Jan. 10, 2023

Asynchronous Video Interviews: Job Interviews Without Interviewers

Video responses to set questions, online tests, written answers to situational questions — more job-related by-products of the pandemic
Asynchronous Video Interviews

With so much of our work taking place online — from team-group meetings on Zoom to one-on-ones with the boss on Teams — it’s no surprise that the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on remote working has also led companies to conduct virtual “interviews” without an interviewer.

An increasing number of job applicants are being asked to video record answers to set questions about their experience, skills and personal qualities, rather than speaking directly with a recruiter by phone or video chat or — perish the thought — across a desk.

The format of what is known as asynchronous video interviews (AVIs) varies. In an AVI, questions pop up on the job candidate’s computer screen to which they record their answers. And those responses may or may not be timed, just as you may or may not be allowed to re-record or re-enter an answer.

Dr. Joshua Bourdage, BA’06, MSc’08, PhD’12

Dr. Bourdage’s lab, known as the Organizational Behaviour and Interpersonal Influence Lab (OBII Lab), is currently conducting a number of studies on AVIs, and is recruiting participants.

Depending on the provider and platform, the interview could be evaluated by a human or by an algorithm, explains Dr. Joshua Bourdage, BA’06, MSc’08, PhD’12, who is currently conducting a series of studies on how applicants react to these different ways an AVI can be configured, how we can best promote applicants to put their best foot forward and create more accurate hiring decisions.

The research team in Dr. Bourdage’s lab, known as the Organizational Behaviour and Interpersonal Influence Lab (OBII Lab), is currently conducting a number of studies on AVIs, and is recruiting participants. For instance, one project is currently looking for 200 participants (yes, alumni — we’re looking at you!) to undergo an AVI and answer questions about their experience, for which they will receive a minimum of $25. This study is part of a larger collaboration between Dr. Bourdage’s lab, and researchers at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. For a list of active studies you can participate in, and to view full study information, click here:

“We’re looking for people who are genuinely motivated and interested in improving their interview skills; it’s these people who will benefit the most from being in the study,” says Bourdage, an associate professor with the Department of Psychology. “It might be somebody who's currently on the job hunt or thinks they're going to be on the job hunt quite soon.”

The mock video interviews will remain confidential until the study is complete, at which point participants can choose to have them deleted or leave them with the researchers. This is because the study will provide resources and practice, “as we are hoping everyone will learn from the process,” says Bourdage.

Other studies conducted by the OBII Lab have shown that if applicants are given the option to re-record their responses, it makes a difference (after all, during an in-person interview one is unlikely to be allowed a mulligan). “That’s certainly one intervention I would suggest people use,” says Bourdage. “It’s actually surprising how many people don’t see or use this as an opportunity.”

It’s tips like this that will be shared with each participant in the study.

In the AVI world, the evaluation process is a huge deal. Although the OBII Lab doesn’t have its own proprietary AI algorithm, those who do such as HireVue (one of the biggest players in this field) may measure the interview by the participant’s words and facial expressions, as well as their grammar and tone.

Being able to demonstrate that your algorithm is not creating or enforcing systematic bias is a huge issue, explains Bourdage. “It’s become a legislative nightmare resulting in some jurisdictions being forced to introduce legislation where you actually have to disclose exactly what it is you're measuring,” he says. “Candidates deserve to know how they're being evaluated, and you have to be accountable for the technology.” And to this end, many of the bigger companies are working to ensure that bias plays less of a role in automated evaluations.

Although some people find the process of chatting into a faceless screen impersonal and unnerving, one of the huge advantages to AVIs is convenience. More than 48 per cent of the 33 million interviews conducted by HireVue were completed after work hours and 40 per cent of those were recorded on Sundays. HireVue saw a 37-per cent increase in new customers for its on-demand video interviews during 2022.

Efficiency, no travel costs and shareable recordings with other staffers are obvious advantages to AVIs. But hiring biases, too, can potentially be reduced, adds Bourdage, since each applicant is asked the same question in the same way, making performances easier to compare objectively, and can be given accommodations, such as taking a break if interrupted or you're anxious. Nevertheless, many interviewees still find the process weird — without receiving any cues on how things are going, such as encouraging nods or requests for more detail. As such, applicants on the job market will likely be seeing AVIs increasingly become part of their job search experience.

Like so many things, however, you become more comfortable the more times you hit that little record button. And there’s nothing to say you can’t practice. Declutter your background, make sure your Wi-Fi is strong, charge your laptop, use hand gestures, look straight at the camera, smile, wear professional clothing . . . this list is starting to sound like classic in-person interview techniques.

Find out how you can adapt them to the new world of AVIs by becoming a participant in this research study, Video Interview Effectiveness.