Awkward, Thy Name is Videoconference



I've been asked by a handful of clients recently about how and when videoconferencing technology can be best used for interviewing candidates. These hiring and human resources executives are increasingly being asked to create recruiting miracles on a tighter budget, and a first "look-see" via videoconference sometimes does make sense when a candidate is a few states away and time and budget resources are tight.

Videoconference technology has progressed veritable light years in just the last half decade. I know my first few interviews conducted over videoconference in the early 2000s were about as graceful and sophisticated as an eighth grade dance. The number of times the words "no, you go ahead" were uttered would make your head (perfectly framed on a tv screen somewhere across the country) spin. And there was always the risk of the dreaded One-Sided Mute (this actually still happens today, in my experience). One side of the meeting is happily talking away, but the other party can't hear a thing, and wild game of charades ensues until both sides have fumbled with the remote just long enough to feel really foolish and hopefully solve the problem. A couple of times I have witnessed a candidate on the other end using the reflection in the television screen as a mirror for a quick touch up on the hair or lipstick, not realizing that the connection was live and there was an audience at the other end.

These days I rarely pick up on a time delay. And some conferencing technologies are so sophisticated that several executives I've spoken to have no reservations about using it for important meetings. But the question still remains as to whether videoconferencing is appropriate and best used in an interviewing situation.

Here are a few things to consider when a videoconference interview seems likely or inevitable (for both the interviewer or interviewee):

  • A star candidate will likely come across as a star candidate on videoconference. A really bad candidate will likely come across as ... well, really bad on videoconference. It's the great sea of candidates in that in between space that will leave you with a big question mark over your head after you press "hang up". Then you are left wondering if you still need to bring that person in, and maybe you've just wasted an hour.
  • Videoconference interviews will inevitably favor those who are accustomed to and comfortable using the technology. You might unfairly ding someone for being a bit awkward on v/c when in person they might really shine.
  • There is nothing about the videoconference that can replace a firm handshake and staring into the whites of one's eyes when it comes to determining chemistry. This is a critical element for both sides, and while an in-person meeting would be the next step, you run the risk of not making that connection if you are really trying to woo someone.
  • I would also argue that not being able to assess someone's choice in footwear over videoconference is a significant handicap, but not everyone shares my enthusiasm for a candidate's good taste in shoes. Similarly, we have failed to spot the presence of four-inch long purple fingernails on a candidate, and had to learn about it the hard way from our client.


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