we will have. We will not have our small conference rooms as an option for them to talk in, as they will be closed since we can’t clean them between uses, nor will we be able to loan out laptops for them to use if they don’t have their own. We have had loaner laptops for people to check out and take home, but right now all of them are in use by county staff who needed them for WFH, and we don’t know when we will get them back.
      As for other options, FedEx and such may have computers, but they rent by the minute, and I don’t think they’re set up for webcams or microphones. So that’s out too. And getting a computer/phone repaired fast RN isn’t happening. I need to take my personal laptop in and have been holding off since I know it will be gone a while.

  32. CupcakeCounter*

    Your interviewer was weird – don’t worry about it. In the future if you want to avoid that awkwardness, maybe reframe it as journaling which indicates it is more personal/private as opposed to something that you might like other to read or publish.

    Most of my former employers indicated a DL and reliable transport was required because the public transportation in my area was horrible for many years. There were a lot of issues when several key people simply don’t show up (because the driver of their bus called in sick and therefore no one drove that bus…yup that bad) for work or finally trickle in several hours later when another bus came by or someone managed to find a relative to drive them in (this was before Uber/Lyft and there were only 3 cabs in our area and were usually on their way to or from the airport). That doesn’t seem like an issue where you are but I think enough places have been burned that this became a thing. Personally, I would ask about the driving aspect of it in a phone screen because if the role really does need a DL and vehicle, you don’t want to waste a ton of our time up until the offer stage – especially if this is one of those phone screen, interview with hiring manager, interview with HM and team, interview with upper mgt, etc…places that drag it out forever. I’m also guessing you probably now the right questions to ask to assess if you can do the role without letting on you don’t drive.

    1. Silicon Valley Girl*

      But a driver’s license shouldn’t be required for employment unless driving is. If the issue is “getting to work on time / on schedule,” set that requirement & let employees figure it out. If they can’t meet that requirement of their job, deal with them accordingly.

      I’m over 50 & have lived in the suburbs most of my life but never had a driver’s license. No job has required me to have one. But I’ve always figured out how to get to an office on time with no more / less problems than someone who drives a car would (because there’s always traffic, accidents, etc. that anyone can encounter).

  33. BRR*

    #1 I’m going to take somewhat of a middle ground here (mostly adding my opinion because I’m finding a lot of people are coming down very far on one side or the other). First, I think you made a mistake. I’m assuming there is more than one interview round and there is no reason to require video for the first. And if you’re not doing phone screens you should, although I recognize your hands might be tied since you’re at a government agency. But I do think a large chunk of people find conversations/interviews enhanced by video and unless you had hiring rules prohibiting some candidates audio only some video, you could have advanced the candidate and proceeded with the interviews.

  34. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

    #1 I am on the fence on this. Most middle manager positions I would expect for the candidates to have a smart phone and a personal computer, so my thought would be they are refusing to be on camera or don’t have the tools or the want to be competitive. If this is an entry level role or you are hiring someone that is not on that level then I would not expect them to have to be on video. Interviewing this past year during the pandemic I felt like before the video conference that the candidates were either all good matches or no good matches, but after a video conference I could see where they were animated/excited and got a better feel for them. That said I have not hired anyone that was not able/willing to interview on camera, I don’t have a blanket rule though.

    1. Student*

      Interesting – in my field, we expect our employers to provide the tools needed to do the job, rather than passing their business operations costs out to us by asking us to use our personal computer or phone for business purposes.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        I believe Salt & Vinegar Chips was referring to the interview process not using their own computer for business use (although I could be wrong…lots of places out there don’t do it right).
        However, my former company hired many remote workers and the onboarding had to be done over video to prove that the person was in direct possession of the identification they were using for their employment paperwork (as it, sent a copy and then had to be live on video holding the id next to their face). We couldn’t send out their computer equipment until they were onboarded because IT needed their employee id and that wasn’t generated until all the paperwork was in the system. Usually those video calls were first thing in the morning and then process by HR and IT and overnighted to the new employee. Not having video of some kind would absolutely be a deal breaker unless they were willing to be onboarded and get their equipment in person.

        1. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

          Yes, I wrote with the intention that the company would be providing the equipment (computer, phone, etc.) needed for the job, or pay the employee monthly to use their own equipment.

      2. pancakes*

        People in your field don’t make or take video calls when they’re between jobs, then? And make and take all of their personal calls on employer-provided equipment? I realize I may not be the norm here in that I use my own laptop and phone for working from home, but this seems strange to me.

        1. Depends*

          Well, I can tell you that a good friend of mine lost her job due to the pandemic, has been unable to collect unemployment and has sold everything she has of value to pay her rent. (She’s been taken to eviction court twice.) She sold her laptop and her new smart phone. She is desperately looking for a job, but doesn’t have a laptop and has a pay as you go phone with the bare minimum on it. Nice to know that she’d be screwed because she was trying to avoid homelessness.

  35. Student*

    Women sometimes get advised not to connect their appearance to their job application process if at all possible. We get this advice because research has shown it’s generally disadvantageous to us.

    The same advice applies for minorities, people with noticeable medical conditions, etc.

    If you’re in a demographic of people who get discriminated against regularly, the less you remind your interviewer of that, the better your odds of making it through. Each little cue of how your identity is different from the interviewer slowly piles up against you. Interviewers strongly prefer people who are just like them, unless they’ve made a conscious effort to not do that.

    1. Colette*

      But if the interviewer says they need to do a video call and you say no, your appearance isn’t what’s going to cost you the job.

        1. Colette*

          The solution is to jump through the hoops you need to jump through (i.e. do the video call if that’s the only option you’re given), accepting that people are biased. As a candidate, you don’t know what their biases are, nor can you take any action to change them. If you’re an interviewer, you should of course minimize the impact of your biases, but that’s not the candidate’s responsibility.

    2. t*

      Or: “My phone’s camera is broken, and I tried to secure a camera through various other means in time for our conversation but couldn’t. Is it possible for you to make an exception and talk with me by phone?”

      Why does everything here have to be turned into something it very likely isn’t? “Each little cue of how your identity is different from the interviewer slowly piles up against you. Interviewers strongly prefer people who are just like them, unless they’ve made a conscious effort to not do that.” Hoo, boy…

      1. Self Employed*

        Maybe it doesn’t apply to this case, but it happens A LOT.

        I just attended a Zoom business class with a member who admits she’s starting her own business because at age 59, she can’t get a job in Silicon Valley despite decades of experience. The instructor agreed this is a thing.

  36. YA Author*

    Re: LW #2:

    I applied for a position I was well qualified for at a video game company. During my third interview (candidate pool narrowed to 2) the team asked me to provide proof that I’d been a gamer for a long time. I’d already told stories about consoles I’d owned, games I’d loved back in the day, and designing Warcraft II maps for my partner, etc. But proof? I joked that I probably had posts on an old, defunct blog, hahaha.

    But then they wanted to read my old blog. Which definitely included stuff I would not share in an interview (unpolished writing, 15-year-old writing, personal politics, way more focus on my kids than I’d present at work, mention of sex). Super awkward situation.

    1. Naomi*

      As someone who works in video games… this is weird, and seems to be over-emphasizing being a longtime gamer as a qualification. (If anything, I think entry-level candidates overestimate it as a selling point, because it’s not hard to find gamers in the applicant pool for a video game job!) It’s weird enough that I wonder if there was some identity-based gatekeeping at play–for example, if you’re a woman being asked to “prove your nerd cred” in a way that wouldn’t be required of a man.

    2. FifthSecond*

      The fact that they needed you to “provide proof you’ve been a gamer for a long time” is also bizarre! The interview situation here sounds awkward (being asked to share a 15-year-old blog) as it is, but being asked to provide proof that you’re a gamer, even after you’ve told stories about it, just strikes me as weirdly gatekeepy at that stage in the interview process. I’m not sure how I’d “prove” I’d been gaming for years, either

  37. KuklaRed*

    Re letter #1: Normally, I would say it doesn’t really matter if the candidate isn’t on video, but we had an incident at my company that altered my thinking a bit. My boss and I were interviewing a candidate for a position and he was having trouble getting his video to work. I didn’t think it was a big deal but my boss really pressed the issue and eventually the candidate was able to connect on camera. After the interview, my boss told me why this was a big deal. He told me the company interviewed someone for a job a few months ago and no one had seen him on camera. Everyone liked him during his interview rounds and he made some excuse about why he couldn’t be on camera. He was hired and when he started, it was clear pretty quickly that not only could he not do the job, he didn’t have the experience he had claimed. It turned out that the man who was interviewed was a decoy – he did the interview and then the other guy took the job. He was fired pretty quickly and now the company insists that at least one interview is conducted on camera.

    1. Anya Last Nerve*

      Yes, in pre-pandemic times, my company did a lot of hiring of contractors via just phone interviews and it was not uncommon to suspect the person who showed up was different from the one interviewed. It usually took 2-3 months to figure it all out, so the person got some $$ and went on to the next chump.

      Many years ago, my manager in Europe hired a woman into a management position in the U.S. over the phone. She presented herself very well verbally and in writing, but when you met her in person: WHOA. Extremely odd and aggressive body language, there were multiple serious complaints about her to HR from her team. After that experience, I would be extremely wary of hiring someone off of phone interviews only.

  38. Dust Bunny*

    LW3 This smells funny to me but it might depend on what was normal at his previous workplace. Where I am, everyone is first-name except for some of our executive directors: Of the four we’ve had since I’ve been here, two were Dr. So-and-sos (one male, one female), and two have been First Names. The Dr. So-and-sos were both local big cheeses in their fields and anyone but a relative or very close friend calling them by first names would have been really weird. The two First Names (both female; we’re a library, so there are a lot of women in higher positions) did not have doctoral degrees and the current one is far younger and not as established as the ones before her, but mostly . . . that wasn’t the vibe they wanted? I also know that there have been male EDs in the past who went by first names, but I didn’t know them personally.

    My job before this was one where you very definitely did not call your bosses by first names, but you did call managers, etc., by first names.

    1. JustEm*

      I am a (female) doctor and in fellowship our subspecialty group included the chairman of the department, who happened to be male, and three female physicians. It was a relatively casual group for medicine, and we were on a first name basis with each other nurses etc (we were all Dr Lastname in front of patients), but initially I felt uncomfortable calling the chairman by his first name since my institution where I did residency was more formal. I realized it was seeming potentially sexist that I was calling the one male physician by Dr Lastname and calling the female physicians by their first names, so I ended up trying to be more consistent at least within a particular day/conversation and call everyone by first name or Dr Lastname

  39. Popcorn Burner*

    LW 5: A few thoughts on this:

    1) Years ago, Outlook sent a very involved volunteer’s emails to my Junk folder. I noticed within a week because we were in our “busy season”. (It was common for me to receive emails from this volunteer every other day.) I suspect Outlook may have factored in my response rate to their emails when deciding where to direct theirs. (The volunteer sent so many at a time that I’d respond to multiple emails with one all-encompassing email.)

    2) It’s possible she set up a folder specifically for your emails, created a rule to auto-sort your emails into that folder, then accidentally deleted the folder. (I’ve done this; it’s embarrassing.)

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I managed to have my boss’s emails going to spam at one point. Much as I hated his guts, I wouldn’t have done it on purpose.

  40. Czhorat*

    LW1 already got as much pushback as they need, but I’m going to note the one thingb that made this uncomfortable to me: it’s playing in to the perceived power dynamic between job seeker and hiriy manager. In theory an interview shield be a level playing field in which reach side wants to judge whether the other is a good fit, but in practice the job seeker often feels at a disadvantage.

    Rejecting someone because they won’t engage in your preferred means it’s interview is a use of your perceived power, as is the expectation that the interviewer will beg, borrow, or steal whatever tech they need to do the interview your way rather than you being the one to bend.

    Sometimes without meaning to we sand messages about whose desires and convenience matters

    1. D3*

      Yes, so many times employers treat the interview process as a test of how many hoops they can make applicants jump through as a power play.
      Employers are not only aware of the power differential, they frequently exploit it. (see: employers expecting free work as part of the interview process, employers expecting applicants to take ridiculous and bogus personality tests as part of the application process, employers demanding ridiculous things like “cook a meal for me and 20 of my friends” etc. etc.)

    2. t*

      >Rejecting someone because they won’t engage in your preferred means it’s interview is a use of your perceived power

      Or, it could be for practical reasons having nothing to do with power-tripping. On what planet do interviewers not set the terms of engagement? When you’re interviewing, you go through the necessary hoops. It’s just that straightforward. Why make more out of it than necessary?

  41. B Wayne*

    LW#1 sort of came across rather elitist to me with the insistence of a visual interview. Reading body language? Maybe. In a way this reminds me of back in the day when submitting a résumé included a head shot photo. A person could be eliminated based solely on how they looked. Not necessarily business appearance and handsomeness either. Video interviews could subconsciously or deliberately eliminate contenders based on the interviewers ideas of appearance “fits”. Unfortunately LW#1 comes across to me as someone who would rank “the look” subconscious or more overtly as an factor.

  42. jcarnall*

    LW4: I too have a physical disability that means I can’t drive. (Well. I have taken driving lessons and in principle I can, but in practice it wouldn’t be safe for me or other drivers – I have no depth perception, and driving lessons were when I fully realised this.)

    I agree with Alison’s strategy of not mentioning you can’t drive til they make you an offer. On the rare occasions I have applied for a job that said it required driving, but in my assessment could be done by public transport/taxis/rideshares, you know, the way I normally get about – I have generally answered honestly too early, and the interview process ended there and then.

    One occasion that particularly sticks with me was when the advertisement was for a job at an ecology non-profit, and they specified you had to have a driving licence because there was lots of travel, but they also said they’d interview anyone with a declared disability because they believed in accessibility and diversity at work. Great! I thought. So I explained on the application form that I had a disability that prevented me from driving, thinking I could explain in more detail at the interview my strategy for managing without a driving licence (which I’ve been doing all of my life!) – and, you can guess: I didn’t get an interview, my form was rejected (I am guessing) on the first pass by someone who had been told to weed out all forms from people with no driving licence.

    By happenstance, I was at a charity event wth the CEO of that same nonprofit a few years later, when I’d moved on in another direction, and he was talking to a group about how his nonprofit believes and supports in diversity at work, promotes the inclusion of disabled people, etc. I waited for a moment when I could speak to him without everyone listening in, and pointed out that a few years ago I’d applied to his nonprofit for a job that said it required a driving licence, but my disability prevents me from driving, so I’d applied hoping to get to explain myself at interview – but my application form had been weeded out at first pass because I hadn’t ticked the driving-licence box, so contrary to their asserted policy, I didn’t get an interview.

    He looked hugely taken aback, and said he’d look into that. I have no idea if he did or didn’t – I haven’t re-applied to that non-profit.

  43. Anonymous for this*

    Regarding question 1, at the state agency where I work we do one interview, and do not generally do phone screens etc, so essentially the candidate gets one shot. This is a capacity issue, not an arbitrary decision. We typically get many (in the 100’s) qualified applicants, so the decision to not interview someone who cannot do a video interview would be easy and not questioned.

    1. Anonymous for this*

      There is also an issue of making sure each candidate has the same experience in the hiring process. It is very standardized.

    2. Qwerty*

      If that were the case, it still is a conversation to have with the candidate. It is very possible that the candidate had no idea that this would take them out of the running and would be better able to come up with alternatives. And they should work with the candidate on those alternatives! (ex: can the interview be done during off hours so the candidate can go to someone else’s house to use their webcam?)

      And if this really is a hard-and-fast requirement, then it needs to be in the job posting!

    3. Observer*

      When you are talking about a candidate pool that is primarily not in your local area, you can’t insist on fist and only interviews in person.

      Also, the OP doesn’t have 100’s of candidates. They have a total of 4. So, knocking someone out for something like this is arbitrary.

  44. Rusty Shackelford*

    #4, I would ask, in the interview, how much driving is required without ever disclosing your disability. Maybe they’ll say “oh, none, we forgot to take that out” or “actually you only need a government ID for other purposes,” in which case you can continue without saying anything. Maybe they’ll say “not much, but once a month you’ll need to travel to a different site,” in which case you can bring it up if/when you get an offer and find out if Uber/public transportation are an option. Maybe they’ll say you need to drive every day, and you’ll know you need to bow out. But you wouldn’t have brought up your disability before receiving an offer.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I think this is a good middle ground. Interviewee gets the information they need without potentially getting rejected out of hand.

      I also find it amusing that there are jobs that do require frequent driving, there isn’t really a way around it (even uber/lyft won’t work sufficiently in some cases), and there is nothing in the job description that indicates this. Public accounting is fun.

  45. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – until COVID, I resisted having a webcam. I don’t really like them for conversations. I focus a LOT better when I can buckle down and take notes. I have multiple clients who I have never laid eyes on – hasn’t stopped us from having a good working relationship. With COVID, I finally got a webcam because one of my clients insisted they had to have video team meetings, and it felt like a power play on my part to NOT have one.

    Oddly, though, one of my clients doesn’t have a webcam, because the internet is too slow/spotty in her area. So that could be a factor for your candidate.

    In fact, there could be all kinds of factors that your candidate is dealing with. In the interests of getting the best candidate for the job, though, it would make sense to accommodate where you can, and you CAN do a phone screen as a first step to decide if the candidate is appropriate and qualified. If it was a second or third interview, then I would agree with you that all the candidates should be interviewed as equally as possible, and that means webcam if at all possible. Still, I’d weigh the relative strength of the candidate against an arbitrary rule, every time.

  46. Salad Daisy*

    #2 I write fanfiction and would NEVER share any of it with an interviewer, or for that matter anyone IRL. That’s why we write with pseudonyms. I can only imagine an interviewer thinking “they seem to be overly concerned with, say, The Big Bang Theory, and some of their writing is NSFW.” No no no no.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      “I was ready to hire her until I read her fanfiction and saw that she’s really, really into Destiel.”

    2. FrivYeti*

      That’s fair, but then would you bring up that you write as a hobby in the interview? I do roleplaying – it’s one of my major hobbies – but I don’t generally bring that up in interviews unless I’m absolutely sure that it will be a selling point and not get me instantly marked as “weird nerd, don’t hire”.

  47. Esmeralda*

    #1. I’m wondering if the candidate is BIPOC and didn’t want that to factor into your team’s assessment. Or a person with a disability or an illness. Or a person who worries that how they look, or how their surroundings look, will affect how they’re judged.

    Unless the job requires being able to present on camera, a phone interview is acceptable. If I were this candidate, I’d be upset and disappointed, but I’d also feel I’d dodged a bullet: rejecting for not having/using a camera reads as inflexibility or pettiness, not a quality I want to encounter in a work place.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I know I’m more self-conscious on camera. When it’s a voice call, I am more relaxed and understandable.

    2. t*

      But if the candidate moves forward in the process, the interview team will see her at some point.

      What difference does it make whether it’s now or then, when it is a certain eventuality?

      1. JustaTech*

        Because by then the candidate will have made their first impression with their knowledge/skills/ability to interview.

        It’s one of the reasons that some companies take candidate’s names off their resumes/applications when choosing who to interview, so that candidates are evaluated for their skills and experience without the risk of bias based on their name.

  48. 2 Cents*

    OP#1 You say you’re sympathetic to struggles people may have during the pandemic, but you’re not acting like you do, which is more important. Grant this person an interview like you did the other candidates and examine why you say you hold certain beliefs, but when it comes to putting them into action, you have issues doing so.

  49. No Name*

    OP 4 – my company has recently started to add a line about a license being required for all jobs. Not all positions require driving. I don’t agree with this and gave push back, as I fear it scaring qualified applicants from applying, but was overruled. People did agree, it would not be an actual factor in hiring for the positions that don’t require driving, but the requirement would still exist on the job descriptions posted. Please don’t let this stop you from applying to jobs you think sound interesting!

  50. Boopnash*

    OP 5 – definitely ask about this, politely!

    It’s probably not this but once I left a job where I managed several email addresses/mailboxes for the company. Why my replacement arrived they did something weird where they duplicated my inbox setup. The problem was, I had certain rules in my Outlook that also got duplicated. Emails from particular people and emails containing certain keywords would automatically go into folders other than the inbox so I could review them all in a certain way. But my replacement had NO IDEA this was happening and colleagues eventually just thought they were rude or incompetent. The emails were sitting in a separate folder for months, unread. I felt terrible (even though I had left) because that was my own personal preference for Outlook and nobody would have ever known. So weird things can happen, and the sooner you ask the sooner you can get clarity.

  51. a thought*

    For LW #1, we are doing our interviews 100% on video right now. Personally I do feel that the ability to use video calls is an essential skill and I wouldn’t hire someone without that skill. Sure, I could phone screen someone before (and I am willing to do that) but ultimately I must talk to someone on video before hiring. Yet – I don’t want to rule people out due to financial hardship. I actually think that’s a really hard contradiction.

    (But – in in-person interviews, the suits/transportation/etc, there are economic costs to interviewing too. Is a webcam or phone with a camera as the cost of doing business different?)

  52. Observer*

    #1 – I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around your conclusions.

    I get that when you have a strong and large pool of candidates you wind up knocking people out on small items. But you have essentially gone to knocking people out by throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks, or the color of someone’s shirt. You may not care about the fairness of this process, but you SHOULD care about the fact that it will probably limit your pool of good candidates. And, it may turn off others who hear about this and form a (deservedly) poor impression.

    You don’t seem to understand either the technology nor the practical and privacy implications of the situation based on your “suggestions”.

    Use a public Resource: Even if we weren’t in a pandemic, it would still be a ridiculous suggestion. For one thing, just because a place has webcam equipped computers does not mean they are a good choice for a serious conversation. The user has absolutely no way to adjust for quality of connection issues. Furthermore, do you really think it makes sense for someone to take an interview in a public space? Perhaps they don’t want to broadcast their job search to the entire public. Or maybe they are concerned that some questions will require answers that need some discretion. It’s a ridiculous suggestion all around. And if one of my staff brought this to me, they would get an earful.

    Fix the “webcam” on her phone There are two possibilities here. One is that she actually does not have a phone with a selfie camera. There are actually people who have “dumb” phones or who have the selfie function disabled for a number of reasons and not all of them are due to finances. Beyond that, if the selfie camera is actually broken or non-functional, fixing it is generally not a doable thing. A very high percentage of phones are extremely hard to fix at all, and some parts are harder than others. “Fixing” (or more likely replacing) the selfie camera on a phone is the kind of thing that presents a problem even on a phone that is relatively fixable.

    Borrow a phone Seriously? On the one hand, that requires sharing a lot of information about her job hunt with someone. On the other it means finding someone who actually has a functioning phone who would be willing to be without it during daytime hours.

    You are basically screening someone out based on factors that have nothing to do with the job. Her failure to be able to do a video call does not prove that she is not “resourceful” – unless what you REALLY mean is “she doesn’t have access to out of work resources”.

    1. EmmaPoet*

      I have a brick phone- it can text and call and that’s it. I don’t need a smartphone for 99.99% of my life, and I spend too much time online as it is.

  53. PersistentCat*

    I remember hearing about a govt hire that wouldn’t use video & when they started working, it was later found that a parent interviewed in their stead. This could have been a rumor, but it’s something that has been discussed.

    I personally interviewed without a webcam because I couldn’t afford to go buy one, having just been laid off, facing a ton of medical bills, & my phone wouldn’t run the app they were using for interviews (and I had used zoom and teams for it before!!). It was awkward initially, but I did offer to make something else work if it was a requirement. I think as long as the direct supervisor is on the interview, or one of the interview panelists can check in with the new hire a couple of days into their start, it’d be easy enough to verify identity if that’s the concern.

    1. PersistentCat*

      Also. My only laptop with a webcam was my ex-job’s. That would have been so unethical. So, I think more questions are required & if it’s something you feel strongly about, offer to lend them a webcam.

  54. 3Owls*

    LW #4 – Driving may not actually be a requirement, asking for your DL information could be for background check purposes. Several years ago the federal government changed the rules on companies doing financial and credit checks on applicants, they can now only do them on applicants you would be working with financial data or money, ie: banks empoyees, financial firms, accounting firms, etc. This was due to the recession, bad credit and forclosures were keeping people from getting even entry level jobs in areas that had nothing to do with finances.

    One way companies found to get around this was to do checks on people’s driivng records. The theory is that if a person has a lot of unpaid tickets and/or fines, they probably have bad credit/financial problems. Obviously this is a very flawed way of thinking, but it’s one of the reasons companies ask for your driver’s license even if there is no driving as part of the job.

  55. Sandman*

    If I were offered an interview for a role that I really wanted, I’d move heaven and earth to get a webcam. A phone interview may have been fine and I’m sure there are situations where this would legitimately be a prohibitive requirement, but I tend to agree with the LW that in most cases this seems like it’d be an indicator of the amount of interest or energy a candidate has toward the position.

  56. Thankful-Interviewee*

    LW1. The more I think about it, I think the interviewer chose to not use webcam for a reason – whatever it may be. There are certain groups that are biased against and probably one reason for not choosing a webcam. Or they genuinely don’t have the resources right now. You could have gone for an audio call and then if they fared really well, then you could have asked for a video interview or in-person interview with social distancing next. (say, give them a laptop with webcam in one room, and interview from another room or long distant).

    In one of my recent interviews, I was able to get on the call, they could hear me I could see them but not hear them and my web camera was just not working ..It was crazy all over. (Turns out my antivirus/web browser settings were at problem) and I normally don’t use webex from this computer so didn’t know this would be a problem. The interviewer graciously called me and offered to do a phone interview – This was very kind on his part and well appreciated. It turned out the phone interview was not needed as I figured out the problem and fixed it while on the call.

  57. PacificaNYC*

    LW #3:

    Have you had more interaction with the candidate than your boss? It could be sexism, but it could also be that the candidate is much more comfortable, and therefore informal, with you. Did you previously interview him by phone or in person, or has email communication come primarily from you as the hiring manager? When I interviewed for my current job, I had several calls, meetings and emails with my female boss before meeting the male president for my final interview. With my boss, our relationship became more informal over the course of interviewing, while my one-time meeting and follow-up thank you note with the president was pretty formal.

  58. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Since #1 is a government agency, how strictly do the “you must treat all candidates exactly the same” rules apply? If one candidate interviews by phone, does that mean they have to interview all candidates using the same communication method? Just curious.

  59. HR Lady*

    Letter #3… that is a red flag but agree with Alison to look at other cues. We interviewed a male candidate for a technical position. We had a panel of four (2 males and 2 females, one of which is me). At the end of the interview the candidate shook the two male panelist’s hands and did not shake the two females. The other female panelist even extended her hand and he just moved towards the door. WOW! The two male panelist were all over that after the candidate left. He was a hard no for many reasons, but that was the nail in the coffin. Subtle things like this mean something. I have learned to pay attention to the little things (like tone of voice when someone answers the phone before they know it is me calling them to set up and interview, how quickly the respond, etc.).

  60. Pam*

    LW1 – Why are most commenters giving the most uncharitable reading to the LW, whilst also assuming that the interviewee _must_had had good reasons? And also pretending that video interviewing is not the norm right now?

    Of course technical issues happen, but I also believe that if the interviewee were more apologetic about it, explaining more about the circumstances that make it truly unfeasible at the time, the LW might have given them more leeway.

    1. BlogFrogMog*

      Nah. The candidate did give reasons (no laptop webcam, broken phone camera), the OP just decided those reasons weren’t good enough. The OP should be more flexible for an initial interview at least. What’s so tough about accommodating people during a pandemic?

      1. Pam*

        She only talked about her phone after they suggested it. She also didn’t suggest that they do an audio call _first_, so that she could have time to solve these issues, for example, nor did she seem more apologetic about it (according to the LW’s letter). So in this context I get why the LW read it as more lack of interest than a real technical/financial issue that they should accomodate.

    2. Anonymous for this*

      I agree with you and your follow-up comment below. My reading of the candidate’s responses is that they weren’t really interested. There were other qualified candidates.

  61. JV*

    LW #3 – it may just be a reluctance to assume a title.

    I have encountered female gendered people in my working life who have not appreciated being addressed as Mrs, others who don’t like being addressed as Miss, and others who really hate the term Ms.

    Which means there’s a chance that whichever you use you’ll end up picking the wrong option.

    Conversely the chance of upsetting a male gendered person by calling them Mr is infinitesimal.

    Has your preferred title been mentioned at any point? Is it possible they’re just misstepping because they’re worried about offending?

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Conversely the chance of upsetting a male gendered person by calling them Mr is infinitesimal.

      How many people even remember what the masculine form of “Miss” is?

    2. Vichyssuave*

      I find it hard to believe that anyone would be more worried about offending a woman by mistitling than by referring to her more informally than her male peer.

  62. Marcy Marketer*

    IMO I felt uncomfortable with those excuses too, it seemed to me like she was not telling the truth. It’s fine to not want to be on camera but lying? It would be different if she was apologetic or gave a little more context, but the flat out refusal seems like a red flag and early on in the relationship I would probably need that flag. What else would she be inflexible about?

    1. HungryLawyer*

      So many commenters are jumping to the conclusion that the candidate is lying, and the OP implied the same in their letter. The candidate *did* give context: she told OP her laptop doesn’t have a webcam and her phone camera was busted. Assuming that the candidate was lying is such an odd, concerning assumption to make especially since she stated a reason.

    2. Observer*

      What “additional context”? Like, is she supposed to provide a blow by blow account of how she broke her selfie camera? Explain that none of her friends are the unicorn that will lend her their personal cell phone for an hour? Perhaps she needs to take them through the history of why her computer doesn’t have a webcam?

      She explained – she doesn’t have the tech. It’s the OP who doesn’t explain why they think that things like borrowing a cell phone are reasonable things to expect.

  63. Even In an Emergency*

    I’m so confused about the response for #1! In “normal” times, wouldn’t you possibly not interview someone if they didn’t agree to come in for an interview and offered some other interview? Sure, maybe you would do a phone screen first, but ultimately you would, expect them to come in, like your other candidates. Is this really that different?

    1. obleighvious*

      I think the issue here is ‘ultimately’. This is a first-round interview. If my phone camera is busted, I’m not going to shell out $$ to get the camera fixed when I don’t even know if this is a place I want to work. If I have a phone interview, and I say “Oh, this does sound like a good fit, I DO want to move forward” and they make it clear that a video call is important/necessary to move forward, then it is at THAT point I’ll jump through some hoops to get my video working — borrow some money to replace my phone, pay to overnight that cheap webcam so it doesn’t get lost in the mail, explain that my laptop is in the shop and I won’t be able to do an interview for 2 weeks at least, etc. Why would I waste my money on a total unknown when it’s not even clear that video calls ARE necessary?

      At this point, all we know is that they sent her info to do a video call, she said it’s not possible due to equipment malfunction and offered a fairly standard solution (phone call instead of video) and suddenly now she’s out of the running. If OP had said “sorry, video calls are mandatory for [reasons], will it be possible for you to find an alternative” or “we don’t do phone screens, this is your one shot and it has to be video” she may have then tried to solve the ‘problem’, but I don’t blame her for not seeing it as a problem to start.

  64. Untethered by Cellular*

    #1. I am very good at my job (both technical and people skills), interview well, and don’t have a cell phone. I have a great internet connection and desktop computer with no webcam that will outperform most people’s laptops. Population vaccination in my capitol city is under 50% and although the libraries with computers are open for very limited hours, I am not going anywhere near them even if they have webcams, and would never choose to interview in public open space. Ditto for the rent-a-space computing facilities. Asking to borrow a friend’s most personal device is possible, but means I am basically inviting them to my interview as they would want it back for their work immediately be cause it is required for their jobs. If I knew you wanted to interview me and then chose not to because of wanting to see me, I would assume a bullet was dodged in that the requirement was for a skin color or beauty check. You would have lost a great future employee.

  65. Des*

    Asking to see your writing is awkward for the interviewer not for you, OP2. I think of it like if you’d said your hobby was, idk, snowboarding and he told you to go out and show him — same thing, nothing for you to be embarrassed about.

  66. JW*

    The 99% of my brain that is rational says “webcams shouldn’t matter for the sake of equity” but that remaining 1% of my brain has been watching a lot of MTV’s Catfish lately and is looking for a juicy story

  67. Mile High Money Lady*

    LW #5
    I know that there are some strange power dynamics between funders and the non-profits that they fund, as someone who works for a foundation. However, if I were to find out that I was missing emails from one of our grantees I would be mortified! Please have a colleague email them right away and let them know that you can’t get ahold of her, I’m sure she’ll do whatever she needs to get your emails.

  68. sofar*

    I have mixed feelings to this. And, several years ago, we did weed out a candidate who refused to do video interviews. But the reason wasn’t because of bandwidth or not being able to get a webcam. He had very stringent privacy-related beliefs (no cameras in the house) and also (it seemed) an aversion and annoyance to appearing on camera. We did a phone interview the first round and tested the waters re: video for the next round. The answer was a firm “no.” He stated that, “with enough notice and a firm schedule” he’d be able to commit to occasional video calls with external clients.

    Like it or not, remote work is becoming the norm, and, at least in our company, being on camera for small internal meetings and on meetings with external clients is a must for us.

    So we passed, even though he had a lot of skills we were looking for. I knew, if we hired him, it would be constant cajoling to get him on video with external folks, that he’d be peeved if he didn’t get “enough” heads-up about being on a video call with external clients, and that he’d always be “the one without video” in every internal meeting (which our leadership would not like).

    I agree, though, that LW pulled the plug too soon and should have tested the waters about whether this was a temporary tech issue, and whether the candidate would have been willing to be on video if the company hired her and furnished a laptop with a webcam.

  69. Mittens*

    OP3, I’ve seen this nonsense before from men and it has been a massive red flag every time. This guy is young, too, and there’s an added “boys’ club” vibe.

    Gross. Don’t hire him.

  70. Hiring Mgr*

    I get that the candidate may have great reasons for not wanting to do a video interview, but how is the person ultimately planning to get hired? Sooner or later you’re going to have to meet someone, either in person or on a video call

    1. Anonapots*

      This was supposed to be for something else.

      I’m taking my own advice and bouncing from this thread. Some people, man. Some people.

  71. Former Employee*

    As a number of people have pointed out, in person interviews occurred on a regular basis pre pandemic. Perhaps they will return in the future but, in the mean time, on camera interviews will probably be the norm.

    While the OP could have done the initial interview by phone and if the candidate seemed strong the next one could be by video. However, there is no evidence that the candidate was in process of remedying the situation. (“She didn’t say, nor did we ask, why she hadn’t solved these problems.”)

    So, I guess what I am saying is what would have been the point of the OP doing a phone interview initially when it appears that they still wouldn’t have been able to do a video chat with the candidate in future?

    1. Elsajeni*

      I mean, I would have “not solved those problems” because they hadn’t really been problems yet. If my computer didn’t come with a webcam… presumably I bought it that way because I didn’t feel I needed one? It would seem totally bizarre to me to say “oh, I’m afraid I don’t have a webcam” and have someone say “hmm, why haven’t you taken steps to remedy that situation?” — because this is the first time I’ve ever needed one! It wasn’t a situation that needed remedying until just now! The broken phone camera is a little more of an obvious actual problem — like, something went wrong there, you didn’t just choose to buy a phone with a broken camera — but again, if not having that camera hasn’t created a problem for her, it seems totally reasonable that she wouldn’t have rushed to fix it until she got a request for a video interview. And it’s not like she just said “oh, I can’t do that” and then sat there offering no solutions; she was the one to suggest doing an audio call instead.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        yes! my phone camera on my iPhone 6 didn’t work for the last 2 years I had it. But I am cheap and all other things worked as needed…so I didn’t buy a phone with a working camera because, well, I didn’t need to. I eventually bought on when my digital camera went out, too, and I wanted to have a camera.

  72. bananab*

    #1, video of any sort is a nonstarter for me because we’re also caregivers for our parents and they’re prone to wandering about. When asked, I usually decline citing “logistical problems” because the actual explanation isn’t one I like sharing if I don’t have to.

  73. Llama Llama*

    OP #4 – Perhaps my response is biased because all of the job descriptions I have written say valid drivers license and personal vehicle required but if the job description says you need it I would assume you need it and try to find reasons that you don’t rather than assume you don’t need it as so many posters here suggest.

    I would be incredibly angry if someone went through the entire job interview process and only told me they couldn’t meet one of the requirements of the job at the point they were offered it. I could see this happening to me, especially if someone was planning on moving to the area and planning on living on the bus line (which is very limited but does stop at our office) and didn’t understand that there would be a lot of travel to remote areas not serviced on the bus line. If you weren’t familiar with the general service area of our org you may not understand the distances or where public transportation exists or doesn’t.

    I probably wouldn’t disclose at the first interview and instead try to dig into what kinds of travel are necessary and where the travel might be to, how frequent it is, etc. I would still disclose before they make an offer because even if it ends up that you really don’t need a drivers license and they do hire you I think you will come off as a little dishonest and/or sneaky by not disclosing that you don’t meet one of the requirements of the job which in my mind is really not the same as not disclosing another disability that would not make you directly unable to meet a stated requirement of the job (eg: if the job description didn’t say you needed a license then you wouldn’t have to disclose that you didn’t have one due to a disability)

  74. ITWorkerBee*

    #1 – It’s considered a requirement to do a video call with candidates for my company. There have been instances of bait and switch with candidates and also on video I have caught candidates googling technical answers (Just say you aren’t sure!!), etc. If the candidate was that interested in the the job, they could have ordered a new web cam, found an alternative or used their phone, or a friend’s phone. So I would have passed on them as well.

    1. Superlanon*

      Yep, absolutely agree. If it’s an interview that you would normally conduct in person for legitimate reasons, then I would also screen out anybody who balked at doing a video interview.

  75. RB*

    I’m sorry, I don’t know a nicer way to say this, but I find LW 1’s letter to be incredibly ageist. Not everyone is as comfortable with technology as everyone else, which is not to say the applicant wouldn’t be a great manager. My phone, while being a smart phone, is old and has trouble with Zoom and Teams. If their laptop was also old, that would explain not having a webcam. Maybe they are more comfortable using their existing equipment and they worry about the learning curve if they get something new. If diversity is important to your organization, you should be considering these things.

    1. Colette*

      Honestly, in many jobs not being comfortable enough with technology to click on a video-conferencing link is a dealbreaker in itself. The thing is, it’s not the responsiblity of the potential employer to excuses things that haven’t been explained – and it doesn’t sound like the candidate provided much of a proactive explanation.

      It’s possible the candidate is an older person who can’t use/afford technology that is capable of doing a video call or that they have a visible disability they’re trying to hide or that they live in a house made of candy and the light’s not good enough to take a video call – but it’s also possible that they don’t proactively solve problems, think there way is the only way, or are secretly 3 hedgehogs wearing a trench coat. We don’t know. Neither does the OP.

      If the candidate is up front about the issue (e.g. “unfortunately, I have a desktop without a webcam and my phone camera broke last week, so I can’t do a video call), then the OP should consider doing a phone interview if she can. But it doesn’t sound like the candidate proactively offered solutions, just said “no” – which is a bigger issue.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        If it’s three hedgehogs who live in a house of candy, I’m hiring them sight unseen

  76. Uranus Wars*

    I haven’t read through all the comments but have to get this off my chest: Why do people think that when you make a certain salary or are at a certain level your budget “allows” for things. Maybe she has 2 kids in college, maybe she is paying for care for a relative, maybe she is saving to pay cash for her dream car or to retire at 45, maybe she doesn’t want to pay for a webcam she’ll use one time…how someone budgets/spends their money is no one else’s business!

    Unless it’s having a direct impact on the quality of life of the person doing the judging (like a partner/spouse who spends money that is earmarked for mortgage frivolously). Which as a hiring manager it most certainly does not.

  77. Allura Vysoren*

    OP2: It sounds like you got a variation of “Oh, you write? Anything I’ve read? Are you published?” I’ve been writing for over 13 years now and I’ve learned to just not tell anyone that I write simply because I don’t have the spoons to deal with the follow-up questions.

    1. Job Hunter*

      LW 2, I think Allison was right on the money but your question reminded me of my favorite story that reminds me not to lie on my resume.

      My friend is a resident now and when he was interviewing for his residency he felt a lot of pressure to pretend to have hobbies he didn’t have to make him seem “well rounded.” He just was his normal self and said he liked to read in his spare time. If the asked follow ups he’d talk about the books. One of his friends though, lied and said he played guitar, because who’s going to check. Cut to an in-person interview, interviewee says he plays guitar, interviewer pulls a guitar out from behind his desk and says “play me something.” He took guitar off his resume that night. So yes, sometimes you will be expected to play a song.

  78. Arch*

    LW3- could the candidate be avoiding your boss’s first name for some reason? Like he’s not sure if it’s Mike or Michael and is using Mr Last name to avoid the issue?

  79. CatchingIre90210*

    For Letter 1, it makes sense to want a video interview. If someone’s coming in as a manager of a team, it’s important they not be some faceless void — you’ll want them to have a strong rapport with the team. Especially if they may not be working onsite with the team they manage, video calls would be a huge help. Also… if the candidate’s problem-solving and communication skills are being evaluated during this interview (can’t imagine they wouldn’t), then flatly saying “no this isn’t gonna happen” without any kind of “here’s my thought process and here’s what solutions I’ve come up with” is unlikely to go over well.

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