A New ‘Virtual’ Reality

“What is your biggest weakness?” Imagine this question popping up on the screen during a job interview. The timer counts down from fifteen seconds, and then the computer camera proceeds to record your two-minute response to the aforementioned prompt.

In this job interview, there’s a twist: no human is on the other end of the line. As the labor market has tightened this decade, compared to past years, more employers are trying to streamline the hiring process to pull in promising candidates before they find other opportunities at another firm. For some companies, this has led to a rethinking of the traditional phone or face-to-face interview model, opting to now require one-sided exchanges in which applicants give recorded responses to a set of predetermined questions. While companies may appreciate the convenience to streamline the applicant pool, virtual interviews, as opposed to human interaction, may be an ineffective approach to determining how well candidates would fit in to the company.

Part of people’s skepticism towards virtual interviews stems from its inconclusiveness as to whether or not the interviewee fits in socially with his or her potential co-workers. For example, when describing one’s biggest success or failure, it is impossible to tell whether or not these responses resonated since there is no one on the other line. This impersonal tone forces a level of ambiguity into an already stressful and confusing experience for applicants. For those who may wish to soften the tone of the interview, by applying “dad jokes” or adding humorous anecdotes to their answers, the video interview provides no indication of the level of professionalism necessarily expected of the applicant. Even worse, the candidate cannot ask questions to better understand the company during a virtual interview, preventing them from fully understanding whether or not they would fit as a part of the company culture.

Some employers would argue that such interviews are more efficient and candidate-friendly. There is a level of flexibility provided to the applicant, who can take the interviews at any time of day, even after work. Likewise, for the employer, the answers can later be reviewed at any time by a hiring manager. Another benefit is the enhanced speed of applying. With the unemployment rate at 3.7% and the number of job openings outnumbering the number of unemployed Americans by more than one million, as stated by the Wall Street Journal, companies want to lock in hires as quickly as they can. It is much more convenient for the applicants, who can take an interview at night, to have their answers immediately reviewed by a representative in a country where it is currently operating at work hours. Domestic recruiters will find the international representatives’ notes the next morning on whether the interviewee is a fit. If the candidate makes the cut, a personal interview can be scheduled promptly.

Some aspects of a regular interview do remain the same for a self-interview; it is always important to act natural, speak clearly, and to have background research on the company. As this new wave of automation sweeps through the job application process, candidates must play the game in hopes of coasting along to one’s dream job.