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Asynchronous video interviews: How to survive interviewing yourself

Man sitting at the desk in front of the camera making video.
Make sure the room is tidy and if possible, minimise the risk of interruption from housemates, partners, children or pets. Photo: Getty

The days of nervously waiting in an unfamiliar office for a job interview may not be over for good, but since COVID-19 hit, recruiters have had to find alternative ways to hire workers.

With face-to-face interviews on hold, many employers have taken to screening candidates over Zoom (ZM), Skype and Hangouts. Asynchronous video interviewing, in which applicants film themselves answering a set of questions with no interviewer actually present, has become another popular choice.

In an AVI, the applicant is guided through an interview process which they do alone. Once the recruiter has received the pre-recorded video, it is evaluated by those hiring. In some cases, the recording may be screened by AI or other software.

This kind of digital interview allows employers to screen potential hires quickly and remotely, but it comes with drawbacks. Effectively having to interview yourself — without ever meeting another human or representative of the company — can be an unnerving experience. So should more employers really be relying on these kinds of interviews to find workers - and what should you do if you find yourself facing an AVI?

“Clearly in the present context, any methodology that avoids face to face contact is safer, and it also saves on the costs associated with real-time interviews conducted in an office,” says Richard MacKinnon, a workplace psychologist and coach at WorkLifePsych.

“It also ensures that applicants in very different time zones aren’t automatically disadvantaged by the location of the interviewer. In sum, it adds helpful flexibility to the interviewing process.”

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Laura Kingston, a career coach at Leap Career Coaching based in Kent, says she has had clients who have recently been interviewed by AVIs.

“They have found them challenging due to it being a new experience for them, however they can be convenient as you can complete when it is suitable for you and from the comfort of your own home,” she says. “The countdown timings can add pressure to the situation and it can feel like an unnatural process due to the lack of human connection, a familiar issue in the current pandemic situation.”

Another issue is that interviews aren’t the most predictive measures of future job performance too. So no matter what medium is used to conduct them, they don’t tell us everything we need to know about future performance and whether the candidate will thrive in a company.

“While traditional interviews can of course be nerve-wracking for interviewees, the AVI context is going to be deeply unfamiliar and unnatural for most applications — so this needs to be factored in when evaluating performance,” MacKinnon says.

“In addition, assessors need to be appropriately trained to accurately and fairly assess the videos they watch. There are a whole host of cognitive biases that could creep in,” he explains.

When we interview in person, we unintentionally evaluate someone based on their physical appearance, their facial expressions, their clothing and more. It is well known that first impressions do count and research suggests that how we look plays a key role in candidate selections. One study found, for example, that being attractive was an advantage for people with mediocre CVs.

“When we can see them in their home environment, this can add to the risk of unfair assessment and stereotyping,” MacKinnon adds. “Assessors need to remember that they’re assessing for the ability to do the job, not evaluate how good someone is on camera.”

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How to handle an asynchronous video interview

“It can be anxiety inducing, especially if you’re not comfortable being in front of a camera,” says MacKinnon. “Notice that anxiety, and explore where it’s coming from. It’s usually a sign that you’re doing something important and meaningful. So, some nerves are to be expected.”

To feel more confident about an AVI, it can help to practice filming yourself and watching how you appear on camera. Note where your eyes are directed, as it’s common to look down or around you instead of focusing on the camera lens.

“Imagine you’re speaking to the person in front of you, like a live conversation. This is a much more natural scenario than an AVI,” MacKinnon suggests. “Don’t work off a script as this will come across as unnatural and stilted. Prepare the points you want to make and practice saying them out loud.”

It’s also important to consider your background and physical environment. Make sure the room is tidy and if possible, minimise the risk of interruption from housemates, partners, children or pets.

“Consider which of your personal qualities you want to emphasise when recording and make these shine,” MacKinnon advises.

And finally, focus on answering the questions being asked. “Prepare answers with examples that can demonstrate how you can add value to an organisation and provide quantifiable data and results delivered,” says Kingston. “Tailor your preparation using the job description, look at the key skills and experience required and provide answers to show that you are perfect for the role.”

Careers Clinic
Careers Clinic