Video Interviews: The Next Generation of Bias?

Video Interviews: The Next Generation of Bias?

I’m a fan of the “work video” era. I like the flexibility. I like how, as Apple Facetime ushered in a new way to “personally” stay connected with distant family and friends, Zoom et al. have done the same in the workplace. And I like that I can put a cool light on and make my skin silky smooth.

Don’t get me wrong – I miss seeing people in real life, and I get really lonely, but that is not a video platform issue. That’s a COVID-issue. However, your CEO is being force-fed a new flexible/remote reality, much of which will stick once COVID is resolved.

But damn it, with anything new comes unintended consequences, so we must ask ourselves, will video interviewing en masse create a new way to discriminate? Short answer: why wouldn’t it?

My philosophy is to give people (recruiters, hiring managers, decision-makers) the benefit of the doubt about making hiring decisions. I give the benefit of the doubt that decisions are made based on merit and not race. Skills and not gender. Competencies and not “pedigree” (Ivey league education). That is still my philosophy.

But…

  • It is a glass half full philosophy that must be challenged and examined. Always.
  • Unconscious bias, if you are a human being, it just is.
  • Job Descriptions are not accurate a lot of the time, so no one is judged on a level playing field.
  • Time restraints and an excessive need to hire quickly makes us resort to hiring the referral (just like us) versus the unknown.

Now enter video: 

None of the above is eliminated by the new (ish) medium. And…

Interviewers and decision-makers instantly get a sneak peek into our lives through the living rooms that have become our offices. 

  • You hear that baby cry…they must be an unreliable new mother.
  • You see that copy of Catcher In The Rye on their bookshelf…they must be an anarchist who won’t play well with the team.
  • See that #BLM poster…they must be an angry person of color who will protest and question every policy.
  • See that diploma from The University of Alabama or The University of Southern Mississippi (my alma maters)… they are automatically qualified!
  • See that diploma The University of Alabama or The University of Southern Mississippi… they must be white racist, rednecks with an inept education and low cognitive abilities.
  • See that picture of grandbabies on the desk…they must be too old to bring fresh ideas.

Remember when Facebook came around? In a different way, interviewers could “see” the same things that triggered biases. But now… it’s 10x easier to see in real-time, in real life, the equivalent of “Facebook posts.”  

For most HR/TA pros and interviewers, these revelations won’t matter. Since we too are on video from our homes, candidates will probably see our kids, our cat’s booties hogging the screen, and pictures of our favorite artists others may not like. We will also know NONE of these things have anything to do with whether someone is qualified to do the job.

But, HR/TA, you must continually challenge your human nature, continuously question what things are influencing your decisions and give some grace to interviewers placed in non-optimal interviewing conditions.

And if you are really, really concerned – maybe it’s time for you to use a plain, white zoom background to hide everything. Just be prepared… someone’s biases (i.e., mine) could falsely assume you are an overly anxious, uber risk-averse, milquetoast person who may be a drag to be around.

Can’t Win…

(wink).

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