employers shouldn’t use video for short first-round interviews

A reader writes:

I wanted to share an interview experience I had yesterday, which connects to a suggestion or request I have for hiring managers.

One of the most annoying things about the way Covid has changed the workforce, at least to me, is the fact that now hiring managers seem to want to skip past phone screenings and jump straight to Zoom or video interviews — or, even more annoying, when they want to use Zoom/video conferencing FOR the screening conversation.

Before Covid, first round interviews were almost always over the phone, but now they seem to be exclusively video. I recently was contacted to interview for a position that I’m really interested in. They only gave me two days notice to schedule the interview, and in my current role I am extremely busy so it’s difficult for me to take time off under any circumstances (one of the big reasons I’m looking to leave), but especially on such short notice. I also don’t really want to take an entire day off for a 30-minute interview even if my schedule was flexible enough to allow that. I already had appointments for all of the interview times that she offered me, except one — I had an appointment right before and another right after, but the actual interview time she offered I was free. I also live about an hour away from my workplace. There was no possible way that I could get back home in time for the interview without inconveniencing all of the other people I had meetings with that day.

I also didn’t have a lot of other options of places to interview. My office door closes, but it’s basically a fishbowl with glass walls and very little sound muffling. If I had interviewed in my office, my colleagues and boss would almost certainly have overheard me. Other places on campus (I work at a college) were also not very private and had the added bonus of terrible internet connectivity. My college is in a very rural area so my data signal is usually not great outside of my actual office, and the wi-fi here is notoriously spotty. Faced with very limited options, I did the only thing I could think to do: I took the interview from my car in the McDonald’s parking lot.

From the very beginning, the committee (especially the hiring manager) seemed taken aback that I was in my car. The very first thing the hiring manager said after the initial hello was, “You’re not driving, are you?” I clarified that I was parked, apologized for the location, and explained that I had to fit the interview into my busy workday and there weren’t really any private locations besides my car. She said “okay” but with a very skeptical tone of voice. Then, at the very first question, I got kicked off the McDonald’s wi-fi for a second and my video froze, and the hiring director kind of freaked out (evidently she didn’t realize that I could still hear her even if she couldn’t hear me) and said something about how she told me to make sure I had a good internet connection.

Once my connection was restored, we ended up shifting to a phone interview, but by then the damage was done. I think I still gave a solid interview and maybe changed their initial perception of me, but I feel like we got off on the very wrong foot. When we were talking about next steps, she mentioned that the next stage in the process is a longer, half-day interview which would also be virtual, and said, “You would really need to make sure you have a good internet connection for that!” I stated that of course I would take the day off if I was moved to the next stage, but that this just wasn’t possible for this date because I already had a pretty full day by the time she had called, and thanked her for her flexibility and understanding. She said, “Of course, I know life sometimes happens” but I still got a vibe that she was annoyed or thought I was less than professional.

So my request is this — PLEASE stick to phone interviews for first-round interviews that will last less than an hour. It just isn’t reasonable to expect someone to take an entire day off work for a 30-minute interview, and it’s so much easier to fit a phone interview into a busy workday when you don’t have to worry about a data connection or the locations you have available to you. If it had been a phone interview, they would have had no idea that I was in my car, and I’m confident that they would have been very impressed with my interview without those problems clouding their perception. If you want the whole team or search committee there, you can still do a conference call (or even Zoom but tell candidates they don’t need to use video!). Obviously video conferencing has a lot of advantages on the hiring end, but at this stage in the process I think the disadvantages to the candidate outweigh those advantages — and you can always bring video conferencing in at a later stage to reap those benefits with less stress and inconvenience on the candidate. If for some reason you absolutely MUST use video conferencing for a screening conversation, please understand that candidates may not be able to interview in a desirable or strictly “professional” location if they’re already employed. Their car is a perfectly fine alternative if no other spaces are available to them.

Amen. People too often default to video without thinking through issues like the ones you’re raising here.

{ 378 comments… read them below }

  1. calonkat*

    Since one can call into a zoom conference, would it be a good idea for the applicant to offer that as an option in such circumstances? Like “My schedule won’t allow a video call with such short notice, however I could be available by phone at this day/time.”

    My sympathies OP.

    1. Berin*

      I love that wording! I do think the OP would have been well within her right to say that when offered the interview, especially since the prospective employer gave her such short notice for an interview, but I also recognize that it may feel hard to push back in that moment.

      I’m sorry this happened OP! It honesty speaks really well to your preparation for a role like this that you were faced with a number of challenges (any one of which would probably throw me off my game!), and still gave a really solid interview. I really hope you get a second round interview!

    2. KHB*

      That was my thought too. You have nothing to lose by asking (or at least, if they are the type of people who will penalize you just for asking, they’re not the type of people you want to be working for), and if they say “No, we really need this to be a video call because reasons,” you’re no worse off than you were before.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yes – If they already made it plain that they were considering a reliable internet connection to be important for this stage of the discussion, then that would be the time to say “I’m not able to guarantee a private location with reliable internet at that time” and suggest alternative options or at least give them a heads-up. As it is, when they say “x is important” and you make it plain during the discussion that you knew you weren’t going to reliably have x ahead of time and just didn’t bother to communicate that, *then* you look unprepared. (And I think that’s what happened, based on the interviewer’s comment – she told you a solid connection would be important, and from her POV, you never indicated that would be a problem until your connection crapped out.)

      1. Amaranth*

        Still, internet connections can be rock solid until…they aren’t. I’d probably have gone ahead and used my data plan rather than piggybacking on free wifi, but not everyone has great signals and I’d hope the interviewer would include instructions on what to do if they were disconnected, regardless.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah “I told her to make sure she had a good internet connection!” really rubs me the wrong way. I get being disappointed if someone is underprepared, but you can never 100% guarantee nothing will ever go wrong with the internet and nothing about this situation indicates she didn’t try to have good internet. A few weeks ago I was in a meeting on my perfectly good home internet connection when a neighbor’s landscaper apparently cut right through a cable and suddenly I was offline.

          1. Random Bystander*

            Exactly–I have been at home (high speed internet, and wired, rather than wireless, for the work computer), and someone smacked into a pole and knocked out power in a three block radius. Router does not work without power, so no internet until it got fixed (fortunately a matter of hours, as this happened in summer, so I also lost my A/C).

            No matter how well one plans, there can always be circumstances beyond a person’s control.

            1. CoveredinBees*

              Yup. A significant part of my *state* recently had intermittent outages recently. No amount of preparing could have dealt with that.

          2. LittleMarshmallow*

            I think that many people at hiring manager level have often lost touch with what it’s like to live without that posh private home office they have where the most interruption they get to a video call is their adorable kitty running across the frame. I experience that just in my daily work day (not counting interviews). My managers always want me to turn my camera on. Um sir, I look like a disheveled swamp rat because I’ve spent half the day running around a plant wearing a hard hat and all the other PPE that usually leads to sweatiness… no one needs to see that, please accept my cheerful voice as your consolation prize on this call that could’ve been an email.

          3. Sharpie*

            I was in that exact situation once while house-sitting for a friend who lived way out in the sticks in the Somerset Levels. Apparently the cable wasn’t buried deep enough and a farmer out ploughing cut right through it, cutting off both internet and landlines for the entire village. People were standing out in the road to get enough mobile phone signal to contact the phone company to send someone out to repair everything.

            I can’t imagine what would have happened had anyone been on a video call whether for an interview or anything else.

      2. Cera*

        I had an interview last week. At home on the internet connection that I work om full-time from with very little problems. Internet cut, soft-phone dropped; I have no idea why. Back on 4 minutes later with an apology and we proceeded. Internet worked fine for every other call of the week.

    4. roy_mustang76*

      This is basically how my wife (who is currently looking) has been responding to all video screeners. A handful of places have tried to insist, and her (imo EXCELLENT) response has been “If you would like a video call that is fine, but it would have to be after 5:30 so I can take it from home.” They’ve all either conceded to a phone screen at that point or ghosted her (which, fine, who wants your total inability to adapt in an employer anyway).

    5. OP*

      I actually did say “I can’t do this time or this time. I can do *time I was available* but I will probably be in my car!” with a slight chuckle. She didn’t comment on that at all, or say anything about making sure I have a good connection. Shortly before the interview, I was sent an email recommending I install the zoom app if I hadn’t already and to make sure I was somewhere with internet connectivity – which I did.

      1. Observer*

        It should not be this way, but I think you need to be more explicit.

        For example we had one letter from someone who was taken aback that someone was interviewing from their “messy” dorm room where you could see the college pennants on the wall, and they were wearing earbuds. That poster did take the hammering they got pretty well. But the probable reality of the situation just hadn’t occurred to them.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Wow, that makes them seem even more obnoxious that they made such a big deal about your setup when you explicitly warned them in advance!

      3. tamarack & fireweed*

        Yeah, these people sound like asses about it. Luckily I’m in a place where everyone is attuned to the fragility of good connectivity, and a candidate interviewing from their car would be treated with utmost professionally and no condescending and annoyed attitudes.

        Also, even though we do use Zoom, a candidate calling into Zoom from a phone would also raise no eyebrows. We have team members who do this during our weekly meetings.

        (During early COVID, when everyone was sent home, I know one professor taught from his car parked on campus because wifi was better. His class is also one that people call in by phone from some *very* remote places – think Arctic off the road system. This is how it’s done if necessary.)

        1. Candi*

          My previous college took a few weeks, but they set up wifi in their farthest parking lot and put cones out so all cars had to park two spaces apart, all so students with unreliable wifi could use it for lessons. (Yep, there was security.)

          Dunno why the interviewer in the post was so shocked about OP being in a car -a car is the classic place to phone interview during the workday, and she should know OP was employed at the time he submitted his resume at least -it’s on the thing. Getting huffy at someone having an existing work schedule is ridiculous -it’s just life in the hiring manager lane. You either work with the candidate or move on.

        2. Freya*

          At one point a few years ago, I was walking over to campus to do anything involving downloading, because Wi-Fi that died every hour when people got out of lectures and everyone tried to check messages, email, and social media at the same, that Wi-Fi was better than the best wired internet available to me living a couple of blocks away.

    6. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      I think there’s a growing feeling that “everybody” is WFH these days, or at least on a flex schedule, so “it’s just as easy” to do video. This no doubt creates issues for candidates who still work primarily on site.

      I mean, at least this person *has* an office, fish bowl or not. A person with an office can at least pretty easily get up and walk away without creating too much weirdness or suspicion. Imagine trying to do this from an open office, where everyone gophers up the minute anything interesting (like you walking out to drive to McDonalds at 10:30 in the morning) happens. If employers want good people they simply have to be flexible about initial interviews.

      1. Baska*

        Or, for that matter, if you’re working a customer service job where you can’t leave your station without permission from your manager. (I’ve worked as a receptionist in the past, and I didn’t have a car. The only way I’d have been able to do a video interview at a job like that would be to walk around the block on my lunch break and hope my cell signal was okay, or else do it at home before / after work.)

        1. Jessen*

          Customer service jobs are always super messy with interviewing anyway, because you never know if you’re actually going to get your lunch break on time or not.

    7. Emmie*

      I recommend giving more information. “I work in an office. Other people can overhear my conversations. I can do a video-conference at x or y, or I can call in from my car. Which works better?” It provides important context to the issue.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I’d appreciate this info vs assuming someone has the right video setup. I’d also think of it as “this person is proactive when resolving a problem.”

    8. Nanani*

      You can, but when you’re in the applicant position you have more to lose by them saying no or holding the very request against you.

      All the more reason for the employers to not jump straight to video.

  2. justanobody*

    I think some employers use the first-round video interview so that they can actually see the interviewee and weed people out (consciously or unconsciously) based on attractiveness/gender/age/ethnic background, etc.

    1. giraffecat*

      Some employers may do this, but others might just think that video offers more communication advantages than phone. With video you can see body language, facial expression, etc. that isn’t conveyed via phone calls. Not saying that’s the correct way of thinking, just what might be going through their minds. Plus, some people have just gotten so used to video meetings being the norm that it doesn’t occur to them that it has these disadvantages. I do think that defaulting to video meetings is not a good thing and people should consider whether it’s really necessary.

      1. PayRaven*

        I wrestle with this all the time as an interviewer with audio processing difficulties. >_< The pandemic really smoked out just how much I'd been depending on reading people's lips to understand them; I always thought I just hated phone calls for no reason.

        But if I'm interviewing someone over video, that's for my OWN accessibility, and I try not to hold them responsible for anything else in my field of view.

        1. Kittykuddler*

          I totally relate to this. I never realized how much I relied on reading lips until everyone started wearing masks. I’d definitely try to accommodate a candidate I’m really interested in. But I’ve also been a the receiving end of a lot of candidates ghosting in the last 18 months, that I’m probably unconsciously less flexible with scheduling interviews outside my preferred times in case they don’t show. But I’ve also held off making hiring decisions until I speak to candidates that I was interested in that asked for a longer time before the interview. I think it’s a lot like any other relationship. It’s going to require give and take. The job market is changing quickly and there’s a necessary adjustment that has to be made with the expectations on both sides.

        2. Winter Sky*

          Same here! Just makes me wonder, why does nobody do the initial screening in a text interview? I really shine at text.

          1. Nethwen*

            I don’t know if this was a sarcastic comment about the initial screen being by text, but I do initial phone screens (typically 10 – 30 minutes, depending on how clear the applicant’s answer are and how much they talk). I use the phone instead of e-mail/text because all the positions here need good phone skills. The phone call part of the initial screening is part of the screening process.

            That said, 1) I would be fine with a video call if the applicant requested it and 2) I give a lot of leeway in phone skills since I know many people don’t use often use the phone for calls.

          2. LQ*

            I think this is all a conspiracy by Big English Major to make it so the only skill that matters in the work place isn’t doing work, but writing pretty sentences.

          3. Amaranth*

            Auto. Correct. Also, if someone got a bit too much help with their cover letter, they might have the same person do the text screening. :)

        3. OhNo*

          Agreed. My audio processing difficulties aren’t too bad, but my ADD means that I have a heck of a time paying attention with only audio to work with. I need something visual or I simply cannot focus.

          But like you said, that’s an accommodation for me. If it’s not possible for some reason, I would do my best to find some other means of making it work, and not hold the other person responsible for anything that goes awry during the process.

          1. Carlie*

            That’s a good reminder for me, because I’m the opposite. I have a little difficulty processing over a connection regardless, and lack of visuals make it easeir for me to focus on what the person is saying and their tone of voice while saying it. I sometimes even close my eyes while on a phone call to make sure that I am getting everything.

            1. allathian*

              Yup, same here. I have trouble with audio processing in the sense that visuals always override audio. If I need to focus on the audio, video is simply a distraction. This doesn’t happen in person, though, or at least not as much. Video meetings have their uses, but they leave me drained. Luckily I don’t have many of them, this week I have 4, and that’s a lot for me. Some weeks I have no scheduled meetings at all, I usually average out at 1 or 2.

        4. LQ*

          I had a moment a long time ago when they changed our cubes and someone who was just short enough to have their mouth below the line of the cube was talking to me and I said without thinking “I can’t hear you without seeing your face”. Which is …both stupid or true.

          About half my meetings are everyone on video and half are almost no one is. The almost no one is meetings are more contentions, more likely to have misunderstandings, and more likely to have me at least say “I’m sorry, I think what I heard you say is X, I’m sorry, I’m really trying here.” for the third time with my head in my hands and my eyes closed desperately trying to make out what they are saying AND THEN understand what that means.

          I worry if I ever end up doing phone interviews that I’ll be biased way too much based just on the audio quality because having to work that much harder to guess at what someone said without having the aid of seeing their lips at all means that that interview would just be more difficult and take so much more work and put that person at a wild disadvantage.

          1. Amaranth*

            Are you able to record interviews in that case? Check permissions, and retention rules, but if you need that in order to listen again later, I think its a completely reasonable request.

        5. Tau*

          Accessibility high five… I have a speech disorder and voice-only can get really awkward for me. The amount of times I’ve heard “uh, our connection seems to be bad, you’re breaking up”… no, I just talk like this! With video people can at least see that I’m trying to speak, and supplement by lip-reading.

          So although I sympathise with OP, I’d prefer video over phone including for first interview. Maybe we can try to aim for both being possible?

      2. KHB*

        Also, if it’s a conference call with several people from the team, they might be thinking that video is beneficial on the candidate’s end for keeping track of who’s who. It’s a lot easier (for most people, I think) to distinguish a bunch of faces on a screen than to distinguish people you’ve just met by voice alone.

        1. Look, Ma, no pants!*

          I can understand this and it’s fine during that stage of the process. However, most first-round interviews, particularly screening interviews, don’t involve the team.

        2. Death to Conference Calls*

          Amen to keeping track of who’s who. Every so often in the case of my work I have conference calls with a bunch of people who have very similar tones and cadence, and trying to determine if a point is being made by Higher Up I Absolutely Have to Listen To or Mid Level Employee Just Putting in His Two Cents To Sound Smart is a pain in the butt.

      3. anonymous73*

        While true, it’s generally not necessary for the first screening. Even before COVID when people had in person interviews, I never jumped right to that stage. You’d have a phone screening with the recruiter first, who would gather information and forward it to the hiring manager, THEN you would be brought in for an interview.

        1. Tess*

          As Loulou said upthread, it depends. Higher education is notorious for the first screening to involve the entire search committee.

          1. an academic*

            Yes, this. There’s no “recruiter.” Also, here, the second stage interview is quite time-consuming and expensive (flying the candidate out for 2 days, paying for all their meals, arranging interviewers for every hour of their days from breakfast to dinner) so I guess everyone on the committee wants their say early on?

      4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I rely on visual cues such as lipreading for full communication, but also I’m aware that body language is not universal either in expression or interpretation.

        Body language and eye contact *on video call* is even more difficult, as the camera and screen are rarely close enough together to permit lifelike interaction (do I look at the camera, or the face of the person I’m addressing?).

        I think there’s a difference between a first interview that’s genuinely screening – do you actually have the required qualifications, what’s your current role, do you seem to have a vague idea who we are and what this position would be – and an actual first round interview proper. I have sympathy for employers wanting to do the latter in an environment as close to a physical meeting as possible, but the former would always have been a phone call in the Before Times.

      5. A Genuine Scientician*

        Honestly, as the person applying, I’d drastically prefer a video call.

        I *hate* talking on the phone. I always have, even when I was a teenager. In person, email, video are fine, but telephone calls are torture, and I know I come across worse because of that. And they are exactly 0 percentage of my job duties. Video based initial screens have been common in my field (higher ed faculty) for years before the pandemic. I really don’t want to see a blanket “Never have video for an initial interview” requirement. “Don’t require”, sure, but not a blanket prohibition.

    2. Xena*

      I think it might be more because we’ve moved to a point where inter-workplace communications are more on video than by phone and unless we think it through first we use the modes of communication we’re used to rather than what is necessarily convenient for other parties.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Also, when the interviewer is working from home, doing a video call means the interviewer isn’t having to give out their personal phone number to the interview candidate. Yes, some people have work cell phones, and some people have soft phones on their work computers, but not everyone.

        And if you’ve got multiple people conducting the interview (even pre-Covid, we often did the phone screen in pairs), it’s a lot easier to send a Zoom link to multiple people than for someone to try to figure out a three-way call if it’s something you don’t do often.

        1. Hazel*

          You can do an audio only Zoom call, and people can literally dial in, or they can use the computer audio after joining the Zoom meeting. So it doesn’t need to be video as well just because Zoom is easier than 3-way calls.

    3. Hey Nonnie*

      This cuts both ways, too. I had a first-round screener interview yesterday that she insisted be on video.

      I was online early, had a good connection, had paid attention to camera setup and the lighting in the room.

      She was five minutes late, informed me that she had lost power and was down to 14% battery on her computer, and was backlit by a window with a big streaming sunbeam dazzling out her face.

      We attempted to start the interview, but her internet connection was terrible. Her video froze, her audio stuttered, the call dropped, reconnected, and then immediately she ended the meeting. I’m sitting there like WTF? for several minutes, trying to figure out of she just literally gave up on the interview. I decided to try to reconnect, and it turned out she had closed the meeting to switch to her phone, but did not tell me she was doing this. Her phone was no improvement, either. Although I suppose it may have had a more fully charged battery. I couldn’t hear half of what she said because the audio was so choppy. I didn’t ask most of my prepared questions because I think we were both giving up by that point.

      Ultimately, I felt like the whole thing was a waste of time, and she should have just phoned me, especially once it became clear that video wasn’t going to work. I was unimpressed, and felt like my time had not been respected, and that’s something that’s inevitably going to be in my mind if I get called to further interviews.

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        Oh, and she ALSO didn’t confirm my interview until 2 hours before it was to start. I was pestering my point of contact for DAYS for confirmation and a video link. I pointed out that I would need to know which video conferencing app she was using in order to download and set it up. Thankfully I already had the one she was using.

        So yeah. Strongly felt like she wasn’t respecting my time.

        1. Webeh*

          To be perfectly honest, what you experienced during your interview would set off alarm bells for me about how they may treat you as an employee. They didn’t seem to be particularly respectful of your time.

    1. PT*

      “We only want to hire people who are currently employed, but their schedule has to be 100% free and clear all day so they can be available at our beck and call.”

      *is baffled as to why they can’t hire anyone*

      1. Blllllpt*

        Don’t forget the seemingly ubiquitous must have bachelors or masters degree for $15/hr (if you’re lucky), several years’ experience, and just enough hours to be under full time and avoid benefits.
        Not all employers are like that but I find the ones who complain about “lazy people don’t want to work” are that way.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          And you need to pass a background check, even if it makes no sense for the position. (Caveat: All my positions for the past 20 years have required background checks, but they made sense for the organization and position.)

          1. OhNo*

            And a drug test, and you must provide a valid drivers’ license to prove that you can drive (even if the job does not involve driving at all).

            This does just strike me as another hoop bad employers want candidates to jump through, just so they have proof of exactly how much nonsense their potential hires are willing to put up with.

            1. Sam*

              Also you must provide an address, so they can weed out homeless people. But why don’t all those homeless people just pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get a job already!

              1. CalypsoSummer*

                Hey, all those Horatio Alger heroes did it, so it’s clearly not a problem. What’s with all THESE slackers??

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          And it better be a degree in a very specific field! Not anything else useful!

          (Yes a virologist qualifications can translate well to IT. Yes, really, interviewer)

      2. Amaranth*

        I had a job interview like that, where they wanted me to drive over an hour to be there that afternoon so I could be first interview. I told them I could call in that afternoon or the next morning but couldn’t just leave work without notice and they were VERY put out. Excuse me, so if I come and work for you, it would be totally fine to just ditch work whenever I have something else to do?

  3. Blue*

    Whew, the “life happens” response really grinds my gears! Like, actually, this interview happened to your life and you did the best you could to accommodate it! Ugh.

    1. PayRaven*

      Yeah, this got to me too! “Life happens” is for, like, your car dies or someone gets sick. This is business as usual and has been for /over a year./

    2. Snarkastic*

      Yeah, the issue is not so much with the concept of a video call, but that the hiring manager had the wrong attitude. It’s like they assume this interview is the ONLY thing you could possibly have going on. The condescension and annoyance would have alarmed me immediately.

    3. OP*

      Thank you! It bothered me too – it felt like she was trying to *sound* flexible, but it still came across as kind of condescending.

      1. MoreFriesPlz*

        YES!! She was forgiving you for being such a bad interviewer, when she should have been apologizing for the fact that she was self centered in asking for this and it didn’t even occur to her that not everyone could take a video interview in the office they work in (duh).

        Just one more example of an employer setting up the interview process to make everything as easy/optimal as possible for THEM with to zero thought to the candidates.

        I’d be willing to bet that
        1) they’re the kind of employer who still thinks candidates should and will grovel for jobs (not in this market pal)
        2) who is mystified as to why they can’t attract top talent and
        3) thinks no one is dedicated/wants to work/has gumption/walks up hill both ways with no shoes any more.

        Bless her heart.

        1. Down to the minute*

          Is there any indication the OP let the hiring manager know about the scheduling problem ahead of time?

          I could understand your vitriol if the OP had tried to reschedule and the hiring manager was inflexible, but you’re drawing an awful lot of conclusions about this woman because she asked, “Do any of these times on Thursday work for you?”

          1. Death to Conference Calls*

            There’s also the question of how common it is to be in-office in that industry. In my industry, we’re still *very* slowly in the process of moving back to in-office — many places have expanded and don’t have room for all their employees, some places are staying hybrid until the new year, etc. If it’s the norm for most people to still be WFH, the interviewer may not have taken “my coworkers can hear the interview so I have to go elsewhere for privacy” into account.

            1. MoreFriesPlz*

              I’m not sure if this is supposed to be an argument against what I’m saying? It not unreasonable to forget this but having an attitude when OP gently reminded her it’s not the case is just silly.

          2. MoreFriesPlz*

            It’s not a schedule problem. A different day or time wouldn’t change the fact that, like many, many people, OP can’t take a video interview from their office.

            At best, it’s thoughtless and mildly annoying to ask this of candidates knowing most people can’t take a day off for a first round half hour call. When called on it, a smart hiring manager would adjust their approach. The fact that this interviewer, once given this context, talked to OP in such a skeptical way and was using phrases like “life happens” is obnoxious. This isn’t a “life happens” thing; it’s a very obvious consequence of her own demands.

            They’re not vitriol here. I’m pointing out the basic fact that this interviewer is viewing everything in terms of her own convenience and preferences, which fits into a very, very common pattern.

            1. Down to the minute*

              It also doesn’t reflect well on the OP’s communication. OP agreed to the interview time, never gave any indication it would be a problem, then was upset when the hiring manager commented “life happens sometimes.”

              OP said this was “condescending,” but also updated to say the same person gave her a second interview! So maybe it was just an innocent “life happens,” without being able to read the OP’s mind, and not an insult?

              Again, this could have gone a different way (and probably solved) if the OP had let the hiring manager know that the time may not work for her, or explained that she might have an issue with her internet connection. Instead, OP gave no indication there was any kind of problem, brooded about the inconvenience, then got upset that the hiring manager didn’t read her mind and solve the problems.

              1. MoreFriesPlz*

                Read the letter and the comment you’re replying to. Timing is not the core issue. OP cannot take the day for a first round, half hour interview and cannot take a job interview from her office. The date and time of the interview were not going to fix that. They could have made it slightly more convenient, but the problem is that the actual format does not work for a first round, which is very clear in the letter.

                “Life happens” is a phrase clearly understood to mean “something has gone wrong here because of you but I don’t blame you because these things can happen to anyone.” You say it when someone is late because the train was delayed, or had to reschedule because their child gets sick, not when you’ve inconvenienced someone. The interviewer created the issue and is now telling OP she forgives her for it. Read the comments. This is not a unique-to-me-and-OP view point.

                People can be condescending and rude and still give you a second interview. I’m not sure why you’re so passionately determined to prove you understood this interaction better than the person that experienced it.

                1. Down to the minute*

                  If, as you and she say, she truly can’t take an interview from her office, and she can’t take the day off, when she was expecting to do the interview?

                2. CalypsoSummer*

                  OP did the interview at the time agreed upon. OP was unable to do it from home, or in the office, or anywhere except in hizzer car, about which s/he had warned the interviewer ahead of time. And the interviewer was all freaked out about it anyway, and then “forgave” OP for it.

                3. Down to the minute*

                  @CalypsoSummer that’s my point. She didn’t let the hiring manager know beforehand that it would be a problem. There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that she warned them ahead of time.

                4. MoreFriesPlz*

                  As I, and the letter writer, have both been very, very clear about, the issue was the format of the video interview, not the timing.

                  I don’t know about “expecting” but she wants exactly what she specifically said: for interviewers to keep super brief first round interviews to the phone format they’ve commonly been in for decades.

                  A phone interview at this time would have been fine. She could walk out of her office and take a phone call with no internet access, or take it from her car without the interviewer having known, as she very clearly and very explicitly states.

                  Your comments sound like you literally didn’t read the letter. Or my comments.

              2. Nanani*

                Wrong wrong and wrong.
                It wasn’t an issue of timing, AND she let them know ahead of time that she’d have to do it in her car because of the logistics of her current job (this part is in a comment thread, not the letter)

                Down, are you the interviewer? Do you understand that people’s availability is constrained by their existing jobs and they can’t magically accommodate you?

      2. tangerineRose*

        I think the OP dodged a bullet. The hiring manager sounds easily panicked and not very flexible and like someone who would not be easy to work for.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      SAAAAAME. That is what I came to yell about. “Life happens”??? Grrrr.

      It’s funny — five years ago I was supposed to have a video interview which I tried to take from a conference room in my office, but everything went wrong (including my headphones not working, so I was sure everyone heard the interviewer saying like, “So why do you want to leave your current position?”). We ended up on the phone. I got the job (after a bunch of in-person interviews).

      1. JohannaCabal*

        I used to do phone interviews on a different floor in our building that only had a few offices…found out actually that a few of my other co-workers did the same thing as well!

    5. Baska*

      Things you can’t actually say in an interview…

      Interviewer: “I know life happens sometimes.”
      OP: “Actually, YOU are the thing that happened. YOU are the disruptive force. I’m trying to fit the rest of my life around YOU.”

      I can’t recommend saying this, but if you do, I absolutely want a report on how it goes lol.

      1. anonymous73*

        I may not have said those exact words, but I certainly would have responded. “I’m sorry this has been inconvenient for YOU, but I was trying to make this work given the very limited short notice I was provided for an interview.” I’ve been in interviews where the interviewer was a jackass and wished that I had spoken up for myself, but didn’t because I was desperate for a job. Then I realized after the fact, that if an interviewer is going to be a jackass during an interview, chances are they’ll be a jackass once hired, so I wouldn’t have wanted to work for them anyway.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, I’m like….”life” didn’t fucking happen here. Already having a job happened here. WTF, Interviewer.

    7. Nanani*

      IKR! This wasn’t a “life happens” situation, it was exactly what you’d expect for a first round interview.
      AND LW explained this ahead of time!

      The interviewer comes up as having their head up somewhere distinctly lacking in sunlight

  4. Cobol*

    I’m in a super similar situation (rural, hour from home, fishbowl office), and have had the same thing happen to me. My advice is to not be afraid to say those times don’t work for me. I can’t say it hasn’t cost me a job, but would you really want to work for that trooper off place anyway.

    1. MissBaudelaire*

      Yeah, I have refused interviews because I’ve had people want to do it right smack dab in the middle of the work day and get baffled when I can’t just not show up to work/leave early with one day notice. I’ve had to push some back to accommodate, and I do think it soured me for a few people.

      But… Well, I’m not risking the job I have for potential of a maybe job. Like, shouldn’t you care that I’m dedicated to my job? Doesn’t that show my work ethic? Or does that only matter when it applies to the job I’m interviewing for?

      1. Elenna*

        Yes! Something tells me that these places would not be happy if, once hired, you randomly leave for half a day with barely any notice. But apparently they think it’s reasonable to ask you to do that to your current job??

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, but then again, that is a pretty good reason to decide not to work for them. Sounds like they only see things their way.

  5. idwtpaun*

    Fresh out of college and looking for my first job office job, I wouldn’t have thought twice at an prospective employer expecting me to be available to suit them, but now this rankles.

    “Of course, life happens sometimes”? What kind of comment is that! It’s not reasonable to expect applicants to use a paid day off on a 30-minute preliminary talk. And why is it a surprise that not everyone has a private video chat environment readily available. Was this person really unacquainted with long commutes and open office plans?

    It makes the interviewing company come off as entitled, not necessarily an indication of company culture as a whole, but still.

    1. mcl*

      Yeah this interaction tells me that this manager doesn’t have the type of brain that allows for flexibility or consideration for situations that are outside of her immediate context. I have totally taken phone interviews in my car. Can’t do ’em at work due to a shared office, and my signal at home is a little iffy even though I live in an urban neighborhood. The car is an ideal spot for a preliminary interview – you can have your own private bubble and park in a spot where you’re going to have a good signal.

    2. Lacey*

      Yeah, that was kind of wild. Work doesn’t happen sometimes, it happens 5 days a week. Taking a preliminary screen in your car is totally normal.

    3. ClaireW*

      Exactly! Things like this make it obvious how so many companies ‘forget’ that applicants are usually interviewing with multiple places, too. Expecting interviewees to talk even half a day off for every screener interview would be completely infeasible for most people.

  6. Wordnerd*

    I recently chaired an interview process, and while we used Zoom for the shorter phone screening, we made sure to give them the full Zoom invitation with the phone number and clarified when scheduling that they did not need to have their video on or could just call in, and the whole committee started with their video off unless the candidate switched theirs on. So hopefully that was a good compromise between treating it like a phone interview for the candidate but using a simpler system for the committee (who were spread across three campuses).

    1. Bloopmaster*

      THIS. It’s not that phone is inherently better and zoom is inherently worse for screenings/early interviews. It’s that there should be balance between the needs of the candidate and the needs of the interviewers and the default should be making the candidate comfortable, when possible. Offering options – video on, video off, dialing in via phone is absolutely the way to go.

      I honestly prefer video conferencing platforms for these kinds of conversations (even when the video is off). And being judgmental because someone has to dial in from a car or can’t use video is so ugly. That (and the lack of offered options) is the real jerk move here, not the technology.

    2. Agnes A*

      Is it typical to have the whole committee during initial interviews? I’ve only had my first interviews with 1-2 people, no matter whether it was via phone or Zoom.

      1. Wordnerd*

        I’m in higher ed, lol. Most of the conventions from the rest of the working world go out the window. We tend to have the full committee in all the stages until the very end.

  7. quill*

    I feel like remote interviewing has meant that applicants get judged more on their available technology. And less on their shoes and pants.

    1. Midwestern Scientist*

      All of which is still basically judging people on their wealth/inherited wealth (esp early career). In the before times, the clothing situation can sometimes be mitigated but the technology factor is a lot harder to overcome on limited means

    2. Moira Rose*

      When I interviewed with Microsoft during the height of the pandemic, getting their awful videoconferencing software (Teams, I think??) to work was a huge part of my prep process that week, and it involved unearthing usernames and passwords I hadn’t touched in ages. It was a nightmare. (I didn’t get the job, either!!)

        1. Old Cynic*

          Me too! I can’t tell you how much time I waste with MS. And really only with them consistently. Other sites are a once in a blue moon issue.

          1. quill*

            Recently: We need your microsoft password to update this already bought, already installed video game microsoft just bought the original company of!

            Me: I guess I’m never updating it then. I don’t have 45 minutes and several spare brain cells to waste on that.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Agreed. And I support Microsoft technology as my job so…I’m not enamoured of their user account system.

    3. Jax*

      Technology + background attractiveness + lighting + camera angles + outfit coordination. Prepping for my last Zoom interview involved watching YouTube tutorials for filming tips, as well as “how to speak on camera” videos.

      I was perched on a stool at the very corner of my dining room table, in front of a decorated corner, across from a large window full of natural light, with my laptop balanced on a pile of books to avoid double chins. I spent more time setting up the area than I did in the interview–but I was also working from home. I had the luxury to do that!

      I couldn’t pull that off now, because I’m back at the office. To video interview, I would have to leave work and sit in my car. I’m 100% confident there will be bias against me for being using an iPhone propped on my steering wheel vs. another candidate who has an appealing backdrop. And no, I don’t think that is fair.

      1. Hazel*

        A good friend started a new job a few weeks ago, and it was the only one where the interviews weren’t on video. I think they tried video, but it wasn’t working so they talked on the phone. My friend already thought that age discrimination was going on, even if subconsciously, with many of the other interviews she had. She just turned 60, and she has white hair. Her actual manner and personality are quite energetic, so it’s too bad that preconceived notions may have been at play. Of course one can’t know that what is in interviewers’ minds, but having an audio only interview at least removes the judgements people can have about someone’s appearance, including race, gender, age, etc.

    4. Snarky Snarkerson*

      Actually, we’re judging their ability to use the technology (hiring for an administrative position). You would be surprised how many are unable to get either Zoom or Teams to work. In our case, however, I don’t care where you are during the interview. I’ll even provide times outside of 9 to 5. But we do have a reason for using video.

      1. Midwestern Scientist*

        You’re still selecting for people who live in an area that has reliable internet (many articles have been written about the unreliability of rural internet, for instance) and who can afford such a thing if it exists where they live.

        1. Snarky Snarkerson*

          Okay? Perhaps I should have mentioned that we are hiring for 100% remote work. An internet connection would kind of be required. I’m not sure how to hire otherwise.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’ve hired technology professionals based solely on phone interviews. You can’t judge someone’s familiarity with software based on how they get Zoom to work – unless the job is 100% Zoom support.

      3. Nanani*

        Good for you! That doesn’t seem to be the case for LW nor for a lot of people bringing up problems with the practice, though.

  8. EMP*

    Not to mention if you don’t take your own car to work, you won’t even have that as a private option!

    1. ForeignLawyer*

      I have actually taken an interview in a train before, and even gotten the job. Of course, I told them in advance that I would be in a train at the “only time” they could offer me an interview, and the trains in our country have surprisingly reliable WiFi in them, but still. People are mad. The standard notice period here is three months — it’s not like they couldn’t have waited a week or two to find another time slot.

  9. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I can’t tell from the letter whether or not the LW is referring to a “first round interview” as being the same thing as a phone screen or not. For a phone screen, yes, I absolutely agree with all this; for an actual interview, I don’t think I’ve ever had a first round interview that wasn’t in person, which is probably why so many people are defaulting to video for those now that they’ve become so commonplace during the pandemic.

    In any case, I don’t think this letter is really about “first interviews that are short should be by phone” so much as “Let people know what the format will be when you’re hiring, including approximate length.” As the employer, you need to understand and give people the space to work out the logistics whether it’s in person, by video conference, or on the phone, and that was as true before the pandemic as it is now.

    1. awesome3*

      Yeah, this letter is about interviews that used to be a phone screen, but are now being done over zoom.

      1. Loulou*

        I think some people use “phone screen” interchangeably with “first round” when to me they mean different things. I would expect a phone screen to be HR asking quick questions basically to determine how well I met the qualifications for the role, whereas a first round is the committee deciding whether to bring me in for an in-person interview.

        1. Yorick*

          A phone screen is the first round. It can weed you out, so if you make it to the next thing, that’s a second round.

          1. Loulou*

            Well, that depends. Most interviews I’ve been on, there’s no “phone screen,” just a first round interview (over phone or video) and then a final interview.

            1. ThatGirl*

              It really depends, but what I’ve seen most commonly is:
              1. HR phone screen – short, general questions about your resume and info about the company
              2. hiring manager
              3. other team members/higher-ups

              I’ve seen 2 and 3 be combined, or sometimes swapped in order, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a corporate job interview where a recruiter from HR didn’t talk to me first.

            2. anonymous73*

              Interesting, because I have never, in my 25 year career, been on an in-person/video interview before being screen by a recruiter first. And for the 9 months I was out of work recently, I had a lot of interviews. Maybe it depends on the industry?

              1. Loulou*

                Yes, of course it depends on the industry! My field doesn’t use recruiters. I know others do. Any statement that I make about my field won’t be universal, and others here should realize the same about theirs.

              2. Boba Feta*

                “Maybe it depends on the industry?”
                I think it absolutely does. The OP mentions working at a college, but not what division or department. I’m familiar with faculty hires, in which “first round” interviews used to happen in person at the big “annual meeting” conferences, and have since (thankfully!) moved to video meetings. The “second round” interview is the campus visit for a just a very few candidates (usually only 2 or 3 at most), after which (if all goes well), an offer is made.

                I’m not sure how it works for administrative positions, but I can see how the expectation for the very first contact with a candidate should be via Skype or Zoom would not be remotely (HA!) out of the ordinary in an academic environment.

                1. A Genuine Scientician*

                  Even there, it’s field specific. My field doesn’t have *a* big annual meeting, so the initial screenings haven’t taken place at that since, well, ever that I know of.

                  My brother was in a field that was doing initial screenings at an annual meeting back in 2019.

                  There’s a lot of variation.

        2. goducks*

          Yes. I’ve always considered a phone screen to be some really basic questions that can be asked by HR to just make sure that there isn’t some giant red flag preventing going forward (wants to work from home for an in person job, wants 4x the advertised salary, can’t answer basic questions about work history, etc). Anything that is actually digging into the candidate’s suitability for this specific role on this specific team or that requires actual in-depth knowledge of the position is a first interview. First interviews are in-person most places in non-covid times, so video seems appropriate for them.

        3. turquoisecow*

          Yeah I wouldn’t expect a simple 30 minute phone screen to have multiple interviewers never mind a whole committee. I wonder if the company is expecting something here that OP isn’t.

    2. JB*

      I think the OP works in higher ed. I used to, and in that field the phone screen is commonly referred to as a first round interview.

    3. Your Local Password Resetter*

      Also tone down your expectations. You’re not providing an office to interview in, so employees have to get a location on their own costs. If your interviewees are bearing the costs, you just take what they can give you.

    4. Malarkey01*

      I really tripped on that too because they mentioned a committee and anytime we have a hiring committee involved it’s going to be in person or on camera because we’ve already identified our top group and this IS an interview.

      A phone screen to me is one person (sometimes HR sometimes hiring manager nailing down a few basics to see if they’re in or out of the pool- and is where we find out if they are still in fact interested in applying and explain a few of the “dealbreakers” like this job in travel intensive or something).

  10. old biddy*

    In the mid-2000’s the equivalent were the interviewers who wanted to do on the spot or semi non-scheduled phone interviews during the middle of the workday. This is even worse

    1. 123456789101112 do do do*

      I had that happen to me once. I got a call from a job I’d applied to and I thought they were just going to ask a few quick screener questions. Nope, 30 minute interview. By the time I realized what was happening, I didn’t feel like I could ask them to call back at a better time, so I just kept on going. No preparation time at all! My heart rate was at gazelle-level for the rest of the day.

      1. Look, Ma, no pants!*

        Yeah, I think they think if they catch you by surprise, you’ll say something that will let them screen you out.

        1. Blllllpt*

          I just feel like it makes the employer look disorganized. Generally if I’m contacted and the recruiter/scheduler is reasonable the first contact is to set up the initial screen. Anytime it’s been sudden and last minute like that, I pick up on other red flags that turn me off from the job.

  11. StateWorker*

    I never use video for interviews for this exact reason. Additionally, it prevents me from unconscious bias against someone based on appearance. It also slightly levels the playing field for people who can’t afford a computer or phone with a camera or high speed internet. I’ve never had trouble building a report with someone or had it impact my hiring. Sometimes I’ll even chime in with a “you can’t see me but I’m nodding along with you.” The key is to verbal comment the way you would respond with body language, just takes a little practice.

    1. Tuesday*

      Yeah, some people are saying they should make video optional, but I think it’s better to keep them off for everyone at this stage.

      1. A Genuine Scientician*

        I’d be fine with the candidate’s video being turned off for that reason, but honestly: I want to be able to see who I’m speaking to. Nonverbal feedback does a lot to indicate whether I need to elaborate on a point, move things along, slow down, etc.

        1. SnappinTerrapin*

          I see your point, and it does have a place in the communication hierarchy. But in real life, we have a lot of conversations with family, friends and business contacts without the luxury of eye contact.

          We also have a lot of written communication. There are times when text clarifies meaning, and there are times when the absence of voice inflection obscures meaning.

          Each method of communication has strengths and weaknesses, and each is appropriate for certain purposes. The key is finding the medium that works best for both parties in a given context.

          First conversation between potential employer and potential employee, on short notice during potential employee’s work day(working for current employer)? Let’s err on the side of fitting the conversation into the employee’s existing obligations, even if that costs the potential employer a little inconvenience.

        2. Tuesday*

          Yeah, I agree that it’s important, but for the short conversation that usually makes up the initial screening, I think it places a lot of burden on the candidate for the reasons this letter writer describes. And if some candidates aren’t going to be on video, I prefer not doing a video conversation with any (again, only at this stage) so that some people aren’t at a disadvantage just because they didn’t have the benefit of being on video.

    2. anonymous73*

      We are hiring for a position, and that position will be remote. So having a good wifi connection is a requirement of the job. That may not be true for all, but for us it’s a must (and now that’s becoming the norm for many). Also, a video interview provides facial expression and body language – that’s one of the reasons why before the pandemic, interviews were done in person. We had one woman roll her eyes at us the other day during her interview.

      The OP’s situation is not necessarily a problem because they expected her to be on video. The problem is that they offered her very few options in a limited time frame, which basically expected her to drop everything at times that were convenient to them, and then got snarky when she had connection problems making it work in the moment.

      1. Evan Þ.*

        Even then, I’d say that could be unfair judgment. Back in 2019, I had a slow home internet connection; in 2020 once it was clear that I’d be WFH for a while, I upgraded it. Please keep in mind that someone might be planning to improve their wifi connection if they get hired.

  12. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I had a video interview a few months ago that later appeared to have been a screening one. I was sent a zoom link and a list of four people who’d be there. It was scheduled for an hour and ran just under an hour. I was on video the entire time. My interviewers were not. They were all together in a meeting room or an office (I have no way of knowing which one, since I couldn’t see them). They could see me and each other. I on the other hand was talking to a black screen, while being conscious of how I looked to them on camera. I have no words to describe just how awkward it was. I just want to ask why. Why would anyone think this is a good idea?

    With all that said, OP’s experience sounds like it was so much worse! “Life happens”? Lady, you gave OP two days notice and you then have the gall to say that about OP’s job, like it is an annoying inconvenience that serves no purpose but distract OP from their more important activity of the day; interviewing for you? No. You are the life that happens.

    1. anonymous73*

      I always keep my camera off until the person/people I’m meeting with join. I’m not just going to stare at myself while interviewing.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Same! The director of my division loves meetings & wants everyone to have cameras on all the time. (From what I’ve read, this is the main reason for Zoom fatigue.) Interestingly, those higher up than him don’t seem to care & are really random about camera use.

        If there are more than 10 people in a meeting, I leave my camera off unless speaking. Let’s not use up bandwidth for no reason!

    2. Death to Conference Calls*

      I loathe being expected to talk to a black screen. Seeing people’s reactions is an important part of calibrating conversation, *especially* in an interview. If you want me to perform for you, you need to give me some sort of in the moment visual feedback.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        The company I work for now had a “do-it-yourself” video interview system when I applied. The questions were provided, but the applicant was supposed to look into his own camera and record his answers.

        I opted out, but was hired anyway.

        I don’t know whether they still have that system, but I found it off-putting. I think it opened my eyes to how easy it would be for me, if the shoe were on the other foot, to misread the applicant. The set-up was unnatural. Both parties need an “even playing field” when it comes to reading nonverbal cues.

        For a different industry, where it is a BFOQ to be comfortable talking to a blank screen, I might see it differently, but it definitely was not related to the job duties in this case.

  13. Omnivalent*

    This seems less about phone vs. Zoom than about your interviewers being clueless idiots.

    They’re shocked that you have to try to fit an interview around the job you already have. They freak out when your Internet signal drops for a moment and the video freezes, as if that’s not something that happens all the time in virtual meetings. They are upset that you’re interviewing from a parked car. They’re condescending about ‘life sometimes happens’ because you have things scheduled on the day they’ve picked for a half-day interview.

    Interviews are always two-way streets. I think these people failed their half.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      Yeah, this. I know OP says they really want this job, but I’m left wondering why. If they’re the kind of people who don’t understand that you can’t drop everything with 2 days notice to be at their beck and call for a 30 minute interview in the middle of the workday, then they are likely to be unpleasant to work for in other ways. They’re either extremely bad at handling even minor inconveniences or they’re very rigid and demanding.

    2. Name Required*

      Yeah, I agree with this. The interviewers sound like they would be obnoxious no matter what the platform is.

    3. hbc*

      I agree. There’s really nothing but history and logistics that makes a screening step happen by phone so often–you could easily do it by email, chat software, or in person if the circumstances were right. I bet it will eventually seem anachronistic for us to be all, “You must hear the person’s voice and inflection but hide any visual cues during the first fifteen minutes of contact.”

      It’s okay that they started with a video default, especially since a lot of people left their office phones in the office during the pandemic and have nearly all live communication going through vc software. Most people starting with this aren’t assuming that you’ll have to take a vacation day or pay for a giant screen to hide your bed or something. “I’ll need to call in from a landline so there won’t be video” works fine with people who will actually be good coworkers and managers.

    4. Allornone*

      This. Especially if people are currently employed. Even before Covid, I once took a phone interview in the stairwell of my office building. No one ever used the stairs (not even when the fire alarm went off!) and it seemed the most private. On video, I’m sure it would’ve looked strange. In my current position, we have Zoom meetings ALL THE BLOODY TIME, but it’s understood that some people’s roles have them on the road, some people are still working from home, etc. etc., so no one bats an eye if someone is interviewing from a parked car or with their video turned off. My CEO goes on record that he prefers us to all be on video, but given how often he turns his own video off, he’s not very rigid with it.

  14. Valkyrie*

    I honestly feel like the way the interviewer handled it is worse than the mere fact that they used a video. If you’re going to insist on a 30 minute screening interview on video, you’re going to have to respect that people might not have private places. Either get on board with that reality or do it by phone. The reason I think the interviewer is the problem and not the medium is because doing it by phone might have still meant you had to be in your car but she just wouldn’t have known about it, so it seems like an attitude problem on the interviewers behalf

    1. Alison2*

      Agreed– I don’t think the main issue is that it used video, but that they were then dismissive. We default to video for all interview stages, but I’ve taken plenty of screens with people in cars, closets, delivery interruptions, etc. The point is what they’re saying, not what’s in the background!

  15. OP*

    OP here! Thanks to everyone for your comments, and to Alison for publishing my letter.

    I already have an update – to my great surprise, I was invited for a second interview! It’s taking place on Thursday. So evidently I still gave a great interview, which is a nice feeling, but I still was very thrown off and a little annoyed by the whole experience with the previous interview. Also, when they contacted me about this interview, I was TOLD “this is when we’ve scheduled your interview” – they never asked my availability at all. It happened to work out with my schedule (and they gave me much more notice this time), but I still feel like it’s a flag that they may be very rigid with regard to scheduling and overall expectations. I will definitely be doing this interview from home, and I will be keeping an eye out for further signs of rigidity or unreasonable expectations. Any suggestions of questions to ask to tease some of those things out a little more?

    1. PayRaven*

      I think it’s smart of you to be on the lookout!

      In this situation I’d see if I could smoke out whether this is just their hiring practices, or if the entire organization is like this. Hiring scheduling is frequently done by a different group of people, so it might not be indicative of the organization as a whole…but if your interviewer who freaked out/was snippy with you is someone who would be in your reporting line, that’s a stronger signal. “Life happens” is not an appropriate response to the extremely normal process of juggling competing commitments while job-hunting.

        1. PayRaven*

          That’s gonna be a big black mark against them for me, then, unless you get the sense from the second interview that she realizes she overstepped.

        2. Look, Ma, no pants!*

          Ewwww, that makes me feel icky. I wouldn’t want to work for someone who handled an interview like that.

        3. Generic Name*

          Yiiiikes. Imagine what her reaction will be when “life” actually happens. Like if you or a family member have an accident or personal or medical emergency and have to unexpectedly take time off work/work remotely/have a flexible schedule. Will you be able to attend to the rest of your life with your boss being supportive or will you be passed over and left behind or viewed negatively as “not a team player”?

        4. Nannerdoodle*

          Oh no that sounds like a major red flag! For your next interview, is it with just her again or is it multiple people? And if it’s with multiple, are you interviewing with any of those people while your potential supervisor won’t be there? If so, it’s significantly easier to ask the others about her management style, or even if they’re all interviewing you together, you can ask about her management style and gauge how truthful her response is by the rest of the committee’s reactions.
          Ask about the department flexibility and how they do meetings (you can specifically bring up how your second interview was scheduled and ask if meetings and the like are usually scheduled that way).
          If you make it to a references point, you can definitely ask your potential supervisor for contact info for a few other people she manages to ask questions about her management style.

        5. Observer*

          The person who made the comments is the person who would be my supervisor

          That is BAD.

          I think you need to ask explicitly about things like WFH, flexibility, bad weather etc. Also communications and reporting lines. The specific answers are not as important as how they react. It might wind up screening you out. But unless you job is so toxic that you need to get out NOW, that would mean that you dodged a bullet and it’s a net good. If you REALLY need to get out, it’s more tricky, but then it’s a question of “Is this jumping out of the frying pan into the fire?”

        6. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I do want to offer the charitable view that some people are just bad at interviewing. Definitely keep this in the back of your mind but if you’re otherwise excited about the job and have not-terrible experiences with the would-be supervisor, don’t throw away the whole experience over it. I had a terrible interview experience with my current job but the pay was right and team seemed nice – and at our next hiring meeting I have a *lot* of actionable feedback to share!

        7. Wanderland*

          Ewwww that would be a huge red flag for me. I’d definitely try to sniff out more information on flexibility from this person and their management style.

        8. MoreFriesPlz*

          I agree this is a red flag. At best this is someone who doesn’t think about others needs but might accommodate when redirected. If you haven’t accepted yet I might try telling her the day she assigned you doesn’t work to gauge her reaction. But that’s assuming you’d be fine loosing out on this interview. She just sounds so inflexible and self centered, this the assumption.

          I think the best thing you can do is talk to people she managed in the past and see what kind of manager she was.

    2. Kenobia*

      You can consider asking questions that deal with collaboration. It’s tough for me to be specific without knowing your industry – maybe about how team operational standards are created and how they’ve changed over the past 18 months ( to find out whether/how input was gathered and incorporated).

      One opportunity would have been to ask if the interview time could be changed and see what unfolded…

    3. Red Lines with Wine*

      I’d ask about risk mitigation/planning as part of daily work. How they personally handle shifting priorities or changes in the business that affect their work.

      1. Elsie*

        Yeah, or things like coverage/cross-training and accommodating employees’ time off. Also, just communication style and supervision style in general. If she would be your supervisor, does she want to be in constant communication? Esp in the virtual environment, does she expect to talk on the phone or Teams chat (/whatever method) all day, or will she set up a time to check in with you? Are people working somewhat flexible schedules or does she expect you to truly be at your computer for a set block during the day? How often will she want updates on your work and projects? What types of emails will she expect you to CC her on, or even run a draft by her first?

        I’d worry that she sounds a little like a micromanager already, or that she’ll say one thing when she is actually conveying another. (Already, it sounds like she was trying to sound flexible when she’s really annoyed with you.) I wouldn’t be as concerned about what her answers are to these questions as much as whether she seems prepared with a genuine answer, or if she sounds annoyed that you’re even asking.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      I think you could ask directly about their approach to scheduling.
      Since you’re already employed, there’s less need to beat around the bush.

    5. Lacey*

      That’s such a hard thing to tease out. Especially since this person already shows signs of wanting to be seen as flexible, without actually being flexible.

      Keep your ears open for anything that feels off.

      Like, at a disaster job, I was told my predecessor left for personal reasons.
      I was clearly intended to hear this as health issues or a family crisis – but there was just something about that explanation that made me wonder.

      I also asked about management style in the interview, told them I don’t deal well with being micromanaged, was assured that they didn’t do that.

      Turns out that the reason THREE people before me left was that they “personally” couldn’t handle how much the director micromanaged everything.

      I don’t know that they said anything that clearly should have been a red flag to me. But it felt off and I chalked it up to nerves, when the truth was it was not a great fit at all.

      1. anonymous73*

        Yep. A few jobs ago we were hiring for our team manager and we would interview the candidates. The woman they hired answered all of our questions with the answers she knew we wanted to hear and then did the exact opposite when she got the job.

    6. Hiring Mgr*

      ” Also, when they contacted me about this interview, I was TOLD “this is when we’ve scheduled your interview” – they never asked my availability at all.”

      Bigger, redder flag than the video call imo.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        Agreed. I don’t like their language even a little bit especially knowing that OP is working full time. Interviewing company gives a handful of days/times and then you drill down from there.

        1. alienor*

          Most of the companies I’ve interviewed with lately have taken it a step farther and asked *me* for some times and days when I’m available, then scheduled based on those. I’d be severely put off by not getting any input at all.

      2. Jax*

        They assigned an interview time because:
        – OP is in the final 3 (or 4)
        – that’s when the search committee is free
        – the search committee will (likely) run all 3 meetings back-to-back and then make their decision

        If this is higher ed, it’s normal and not necessarily a red flag. If OP had pushed a bit and said, “I’m not sure I can make that work. Is there another time?” and there was no budging, then that’s a clear sign you’re going to waste a vacation day being the obligatory 3rd interview against their top choice.

        At that point, I’d decline the interview–or, I should say, three weeks later when I get the rejection letter I’ll scream that I knew it and should have declined the interview. I’ll probably always be a sucker and go to the interview rather than take myself out of the running!

        1. hbc*

          If I’ve got four slots and four candidates, I’ll *ask* all four candidates which of these four slots are preferred, possible, and impossible. Much better chance of getting all four in the door, never mind showing them that you’re thinking about their needs too.

          1. Allonge*

            Sure, if you have the time to do that.

            But I agree with Jax that the phrasing of ‘we scheduled you for Time’ is not the issue. The problem is if there is no flexiblity when you ask to reschedule.

            Still, OP – there are plenty of things you don’t like about this place now. Maybe it’s ok to just drop out if you are not that invested in the process – saves your time and energy. If their weirdness does not mesh well with what you like in a workplace, that is a perfectly fine reason to stop interviewing.

        2. MoreFriesPlz*

          I spent a decade in higher ed. This was not my experience at all. The vast majority of higher Ed positions are not going to require a special committee any more than a public sector job; that was reserved for faculty and key fellows in the places I worked. Even when scheduling those interviews, professors have notoriously light schedules. It’s unlikely there was exactly one tenable option, and if there was they still should have apologized, given that context and asked if it worked for her, not assumed OP was going to accept whatever slot she was given.

    7. Baska*

      From what you said in your letter and in some of your comments, I’d be *extremely* wary going into your second interview. The hiring manager has already put up some red flags, and you want to be alert for more. Try to avoid the rose-coloured glasses that come from a feeling of “I need this job” or “I really want them to like me.” Try to remember that interviewing is a two-way street, and that you’re trying to determine if this is a good fit, not just to sell yourself. And finally, try to remember that you already have a job, so you don’t *need* this interview to be a success. You can keep going where you’re at, at least in the short term.

      None of these will necessarily tease out their rigidity, but it will (hopefully) put you in a better / less-desperate mindset where you can be more clear-headed about what you’re witnessing in the interview.

    8. JB*

      Out of curiosity, is your interview at another college campus? Everything you’ve described sounds like classic higher ed hiring to me. I’m by no means defending those practices, I’ve left the field for a number of reasons including behavior like this!

      1. OP*

        Yes, it’s another college. But I’ve been in this field for almost 10 years and have had a LOT of interviews (I was trying to move on from my last position for a while and so was low-key job searching for like 3 years straight), and 1. first round has almost always been on the phone, and 2. the vast majority of institutions have been much more flexible than this place so far.

        1. Bye Academia*

          I guess it’s going to depend on your field and the college, but this is exactly how I got my current job. There was an initial skype video screen that was actually a pretty formal first round interview (pre-pandemic!), even thought it was only 30 minutes. I was in grad school at the time so was able to block off the time and a good space. Then the next round was in person with a bunch of faculty. I was told what date it would be because it was probably literally the only day the faculty were all free at the same time. My institution is still pretty bureaucratic at the highest level, but it doesn’t affect my day-to-day job much.

          You’re going to know your own field much better than an internet stranger would, but the scheduling rigidity isn’t necessarily a red flag for academia. Sounds more like they didn’t properly communicate their expectations. I’d focus more on whether your boss will be a good personality fit than the scheduling issues. Maybe ask questions about her communication style for day-to-day tasks?

    9. Office Lobster DJ*

      Good luck, OP!

      Is there a chance this hiring manager just isn’t that great with technology (not grasping the impact of a video interview, freaking out over a temporarily frozen video, chiding you for not being able to control the WiFi signal)? If these red flags are limited to this one area, that may be good to know. (To be honest, from what you’ve said I’m not hopeful, but who knows.)

      For questions, I’d ask how they’re handling the pandemic, really getting into how they handled the initial disruption and what accommodations they offered their employees. Those questions will tell you quite a lot about how they handle the sudden need for flexibility.

    10. Tuesday*

      Congratulations on the second interview, OP! You must have come back well after the initial weirdness.

      I’m out of step with most of the other people here because, while I do think the way they handled the interview was very annoying, I don’t see it has the major red flag others do. You’re very smart to keep your eyes out for more problems though!

    11. anonymous73*

      I would nope right out of that interview. Scheduling it without asking your availability is a giant, flashing, horn blaring red flag IMO. But if you want to continue, I would ask them to describe their management style and if there’s any schedule flexibility – you know, when “life happens”.

    12. Been There, Got the T-Shirt*

      You could ask them about a pre-scheduled vacation that you’d need to take on such and such dates and see what they say.

    13. Anony*

      Unfortunately, in my experience not asking for availability and just assigning an interview time can be standard practice for some workplaces. I’m not sure it’s enough to drop the interview, especially if you can make the time. I could also see how the “life happens” comment could be just an awkward person not handling the situation well. For interview questions, maybe asking what the typical week looks like for someone in your role could give some indication of how rigid they are with scheduling? If the role includes travel, perhaps asking about that and how much notice is given before travel.

      For what it’s worth, I totally agree with you on the overuse of video in the interview process!

      1. Loulou*

        It’s standard for a reason, though. I frequently have to meet people as part of my job and have found that if I don’t just propose a specific time, then I’m signing myself up for an endless back-and-forth all over a half hour meeting. Of course I throw in something about how if the time I suggested doesn’t work, please feel free to suggest another, but it’s also common sense so if I didn’t say it, people would suggest another anyway.

      1. Kesnit*

        ARGH. Sent that too soon…

        ““It’s taking place on Thursday. “
        “I was TOLD ‘this is when we’ve scheduled your interview'”

        Under many circumstances, I would agree with others that scheduling your interview for you is a red flag. HOWEVER…. Next Thursday is November 11 – Veterans Day and a federal holiday in the US. It is possible that the interviewing committee assumed you already had the day off.

  16. MangoFreak*

    I wonder if they’re just really used to candidates who’re still working from home offices. (Not an excuse, since plenty of THOSE people have kids and roommates and other considerations that make video an unnecessary imposition!)

    I’m about to have a first-round interview…in person. Very weirded out about it, considering I’ve gone through entire interview processes in the last few months where EVERY round was on Zoom. I think they skipped me a step because they’re trying to move quickly, and I’m meeting some very high-up people, but still…

    1. PayRaven*

      Yeah, this was definitely my read. It never occurred to them that OP wouldn’t just be at home during the day.

    2. OP*

      I’m pretty sure they were all on campus in their normal offices, not working from home (I don’t know for certain, but the background for each person on the call looked very much like a regular office and not a home office)

  17. brightbetween*

    Aren’t phone interviews still a problem for people who don’t have a private space? If you’re in a fishbowl office, your colleagues can still overhear you.

    1. anon lawyer*

      Yeah, a lot of what the LW describes is just the general challenge of interviewing when you are a busy person and you don’t have a private office and isn’t specific to Zoom.

    2. Loulou*

      Yeah, pre-COVID I had a mix of zoom and phone first round interviews and in both cases, I had to find a private, quiet space to talk to my interviewers.

    3. Collarbone High*

      Now that phone booths are gone, there really aren’t a lot of public spaces in the U.S. where you can have a private phone conversation, especially if you don’t have a car.

    4. roy_mustang76*

      Yes, but presumably you can duck out for “lunch” or something to have just a phone call from your car. It’s a lot easier to fit into a workday than a video call, and I’m having trouble coming up with a less intrusive way to do a screener than a phone call (maybe text/chat? But you lose a LOT with that medium)

      1. Loulou*

        You can “not everyone can have sandwiches” this one too, though. I didn’t have a car when I was interviewing (and don’t live somewhere where it’s common to drive to work) so I would still have to go to a private room, at which point I’d rather zoom than talk on the phone because my phone was awful. There’s nothing that’s going to work for everyone.

        1. roy_mustang76*

          “There’s nothing that’s going to work for everyone.”

          Right, so at a certain point you have to go with the least bad/most universal option. The true ideal would be that companies who are hiring could, you know, recognize that calls during the workday are usually inconvenient for currently-employed candidates and offer slots after the usual workday (say, post 5:30pm) proactively. But that would be inconvenient for the same companies that think it’s perfectly reasonable to want a video call for an initial screen, so I’m not holding my breath on the latter.

          1. Allonge*

            I think it would be inconvenient for lots of people to have a major part of their job always scheduled for after office hours (and it’s not like interviewees are universally available right after 5:30 either).

            If a company cannot find enough people to interview who will solve the issue on their side, they will need to change how they work – but hiring managers are people too, and need to pick their kids up from school etc.

          2. Birch*

            I don’t think you do have to find a universally least bad option… isn’t the point of this whole conversation that flexibility is best? I don’t understand why it’s so hard for interviewers to treat interviewees like adult humans and simply ask their availability for scheduling and modality.

        2. MoreFriesPlz*

          If you don’t have a car you can still at the very least go stand outside and not need internet to talk on the phone. I once did a phone interview in heavy snow in the parking lot of my office park. I got the job! Doubt that would have worked if I needed internet.

          No option is going to work for everyone but most people applying for professional jobs have a cellphone and the ability to leave a building. A private place to use internet and a laptop is a higher hurdle.

      2. Coenobita*

        Right! I think the key difference is you don’t have to be somewhere with wifi – you can sit in your car in its regular parking space, or sit outside on a bench or something if it’s quiet.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      At least you can walk around outside or something. (I am guessing? I have never had a job in a rural area, but I have done many phone screens from other business’s lobbies.)

      1. Freya*

        At one point, I was living less than half an hour’s drive out of the nearest city in Australia. Because of terrain, mobile phones struggled to get any signal at all.

    6. C0ra*

      I took a lot of phone interviews from random parts of campus that were quiet enough, had good cell reception, but weren’t at all well suited for a video call. Random lounges, one of the side quads, etc. So I completely get this.

    7. The New Wanderer*

      Definitely, but it’s easier to find at least a semi-private space if you’re only concerned about being overheard (or being heard in a relatively noisy area), rather than both being heard/overhead AND being seen in an environment that wouldn’t be a strike against you AND having a signal strong enough to support video.

    8. Underrated Pear*

      Yes, but not as much. In the OP’s case, they probably would have still needed to use their car, but the committee would not have realized/thought it was strange; the OP also would not have had to worry about finding a place where they could hop on internet connection or dealt with the resulting tech problems.

      I had a video screening recently and I work from home. Our apartment has a living room and two bedrooms. My husband and I both work in our bedroom during the day (we’ve squeezed in one permanent desk and one portable one that gets set up/torn down) and our youngest baby is at home with a nanny shuttling between the living room & kids’ bedroom for play and naps. To do the video screening, I had to kick my husband out for an hour – which meant HIM not being able to work, because he is a designer so works on a huge desktop with multiple monitors – and rearrange our bedroom so that I could interview with a blank wall as the background instead of our bed, because some interviewers also take offense to that. OK, fine. But had it been a phone interview, I could have done it in our kids’ messy bedroom that was empty at the time, in my car, or in a corner of our bedroom (with my husband wearing headphones so I didn’t feel self-conscious). Heck, I could have even sat in our bathtub if I was careful not to echo – I wrote part of my doctoral dissertation in the bathtub this past year when things got desperate! None of these options were possible over video. And like I said, I *do* work from home. Had I been at my previous job on a college campus, like the OP, I really don’t know what I would have done.

      So yes, phone interviews can still be difficult; I have had difficulty finding private places to take a phone call in the past. But video means all of those same problems PLUS needing to worry about video + internet connection.

      1. OP*

        Yes, this is exactly it. Phone interviews still can be challenging to find a private place, but it’s much easier when you only have to worry about SOUNDS, and not the visual component of a video. Plus it takes a stronger internet signal to support video.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          IT professional here who has done so many interviews on the phone sat in my car for those exact reasons – privacy, not having to worry about a flaky wifi, being the only place I can get away, not completely maxing out the data on my phone etc.

          Personally I hate video.

      2. BluntBunny*

        Could you use a virtual background? There are several in MS Teams it’s possible in Zoom as well. MS teams also allows you to blur the background.
        On college campus are there bookable study rooms in the library you could have use next time? Headsets can really help minimise the noise also.

        1. OP*

          My office is inside the library, and all of the study rooms have glass walls, so that wouldn’t be a good solution either. I tried blurring my background, but it was still clear that I was in my car, plus blurring/virtual backgrounds use more bandwidth so I was worried about the connection (which ended up being an issue even without the background).

      3. NotARacoonKeeper*

        Respect for bathtub dissertation writing! We call the bathroom in our small 1-bd apartment/home office to two “Meeting Room C”, though we only had to use it when we had some maintenance workers in one day.

        I did write part of my MA thesis in a car moving across the country, including part of it in my tent in a campgrouund in Ohio. Ah, grad school!

    9. Observer*

      Aren’t phone interviews still a problem for people who don’t have a private space?

      No. As the OP noted, if they were on a voice call, no one would have noticed that they were in a car vs an office. And if it were just a phone call, internet connectivity would not have been an issue. In fact, even if they had zoomed in without video, it would have been less of an issue.

      1. Collarbone High*

        Even in a car, it can be hard, though. I once needed to pull over and call into an emergency meeting while I was driving across Texas in the summer. I didn’t want to idle with the A/C on for an hour, but I would’ve gotten heatstroke if I didn’t.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Right, but for instance I don’t have a car and work someplace that doesn’t have excellent phone service. So saying “no, it’s not a problem unless it’s on video” isn’t the right takeaway. It’s LESS of a problem in most cases certainly, but interviewing while working is always tricky.

    10. fhqwhgads*

      Having good enough phone reception is a lot easier than having good enough internet connection for video, and not being on video can mask if the location you’re in looks weird. If you have no private space including a car, then you’re still screwed, but OP’s not wrong that some of the things the interviewer seemed put off by would’ve been avoided if it’d been a phone call all along.

  18. Library IT*

    I’m on a search committee right now and we very deliberately did a phone interview with no video for the first screening, both for convenience for the interviewee, but also to eliminate any visual bias! There is no need to see the person during the first screening. It’s not a test – it’s a conversation.

  19. LCH*

    most reasonable places seem to do a Zoom (in order to bring together WFH hiring committee staff who wouldn’t have phone conferencing capabilities) but without the video component. this is how it should be.

  20. CW*

    I have been actively interviewing, and I have noticed this as well. Some companies still stick to phone interviews, and I have not had any in-person interviews thus far. But the major differences between me and OP? I WFH four days a week, and I am not so busy that I cannot squeeze a phone or Zoom interview in between. But OP’s situation is much trickier, and I wouldn’t be happy if I were in the same situation. Companies need to consider that.

  21. criwrewr*

    I’m lucky to be in an in-demand field & I would absolutely balk at doing a video call for the initial interview. I keep reading about how right now & employees (candidates) have much more leverage than they’ve had in many years, so employers who are struggling to fill positions should be much more thoughtful about the interview experience from the candidates side. Interviewing is a two-way street & if you’re not particularly considerate of my time & the hoops I have to jump through to interview, it doesn’t bode well for how thoughtful you are as an employer. During the interview process, neither party has a ton of data points to base decisions on, so be thoughtful please!

  22. ForgotMyUsername*

    I know that as a hiring manager, my strong preference is also to not use video for a screening. (I have to plan around video too!) However, HR told me that I have to use video because we have been having issues with people “lip syncing” and catfishing? I didn’t ask for further details but I have been curious if anyone else has experienced weird issues like that.

    1. LITJess*

      That sounds weird and almost like “I don’t think these words mean what you think they mean.”

      Catfishing? You’re HR, if someone is using a different person’s name and information to get hired, that’s identity theft. Lip syncing?? Are they worried Milli Vanilli are applying for your jobs?

    2. Sleepless KJ*

      If someone has another person pretend to be them during the initial interview/phone screen I would think that would quickly become apparent when they flub the next round. Makes no sense. There’s no upside to having someone impersonate you. That sounds like some sort of internet rumor that isn’t based on reality.

    3. Observer*

      Either your HR is lying or they are totally incompetent. There are better ways to deal with this. And if it’s happening a lot, then something is VERY wrong and someone needs to figure out why so many people think they could get away with something like that.

    4. Avril Ludgateau*

      I’m… how would “lip syncing” work? Who would be doing the talking? I’m painfully curious.

      For that matter, I’m not sure how an applicant would “catfish” either. Does your employer require photos to be submitted with resumes, and people aren’t looking like their photos, or something?

    5. calonkat*

      I am really curious about WANTING video due to problems with “lip syncing”. I’ve talked to people on all sorts of shaky connections, and when there’s an unstable or poor connection, video and audio can become disconnected. Going to audio only makes that problem go away (because there’s no video of course).

      Requiring video on screening calls is actually ASKING for synch issues.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I…honestly cannot see how catfishing and lip sync is related to interview screening at all. That’s bizarre.

  23. Usually Lurking*

    I had a similar thing happen to me. I think it’s a problem with living in a rural area – people assume the internet connection will be good and is as easily accessible as a phone, but often it is not. I can call in to a conference call from a landline no problem, but a video call would tank immediately. My last interview I was unable to connect to the video call, so after a few minutes of troubleshooting I dialed in to the conference call number they gave me and explained what happened. One person on the interview panel kept asking me to turn on my video, telling me it was unprofessional that they couldn’t see me, and didn’t seem to understand that I was on a phone line. Later, when I drove in to cell phone service (I live and work outside cell range), I discovered a voicemail on my cellphone from them berating me for being a few minutes late for the interview (those minutes when I was trying to connect, after I’d warned them when scheduling the interview that I would try to connect via video but I might have to dial in on a landline – apparently they didn’t pay attention to that).

    Needless to say I didn’t get the job. They’d thrown out a few other red flags during the interview so I wasn’t keen on taking it anyways, thankfully.

  24. Loulou*

    My take is a bit different. I had first-round interviews over both Zoom and the phone pre-pandemic. I think many of the issues OP ran into were also an issue for phone calls, including tech issues (I had a very cheap phone that dropped a lot of calls/had poor sound). Personally, I preferred the zoom format because all the interviews were with a committee and I found it easier to keep track of who was asking which question when I could actually see them.

    None of this to say the concerns OP raised aren’t legitimate, but I find the blanket “nobody wants this!” tone missplaced. Different things will work better for different candidates, so ideally the committee would be flexible and offer options.

  25. Look, Ma, no pants!*

    I have a video chat scheduled tomorrow for a tech writer job instead of the project coordinator job I applied to, for which I have over ten years of related experience and a shiny new certification, and for which the hiring manager seems to think I’m unqualified. I agreed to it because it’s bonkers (!) and I don’t really want to burn a bridge if there is one, but the same thing could be accomplished over the phone.

    If your process includes more than one interview, you just want a general sense of the candidate in an initial screening before moving ahead. Companies have done this forever; it worked fine via telephone before we had Zoom or Google Meet. Not to mention, if you just call me, I don’t have to put on makeup or get out of my pajamas for a half-hour conversation.

  26. Pennilyn Lot*

    I’m actually not super clear as to how a lot of these are problems specific to video calls but not phone calls – especially with regards to the notice, the sound carrrying in the office, and the connection (personally my phone signal is way less reliable than my internet connection). Totally get the “lacking an appropriate space to do it” thing, but also, your colleagues would have overheard you either way, right? Why not just ask if you could dial into the call (possible for Zoom and Google Meets afaik) or ask for a phone call rather than a video interview? This seems a lot less like a video problem than a general “employers should have flexibility and be understanding while interviewing people” thing.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      It’s a lot easier to find a suitable location for a phone call. All you need is a out of the way place that is moderately quiet. With video you need to worry about the background. You probably need to be seated because you don’t want to be moving around too much. You’ll need some way to make sure that your camera stays reasonably steady. If you are using your phone as a camera then you’ll need to make sure that you can position so that both the camera and microphone are placed well enough to operate. It’s a pain.

      And the last thing I’d want to do is try to hold an interview while worried about keeping my cobbled together A/V setup is functional.

      I’ve done phone screens while walking around a disused corner of my office’s parking garage.

    2. Lacey*

      Because it’s easier to find a private place where you can make a phone call than a private place with a good internet connecton.

    3. anonymous73*

      For a phone call she could have just gone out to her car – she didn’t need a wifi connection.

  27. Murphy*

    I can’t believe they commented that you were in your car. Really not a big deal and shouldn’t have been an issue.

    1. giraffecat*

      Well, their comment was to make sure they weren’t driving, which I think is a totally appropriate question to ask for safety reasons. Just sitting in your car for an interview is fine and shouldn’t be an issue, but driving while interviewing would not be okay in my book.

  28. Oreo*

    Yes to this! My office is not conducive to taking a video interview and nor do I feel really good about doing something like that at work. Just too many risks of being interrupted or people overhearing. Now that I’m back in the office full time, it’s not as easy to just schedule some private, quiet time off work hours like I was able to when working remotely at my home computer for a first round zoom interview. I know not one size fits all but I would love if hiring managers just asked candidates if they had a preference as well.

  29. B*

    I didn’t realize the stability of the internet connection was something the applicant could control.

    1. B*

      To clarify: I know a person can control their access point and could conceivably seek out a connection they know is reliable. (eg. Transmitting from inside a tunnel is probably not a good idea.) However, even when I am using my stable, at-home, high-speed internet, I still experience moments when the browser crashes or the connection drops. If someone turns on a microwave, my Wifi signal dies. Everybody *wants* a stable and reliable connection, but the world just doesn’t work that way.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Yeah this is a super unrealistic expectation that you can control your internet connection that well. Sometimes the network drops out for a few mins. Or I was sitting in my home office on a clear blue day a couple weeks ago and the power went out for ~10 mins which took the router down with it. It doesn’t mean I live in a shanty with a shoddy power or internet connection, it means internet and power grids are not infallible.

        I’m reminded years ago of us having to cancel a telecon with a satellite office in another state because a car hit a power pole and it took out power to my entire office complex (I work on a federal government site with backup generators for critical systems that is classed similar to hospitals in terms of restoring/maintaining power in emergencies, but even that is not infallible) Work sent us all home when it became clear it wasn’t gonna be back before COB. These things can happen everywhere!

      2. Loulou*

        It’s interesting to see how standards and expectations have (maybe?) changed. I remember seeing advice here and elsewhere for phone interviews that went VERY hard on the “must have a stable connection, use a landline if possible, find a quiet place to talk.” The vibe was very much “your circumstances will reflect badly on you.”

        1. Kevin Sours*

          I haven’t had a landline in a decade. Spam calls meant I had to turn the ringer off to get some peace and at that point it wasn’t clear what I was paying for to keep it.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I think there is a basic amount of preparedness people can try to do and anything less than that is not great, but you also just can’t ever *guarantee* that your internet will never go out so it is very silly if it does happen for them to be like “but we told them to have good internet!!!”

        3. A*

          If a potential employer mentioned a landline as a preference I would be running for the hills, I would not want to be jumping on that antiquated bandwagon. I have never had a landline in my adult life, and I’ve been out of college for ~11 years. Heck, my house doesn’t even have the wiring for it!

  30. Abogado Avocado*

    My sympathies, OP. You just may have dodged a bad job given that this company employs such a clueless hiring manager.

  31. ZSD*

    This is such an interesting take to me because I’ve been so grateful for the switch from phone to video interviews! When I used to have to do phone interviews, my cheek would frequently mute me, and then suddenly my interviewer would be saying, “Hello? Hello?” I would always apologize, of course, but at least one interviewer was way more annoyed with me than was reasonable. I can’t help it if my phone is set up so that my cheek mutes me! (I now have a somewhat more expensive phone where this doesn’t happen as often, but not everyone can afford an expensive phone.) My husband eventually bought me an actual phone receiver that plugged into my cell phone, and that helped, but video calls are so much easier. I don’t have to have anything against my face, so both hands are free to take notes, and I don’t have to worry about having a weak signal so my call drops. At least in my house, the wifi signal is much better than the phone signal, so Zoom is just much more reliable.
    That said, I realize it could be more awkward if I were still working in the office rather than teleworking. I think a good compromise would be for interviewers to ask candidates if they’d prefer a phone or video interview for the first call. (Or rather, ask if they’d prefer phone or Zoom, but have them leave cameras off for Zoom so that they aren’t biased toward people who choose video.)

    1. Allornone*

      I prefer the Zoom interviews too! I’m simply no good on the phone and only have a fighting chance when I can see the person I’m interviewing with. That being said, I know I’m strange. I think you are right, giving them the option for either a phone or Zoom interview is the best.

    2. Observer*

      I would always apologize, of course, but at least one interviewer was way more annoyed with me than was reasonable.

      The thing is that video calls tend to offer many more ways for things to go wrong. And this kind of person is going to be at least as annoyed by those things.

  32. Blisskrieg*

    I am short on time so I apologize if someone already made this point–but if you are trying to improve the diversity of your workforce, having the initial conversation by phone may also help (at least a bit) to overcome implicit bias.

  33. Purple Sloth*

    I have had a bunch of interviews where they didn’t even specify if video was required (I now know to ask). So sometimes I would think it was a video interview and it wasn’t (and vice versa). I also had a phone interview last week that I thought was a screening/initial interview and turned out to be the only interview and was with a surprise panel. It seems like all the normal conventions have been thrown out the window. I think most things can be fine if people communicate well, but it’s frustrating that employers are making random decisions without letting people in advance and not having the same flexibility for prospective employees that they expect from them

  34. Etariel*

    I recently did a Zoom interview while I was working at another place. I totally sympathize with the struggle of do I take time off for what is going to be a 30 minute interview? I ended up doing mine in the car too although I used one of the pre-set virtual backgrounds to make it look more professional. I also used my own data instead of relying on WiFi, but not everyone has that option.

  35. Observer*

    Well, but then how would the employer know if you are PASSIONATE enough?!


    But, unfortunately, not entirely. Apparently there ARE employers who expect their interviewees to do ridiculous things to prove their “passion” for the job before even a first interview.

  36. Ex-Desk Jockey*

    I think companies should start offering video interview booths at their corporate offices. Some of us don’t have access to a private space with solid internet access (at work or at home), and I’m sure others would like to get out of their house to a distraction-free, interruption-free environment. Having this as an option would only level the playing field.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think this is on the radar for most organizations, because the decision makers have been in their comfortable “work from home” bubble for 18 months. I don’t think they even realize this might be an issue. I didn’t, until I went from a corporate job to managing a retail storefront.

    1. anonymous73*

      Most people want a private space for an interview so their company doesn’t know they’re interviewing. Having specific locations for this is not going to solve the problem.

      1. Ex-Desk Jockey*

        No I mean companies should have the space for the folks interviewing. So say I’m interviewing at Company A. In the old world, I would be traveling to their offices anyway. So why doesn’t Company A offer a space for folks to come and do their video interviews? So the applicant is physically onsite, even if the interviewers are remote? Just as an option for those of us without a quiet home office or a private space to go at work.

    2. A*

      I’m not sure I understand. The issue isn’t with access on the interviewer’s side, it’s on the interviewees. And presumably most employers are not going to be on board with installing stations for their employees to actively interview elsewhere.

      1. Ex-Desk Jockey*

        No I mean companies should have the space for the folks interviewing. So say I’m interviewing at Company A. In the old world, I would be traveling to their offices anyway. So why doesn’t Company A offer a space for folks to come and do their video interviews? So the applicant is physically onsite, even if the interviewers are remote? Just as an option for those of us without a quiet home office or a private space to go at work.

  37. Res Admin*

    We just got done doing 3-4 rounds of interviews for multiple positions. We suggested Zoom but offered no video or phone as an option (no one had issues with Zoom). Worked out well…we got some great hires.

    I think the key, though, is if you are going to be doing this type of interview, esp. at the screening stage, as an employer you have to be flexible (as opposed to expecting the applicants to take on that burden alone). If both sides cannot find a way to collaborate at that early stage, it doesn’t bode well for their future relations.

    In OP’s case, I would be concerned that this person who would be my direct supervisor already seems a bit difficult–either not a good fit or communication issues which would need to be worked out. Something to weigh carefully before making a decision.

    1. giraffecat*

      You’re point about flexibility is key. Whenever we’ve done first round interviews we’ve offered options, zoom, zoom without video, or phone calls. There was no judgment at all for whatever choice they made as we realized that not everyone’s circumstances or preferences are the same. I think the inflexibility of the interviewer here is more telling than anything else.

  38. Ingemma*

    I had a version of this happen a couple weeks ago!

    I took a half hour video call in a Walmart car park in my car near my work. I was running zoom off data on my cellphone, and tech-wise it was pretty fine. I explained myself, & my interviewer was very understanding. (As she should have been!)

    The only issue I had for the first twenty minutes was that I was very sweaty because it was unseasonably warm & terrible weather to be trapped in a car. The Walmart was on the corner of two major highways, so I couldn’t just roll down my windows.

    Then something I totally failed to see coming happened. My phone overheated and shut down.

    So all of a sudden, I’m sweating through a blouse in the passenger seat of my car holding a phone that is burning up. And I can’t even call them back to explain because my phone is completely out of commission!

    Luckily, my car is pretty new and the AC still works. So I was able to start my car, run the AC on full blast and hold my phone against it. Got back on the call within a couple of minutes & finished up the interview.

    Thankfully, unlike with OP, they were fine with it! I got a call back for the next round about a week later :)

    1. league**

      sorry if I’m just not seeing this, but why wasn’t your AC on in the first place? (before the phone died)

      1. Freya*

        In some (but not all) jurisdictions in Australia, it’s illegal to touch your phone from the drivers seat if the engine is on, even when parked (hands free is always fine, although this may change, and it’s always illegal if the car is moving). I assume it’s either for a similar reason, or because the noise makes things difficult.

        1. allathian*

          I’m in Finland it’s also illegal to idle for longer than 2 minutes, extended to 4 when the temperature drops below -15 C/4 F. There are no provisions for idling to run the AC in the summer.

      2. Ingemma*

        Because I didn’t want to be running my car for 30 minutes! It’s outright illegal to idle for that long here, but it also just strikes me as a terrible use of gas (both environmentally & financially)

  39. Bethie*

    We had a fantastic interview with a woman who failed to show for the first meeting – she is working 12 hour days in office and got dragged into a meeting by her boss (who she of course couldnt tell) so we rescheduled. She interviewed from a Starbucks. One of the panel members questioned it – but I was like hey! She found a way to make it work. That’s resourceful.
    And I had a meeting yesterday where 6 of the people were in their cars. Either they were onsite somewhere with no office or, like me, having to go get their kid from school.
    So I think this should not be seen as odd anymore – my two cents.

    1. Observer*

      She interviewed from a Starbucks. One of the panel members questioned it

      The panel member questioned why she interviewed from Starbucks?! I hope you can manage to protect people from this kind of unreasonableness.

      1. Bethie*

        I think it was more of a why, as the panel member wasnt aware of the reason for the previous cancellation (she subbed for someone else). Once I explained why – it was all good. I think, as someone posted above, we get so used to people who are working from home, that we forget not everyone is!

  40. OOM*

    This is right on the money for me … I am in the process of interviewing for an Admin position and scheduled a Teams meeting for everybody. I did give people the pick of time and day since I have more flexibility with my time. But I specifically picked video interviews because I wanted to feel out people’s personality. I am more looking for somebody who is outgoing and has good social skills than professional knowledge. I can teach people how to do our procedures but it’s harder to to teach the soft skills. I also did have somebody in their car but knew she was working and was probably on her break. No big deal. I’d like to think people’s video call backgrounds are not a deciding factor for choosing a candidate for our front desk job.
    I think the setup depends also on what job you are applying for. Having a front desk facing, people-heavy work place it made more sense to me this way.

    1. Observer*

      Really? If this is a first call, you don’t need that much information. As so many commenters have pointed out, doing good video is hard enough that you actually may not even get the information you want.

      1. OOM*

        You don’t think I can assess if the person would be a good fit for the company culture? Cause that’s all I’m looking for during these calls.

        1. Observer*

          Not necessarily. If someone has bad internet access, a lousy camera, a n0t great set up etc. you’re not getting all that much information. On the other hand, you can get just as much information from the answers someone gives whether you have a video feed or not – and if you wind up with better voice quality (which is a common tradeoff), you might even get MORE information.

          I’m assuming good faith and that you don’t mean things like markers of age, weight, ethnicity or socioeconomic status

        2. Why?*

          How does seeing the candidate this early help you determine their fit in your culture? What factor about their environment and appearance are you judging them on so early?

          Oh he lives in an apartment, nope wont work for this job
          Oh she doesn’t wear makeup, nope wont work for this job

          It doesn’t make any sense

          1. Loulou*

            This is such a bizarre and uncharitable interpretation of OP’s comment, which did not say anything about judging candidates’ appearance or background. Have you heard of body language?

    2. Ccjr*

      This seems very reasonable to me. Use video when there’s a reason (like this), but phone otherwise. Especially because with an admin I might just do one round of interviews anyway. You can get a lot more info about a person by actually seeing them, reading body language and facial expressions, plus it benefits the interviewee in the same way. Plus you know if an awkward pause is due to someone writing notes or something else.
      But, if I wanted a video call and the interviewee couldn’t, I’d deal with it. It just comes down to being reasonable, flexible, and focusing on important things (not someone’s car or hairstyle).

      1. Loulou*

        Yeah, this sounds fair to me too. For all the problems with video, I certainly agree it’s easier to get a sense of someone’s personality/soft skills over video than phone. Making allowances for someone who can’t do video, sure, but preferring video is not an outrage.

  41. anonymous73*

    IME, I’ve never had this happen, even in the COVID times when I was out of work for 9 months and had A LOT of interviews. They always started with an email request for a phone screen (which generally lasted no more than 15 minutes), then if the hiring manager wanted to move forward, a video interview. With that said, this company was beyond unreasonable. Most people applying for jobs already have jobs and can’t just drop everything for an interview.

    You seem to be skeptical if they’ll contact you for a second round of interviews, but if they do and you get an offer, you may want to consider their attitude towards you this first time – I think it speaks volumes as to how you will be treated if you’re employed with them.

    1. OP*

      Thanks! I commented above that, surprisingly, I did get pulled forward to a second interview which is scheduled for Thursday. There was an additional red flag about that too – they told me “we’ve scheduled your interview for this day and time” without ever asking my availability or giving me any options. It happened to work out with my schedule (at least they gave me more notice this time!) so I will be doing the interview, but I am definitely going to be looking out for further signs of inflexibility. Frankly they’re going to have to really impress me at this point!

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        If you ultimately decline, I’d encourage you to explain this stuff to them! May not helpthem improve, but hey, maybe it will.

      2. anonymous73*

        I did see your comment after I posted mine LOL

        I would also encourage you to speak up if they get snarky again. Their comments in the first interview were uncalled for and rude.

        1. Loulou*

          Which comments were uncalled for? I really don’t see anything that OP could have “called them out” on without coming off as the ruder one.

      3. Massive Dynamic*

        That’s great OP, and yes, keep looking for signs that they’re not for you! Also, blur your background or replace it with something boring so the judgy one (hopefully) shuts up about it.

  42. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    It’s really crappy that they judged you based on being in your car. I, too, would probably make sure the person I was interviewing wasn’t driving, but after I’d confirmed that (because I care about their safety), I would do my best to put them at ease and not worry about what’s going on in the background. So many people take video calls in all kinds of different places. I’m sorry you had to deal with that OP

  43. Avril Ludgateau*

    I don’t disagree about how hateful video meetings are, and at the same time, as somebody whose charm and charisma exudes most from my expressions, gesticulations, and smile, and also because I often hear people more clearly if I can see their mouths moving, I would actually prefer a video interview.

    However, I recognize I have these benefits that the LW did not:

    1. private space to take a video call
    2. strong, reliable data + wifi
    3. enough flexibility in my current job that I would be able to pop away for a video interview without having to take an entire day off

    So, while I don’t always feel this way, the best solution in this case may be the middle-of-the-road: give people the option to do a phone OR video screen. If you (as an employer) have a professional/enterprise Zoom account, you have the option for people to call in. And as mentioned, you can and should give people the option to turn their camera off if they are video-ing in – I know video can be taxing on bandwidth in ways that VoIP isn’t. And I absolutely agree with cutting people some slack on the “professionalism” of their background, too. The background shouldn’t be overly distracting (like the city dump, or a forest fire), but a parked car is perfectly fine.

    Although, this might be a useful tip for video interviews and meetings in general: blur or replace your background altogether. I found a nice stock photo of a reading nook in a library that I set as my Zoom background, not even because I needed it but because I liked it. People have complimented me on it, so at least it’s gone over well. There are plenty of neutral “office” backgrounds available, too. I know Microsoft Teams comes with some great sample backgrounds, and you don’t even need a green screen to get them to work.

    1. Brett*

      “If you (as an employer) have a professional/enterprise Zoom account, you have the option for people to call in”
      This is not true anymore. Toll-Free Call-in is now an add-on to the enterprise account (a very expensive add-on). Same for Microsoft Teams and for Cisco Webex. For Teams, even toll call-in is a paid add-on now. Many organizations no longer have the call-in option and have gone to video only due to the cost savings when getting a large number of enterprise licensed users.

      1. Brett*

        (I should also add that even Zoom only gives you domestic toll calls for free. If you need international call-in, and many companies do now for interviews, that is a separate paid add-on in addition to toll-free call-in.)

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I’m in Finland. We don’t use Zoom for work, as we’re in an Office 365+ environment (just switching from Skype to Teams), but the PTA at my son’s school uses Zoom. I’m not about to call a number with the US country code to attend one of our meetings… I use our home wifi to do it.

      2. Avril Ludgateau*

        Oh! Good to know!

        Then in that case, if video isn’t needed, and the candidate can only call in, then default to a phone screen.

  44. Catnap*

    I conducted an official video interview and the person was in their car because…they were on their lunch break at their job. I don’t know why that is so weird for anything.

    1. Rayray*

      I once did a phone screen interview and the company recruiter even asked if I was good to go and said she thought I might need a minute to get to my car or somewhere. I liked that, it was super thoughtful and appreciated that she wasn’t pretending I could reasonably put my entire life on hold for the day just because she was calling.

  45. On site anon*

    My campus has been doing first round interviews via Zoom/Skype for many years, and I don’t really see an issue with it. To me the issue here is the inflexibility around scheduling. We’d never dictate the date and time with no input from the applicant

    1. Observer*

      Did you read what actually happened? Did you read any of the comments?

      “We’ve always done it that way” is not a really good rationale for ignoring some real problems.

      1. On site anon*

        Isn’t the phone the way it’s always been done and that’s what the OP is arguing for? My organization hasn’t always used Zoom/Skype, obviously. That technology hasn’t been around forever.

        I just disagree with the argument of the letter. To me, the issue isn’t with Zoom, but with a rude and inflexible hiring process. Many of the same issues exist with phone interviews, so it comes down to a thoughtful and empathetic process and not the technology.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          They are arguing for the way it used to be done, but “that’s the way it used to be done” was not the *reason* of the argument. They laid out many clear specific reasons, and Alison has laid out similar reasons in the past. It puts significant burdens on the person interviewing and there is just no reason for that at such an early stage in the process.

        2. Observer*

          The OP is arguing for the phone, yes. But not because “that’s the way it’s been done”. But because of specific problems that they outline. Problems that you claim don’t exist because you’ve always done video calls.

  46. new name who dis*

    Internet issues happen…. It’s really strange that she made a fuss about your video freezing for a second. Unless that was happening very often, I don’t know whose Zoom hasn’t done that at least a few times over the pandemic, McDonalds wifi or no.

  47. Someguy*

    At about the same time as the beginning of Covid-based unpleasantness, my company switched how we handled conference calls. They are now either Skype or Zoom. So when we would do first round interviews the invite would essentially be for a video call – but only because those are our options. Somehow we never seemed to be able to communicate in the meeting invite that we didn’t actually need them to be on video – and that none of us would be. After they came on we would let them know they could disable their camera, but usually they stayed on video anyways.

    1. allathian*

      Well, if you’re the host, you can disable their camera, no? I’ve only used Zoom on my phone rather than on a computer, and there you have to swipe sideways to find the option to disable the camera in the middle of a call.

  48. TalentAcquisition*

    I’m a recruiter. All my screens are via Zoom but I ALWAYS tell the candidate they can call in without their video. I prefer it that way as well. I’m taking notes and you don’t need to see my scrunched up typing face. And I would never think it was weird if someone was in their car, etc. to chat with me. (This has been the case many times when I speak with candidates. I do always check to make sure they aren’t actively driving as your interviewer did.) I get it! I don’t want you to put your current employment at risk to talk with me. NB: My employer is fully distributed software company and we don’t have phones other than our cell phones. Hence why Zoom is my go to.

    1. TalentAcquisition*

      Also would add that when I interviewed for my current employer, I had the flexibility to be at home but didn’t have stable childcare at the time and my son was in the next room. The interviewers were all aware of this and it was not an issue. So some of what you are mentioning OP might be a red flag about the culture of the company.

  49. Educator33*

    Another perspective—I hire in a community where English is not the first language of many of our candidates. I understand that it can be really hard to get that warm phone interview tone right in a second language, especially if you speak a first language that uses tone and inflection very differently. Video screens give me so many more nonverbal cues, which helps level the playing field for these ESL candidates. I even pop questions in the chat as we go so they can look at them if that is helpful. I could not care less if people are interviewing from a car, a home office, or a stairwell, or what they look like—I just want to get a sense of whether they have the competencies I need. Providing candidates with more comprehensive ways to communicate really helps with that.

  50. 404_FoxNotFound*

    The only reason I’d push back against phone only interviews is because I’m hard of hearing and benefit from being able to lip-read and have visual cues in addition to the audio I can catch.

    I don’t think it makes sense to push for video only chats or judge folks for their background/settings as an interviewer unless things are particularly distracting or loud, and I also don’t think it makes sense to judge folks’ choices to dial in by phone or with video, access needs aside.

  51. OhNoYouDidn't*

    All your points are excellent and legit. But, I don’t think the problem is requesting a video screening call. I think the real problem is the total lack of understanding of others’ circumstances and lack of flexibility. Sorry this happened, OP. The interviewer sounds like a self absorbed jerk.

  52. Meep*

    I am snorting. This one came at a good time. I had to do a zoom interview last night at 5:30 PM. Not for a job, but because a friend asked me a favor. This guy needed to interview someone along his career path. I did it in the car because I had to go home and pick up my dog for training class (my husband drove). He noticed right away and I laughed it off saying that is life.

    I have also done talk therapy in the car too because my noisy Toxic Coworker is very much a bigot and that does not disinclude mental health.

    Again, that is just life, I am afraid.

  53. Kim Zarkin*

    I’ll take the contrary position here.

    The letter uses a lot of “seems” and “vibe” language. That someone seems annoyed to you doesn’t mean they are annoyed. We often read people wrong. Especially in an interview situation where we are already tightly wound.

    As someone who’s been teaching online, the car comment is not surprising because I’ had plenty of students call in while they are driving and it scares the pants off me. I always ask people to pull over. It could be that the interviewer was worried and feared they couldn’t concentrate until they asked.

    The comment about “told her to have a better connection” could be about the other people in the room blaming the person who arranged the interview.

    And I read “life happens” as an attempt at empathy, not an attack. A shrug not an attack.

    Everything is open to interpretation – especially when our entire range of communication is limited.

    Speaking as someone who struggles with the phone and finds video easier – saying it should “always” be phone is as problematic as the OP says the video is.

    I think the key is that we all recognize that reading other people is difficult and rarely do other people think as badly as we think they do.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I also prefer video calls and I’m with you. I also think it’s so normal to overscrutinize every single moment in an interview and that can be counterproductive. I strongly vote for filing the information away but not letting it sabotage the whole process.

      Also to people saying they see red flags – I REALLY see yellow flags at best, for all the reasons Kim lays out.

    2. Loulou*

      Yeah, I find the “OMFG RED FLAGS GALORE” reaction disproportionate to what OP described. My perspective is definitely shaped by being in a pretty tough/competitive field, though, where even entry level jobs can get 100 applicants. If I ran every time an interview process was slightly inconvenient I’d never have a job. But if you’re in a field where there are tons of jobs, I can see being pickier about things like this.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Maybe but I still think you shoot yourself in the foot if you approach it that way. Being a good interviewer and being a good supervisor are such different skills. All you’ve really learned here is that they aren’t good at scheduling – cool, maybe there’s context for that, or maybe something else is going on (a super tight timeline for whatever reason?), or maybe they are just inconsiderate but you don’t know that from this interaction. I just think you lose good opportunities if you write off the company after one conversation and a bad scheduling interaction.

        1. Loulou*

          Yeah, I agree with this and definitely think the OP seems way more aggrieved than the situation merits. I was just thinking through why commenters here also seem to be so mad about the situation and that was the theory I came up with.

    3. Down to the minute*

      These are all excellent points. Also, people are glossing over that the OP agreed to the time without giving any indication it would be a problem.

      OP’s language in her comment update — “Also, when they contacted me about this interview, I was TOLD ‘this is when we’ve scheduled your interview'” — is more of a red flag, to me, than anything the hiring manager said or did.

    4. Moonbeam*

      I have a bit of a contrary take as well. I’ve handled recruiting for maybe 6 years, and I also went through a job hunt in 2020, so I have recent experience on both sides.

      OP, I’m not seeing where you communicated any of your challenges to your point of contact prior to speaking with them over video. Did you do that but not include those details here? If you didn’t, I’d say just be honest with them! Recruiters often start with a really structured approach to cut down on the amount of back-and-forth, particularly with a really large candidate pool. However, a lot are able to be flexible based on your circumstances. For instance, maybe they could have accommodated a phone interview, or just been more prepared for you to be in a car with a poor connection if you mentioned your circumstances up front. Alternatively, if you stated your challenges and asked for either a phone interview at the time she proposed OR a video call with more notice, etc. There’s certainly the chance that they can’t make anything but a video call work on their end, or they’re really rigid, or they’re out of touch, etc. but you won’t know until you ask.

      Regarding the “jump” to a phone interview, they may have simply been really impressed by your application or other factors of you as a candidate (maybe someone on their end vouched for you), etc. They could also be in a time crunch to fill the position and are trying to get the most out of every interaction. What I’m saying is, they could be wildly out of touch or they could simply be working with their own set of circumstances as you are.

  54. Brett*

    For my organization (fortune 500 company), we stopped doing phone interviews because we lost our phone bridge!
    With so many more licenses needed for video meeting software due to everyone working from home, we dropped the system we previously used for phone interviews.

    The new system has no phone bridge. It is impossible to call into meetings via a phone number. (We could have it, but the phone bridge option was too expensive).

    As well, since we are not in office, we don’t have an office phone system available to us: our work phones are our work cell phones. Although we could technically conference call with those cell phones, it has a limit of 5 people and, in practice, is very difficult to keep stable.

    Put all of this together, and it is simply not possible for us to do a phone interview anymore. We must do an interview via our video meeting system. As long as everyone keeps working from home, it will remain this way for us.

    1. whistle*

      How many people do you need on an initial phone screen? Can’t one HR person call the candidate at a designated time?

    2. Massive Dynamic*

      freeconferencecall.com hasn’t failed my firm yet. Also, phone interviews should really be a 1-1 if possible.

    3. allathian*

      Video meeting systems are not the problem. Video conferences with cameras off are an option in lieu of phone screens.

  55. Rayray*

    One of the recent trends I absolutely hate are the one-way interviews (hire vue is one of the programs for this).

    You get an email inviting you to do an interview on your own time and they try to frame it as this super exciting opportunity, but all it is is a program that shows you the question and films you answering it. I did a few of these on 2020 when I was unemployed and desperate but never got a callback from anyone I did it for. I will never ever do one of these again, the companies that do these don’t care about candidates because they aren’t giving the candidate any opportunity to ask their own question. I also suspect it is a tool to weed people out for their appearance. I absolutely blasted every company that did one of these interrogations on Glassdoor to warn others.

    1. Interviewing From Car*

      I dislike them too and find them to be borderline illegal. Any company whom does this can just go away. What does seeing my face have to do with the position in the early stages? I feel like it opens up the possibility for discrimination (race, gender, age). What are they looking for? I also heard that the AI used for HireVue is biased in terms of facial and voice recognition.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      They seem to be becoming a thing for junior positions, and I think it is disgusting and incredibly disrespectful towards candidates. I really don’t care whether an AI is “better” at determining who is a fit or not. I don’t think they are better now, and probably won’t be for some time to come. What they are good at is identifying who is just like your current workforce – and that might be ANY characteristic the AI has observed your workforce has – eg. skin colour or gender or head size. So basically, they’re reflecting companies’ biases back at them.

  56. Claire Fraser*

    I commiserate with OP, having recently completed an epic amount of interviewing that thankfully resulted in an offer. The vast majority of my initial interviews were phone screenings that took place over the phone, however there were a couple of odd exceptions. 1) The EMAIL phone screen: all the questions they wanted to ask in a phone screen were sent to me in an email which I replied to with my answers. But really…why call this a phone screen when it is really an email screen? For the record, this was for the job I ended up accepting after two more rounds of interviews. 2)The video screen interview: this involved the company using a service where applicants log into a website where they are given on-screen questions and using the computer camera, record video responses. The applicant is given 72 hours from the time of the invitation to complete the interview. In this situation, I advanced to the second round which would have been a video conference with a team including the hiring manager, but I had already accepted the other role so I withdrew.

    1. Rayray*

      I did an email just like that once. When I didn’t hear back for a couple weeks, I wrote back to follow up. A few hours later I had a eject email from donotreply. Message hear loud and clear, haha.

  57. Can't Think of a Name*

    Funnily enough, I run into the OPPOSITE problem. I agree with this and always do my initial screens via phone, but sometimes I have candidates requesting or pushing for Zoom! I’ll of course agree if they’re international, and tell them we don’t need to use video, but often they still do anyway, even if mine is turned off!

  58. Who are these fools asking for Zoom for phone screen lol*

    Back when I was front line (think customer service) staff in NYC with a very strict schedule, there was no flexibility in my break. Any interview had to be on my break or I would take the day off. So I already has very little flexibility to just take a call in the middle of the day. But to boot, there was no (NO) space in my overcrowded community center to interview. Every single class room space, auditorium, the room, the hallways, etc. were booked or otherwise crowded. I was 22 and had no car. This meant that interviews meant RUNNING 10 min to a park, trying to find a quiet spot, and just praying for the best. The second best option would maybe be paying a lift to go to a random destination and then being back late? It was near impossible to pull this off for mere phone calls. I would have to cancel the video interview no matter how much I wanted the job.

  59. NomadLife*

    I’ve never done a video conference in my life…and if I had had 2 days notice to do one, even with a decent schedule, I’m not sure my laptop would be up to the task!

  60. Bookworm*

    I’m so sorry, OP. And agree. I’ve had a couple of phone screenings (15-30) minutes and have to agree. I’m lucky that I have a reasonably quiet set up, that I can take time out of my day but there’s no need for me to get dressed up and all that for a 30 minute screening-type interview. Yikes.

  61. All Outrage, All The Time*

    Am I the only one who doesn’t think it’s a big deal? Just tell the interviewer that you can’t do those times and propose ones that you can. Or make it clear that the only private place you’ll have to do the interview is from your car. If you can’t use your own data for the call, you also need to tell them that you’ll be relying on a free wifi connection. “In light of this, would it make sense to schedule the call at x time or x time, or are you happy to go ahead with those limitations?” I don’t see the issue.

    1. Middle Name Danger*

      Did you read the letter? They did propose alternative times and got shut down, and said they might be in their car.

      1. All Outrage, All The Time*

        Yes I did. That’s not how I read it. OP didn’t offer that information up front while attempting to schedule the interview. They offered it AT the interview.

      2. Sweet Christmas*

        Then that’s a problem with this particular, inflexible employer, not with video call interviews in general.

    2. Down to the minute*

      That was my takeaway as well. It seems like the OP agreed to the time, gave no indication beforehand that it would be a problem, then got annoyed that the hiring manager didn’t read OP’s mind and understand how difficult it was for OP to attend the interview.

  62. voluptuousfire*

    Bullet dodged. Anyone who freaks out about Zoom stuffing up doesn’t use it much. But also feel free to push back and ask for a phone interview, explaining why Zoom isn’t ideal. Anyone who gives you guff about that, that’s a red flag.

    Since the pandemic, I found I prefer a remote first interview (whether it be recruiter screen, speaking with a member of the team who is tasked with the first round of calls, etc). I like being able to watch my facial expressions and make sure I don’t have RBF. Although it’s disengaging when the interviewer doesn’t turn their camera on. I noped out of an interview last year when the interviewer did that.

  63. Interviewing From Car*

    I interviewed from my car plenty of times and no one cared. Zoom has this nice blur feature now that is great at hiding whats going on the the background. If they don’t like it OP how will the handle remote work?

  64. Middle Name Danger*

    Also, employers – specify if an interview is phone or zoom. I just set up an interview where I had to ask twice and I felt like I was annoying the person I was asking. The initial email to request an interview just said “a chat.”

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Thanks you for mentioning this – I have just updated my online calendar to make it EXTRA clear that my meetings are by phone unless otherwise specified. (I had someone give me helpful feedback the other week that they would have preferred it if my online calendar specified a phone call, and to my surprise, it actually does do that. But it’s now in BOLD font.)

  65. learnedthehardway*

    I completely agree with the OP – unless the hiring manager / interview panel is prepared to have a full interview, then there should NOT be an expectation for a candidate to take the call on video. IF the candidate offers, then okay, but don’t expect it.

  66. A Wall*

    This kind of stuff is what pops into my head every time I see someone saying “everyone should be able to do [xyz virtual meeting thing] perfectly by now, the pandemic has been going on for a year and a half!” No amount of knowing theoretically how to conduct a perfect video meeting is going to override actually being able to assemble all the components of one at every minute of every day when summoned on someone else’s schedule.

    1. raincoaster*

      Friends of mine moved about three hours east of Vancouver and it took them six months to get their internet installed.

    2. Nanani*

      It’s about reading a tutorial or “lazyness” or whatever excuse people have imagined.
      It’s affording the tech and actually having it available in the middle of shortage of electronics, it’s logistics of where you can get reliable internet and privacy, it’s the basic facts of your available space (nobody can magic up a home office if they didn’t already live in a big enough home), and so on

  67. raincoaster*

    This reminds me of an online seminar I took. Normally these have five speakers, they’re all on camera, and you ask questions in the chat. Nope, SURPRISE! I clicked in and was told in no uncertain terms to turn on my camera so “people feel safe and sharing.” Seriously, F that S. I was in the throes of Long Covid and looked like hell, and was not about to display my choice in thermal novelty print PJs to some of the most senior people in federal politics, so I played the “webcam driver is broken” card and got put in a breakout group with the only other person who didn’t turn on his camera. We connected just fine.

  68. Argh*

    I feel for you, OP, and totally agree. In the very least, an offer of a phone interview (instead of a video) needs to be given for that first stage interview.

  69. LC*

    Just a reminder this is cultural. In Australia it’s often written application, phone call to make a time (no questions), interview in person or video (rarely by phone) and the hiring decision.

    Screening calls and multiple interviews are the exception here. Pretty amazing to think you decide a future employee off a written application and 20 minutes, and then spend more time with them awake than your family!

  70. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Goddess I hate video calls.

    Seriously dislike having to do the whole ‘oh great, I have to get a stable connection that won’t drop out or stutter massively or be open to hackers’ bit when I have a phone that can just…dial.

    Additionally, I feel I get shafted a lot on video because people seem to take me less seriously when they see a fat disabled non white woman on the screen. Maybe my paranoia though.

  71. BlueDijon*

    This is my great concern when I start job hunting early 2022… Bookmarking this page for when the time comes, to see all these lovely, supportive comments! Commiserations, OP.

  72. Umiel12*

    Why does the next round need to be a half-day interview? I see on here the many people get subjected to half-day and even full-day interviews, but why? I’ve been in the workforce for more than 30 years, and I have never had to do anything like that. I would also never consider putting someone else through a process like that. I know people are trying really hard to screen for the best candidate, but does taking up that much time really help either side?

    1. D*

      Do you mean you expect more rounds (i.e. not a half day at the second round), or that cumulatively, you don’t expect the interview process to take up a day’s worth of time?

    2. Sweet Christmas*

      Because we’re screening for a lot of skills! I used to think the same thing when I started interviewing for jobs in my field (where full-day interviews are common), but now as a hiring manager myself in the field, I’ve come to find it odder that hiring is mostly done after talking to someone for an hour and a half.

      Full-day interviews give us the opportunity to assess many skills and domains across a role. Most jobs have multiple competencies that they’re looking for in candidates; having more interviews means we can more thoroughly assess those areas. It also means that multiple people on the team talk to the candidate; each may have a different perspective and/or a different strength that will change their opinion on the candidate’s performance. For example, one time we had a candidate come in that was interviewed by three different women; all three of us observed/received sexist behavior from this candidate. If it had just been one, that may have been chalked up as a fluke.

      However, it’s not just good for the company, it’s also good for the candidates – there have been several times when I have been a no-hire on a candidate but they still got hired because they did well in other interviews. Or I can also remember a case in which a candidate was not doing well with one particular interaction style; the interviewer prior to me let me know, so I was able to adjust my style and give them more time so they could perform their best. It also means the candidate has multiple people they can ask questions! They may get a wider or more diverse array of interviewers, so they may be able to ask some interviewers questions that others wouldn’t be able to answer. (i.e., I get asked a lot about what it’s like to be a woman in tech.) This also means that candidates are less likely to suffer from newer, less experienced interviewers. I think it’s likely to give candidates a greater window into what we care about and what problems and questions they might be working on.

  73. Manage-like-a-Boss*

    1. I think your work situation (university / fish bowl office / lack of wifi) to be more anecdotal and not one that an employer should shape their interview strategy around.

    2. Interviewing candidates is like online dating. Part of the process of evaluation is how the candidate handles the process itself. If the company culture revolves around online/Zoom meetings, then it’s perfectly reasonable to insist on video during the screening call. Similarly, if that’s not your (the candidate’s) vibe, then decline the interview. It’s about finding a match, not changing the company culture to fit the candidate – or changing the candidate to fit the culture.

    Just my two cents.

  74. megaboo*

    We had a policy that basically if one candidate was a phone or Zoom meeting interview, everyone had to be interviewed through that method.

  75. Sweet Christmas*

    I have thought through these issues – I work in a tech field where my job is literally to think through these issues – and still think video calls are fine, and in fact superior, for screening calls.

    In my field and it’s pretty common for all of your interviews to be video calls. When I was interviewing back in 2015 that was the case; I was more surprised when I had a voice-only interview than not. A goodly percentage of communication is non-verbal, and personally, it’s far easier for me to process what people are saying and follow their conversation if I have a paired visual. Besides, I contend that you have the same problems on a voice-only call. If your employer can overhear a video call, they can also overhear a phone call. And if you can get a strong phone signal somewhere near your job, then you can likely do a video call from your phone.

    That said, the candidate can always choose to just turn off their camera! You can always insert a short sentence about it at the beginning of your interview (you can even just say “I’m not able to use my camera right now”).
    I also find it weird that they were taken aback that you were in your car. I’ve had video calls with colleagues all over the place during the pandemic; “car” is common and by far not the weirdest place I’ve had a meeting with someone calling in from.

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