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Digital interviews: worse for applicants than analogue interviews

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In the course of the corona pandemic, more and more digital job interviews are being carried out in the form of video conferences. Obviously there is a catch: in digital interviews, applicants do significantly worse than in face-to-face interviews. That is the result of a study by psychologists at Ulm University. The study was published in the journal “Journal of Business and Psychology”.

For the study, the psychologists simulated a total of 114 job interviews with students, 57 as face-to-face interviews and 57 digitally via video conference. Both the digital and the personal job interviews were recorded in order to be able to evaluate the interviews and the behavior of the applicants afterwards. In addition, the study participants completed an online questionnaire in which they were asked to provide information on how they perceived the interview situation.

People interviewed digitally were rated more negatively

In a job interview everyone wants to show their best behavior, for example by using certain social techniques that are supposed to impress the other person. This includes communicative tactics such as highlighting one’s own strengths or downplaying weaknesses. Equally important are non-verbal techniques that are based on a certain posture or gesture.

“In psychology we use the English term impression management for this,” explains Klaus Melchers, one of the authors of the study and head of the department of work and organizational psychology at Ulm University. It is precisely these social techniques – called “impression management” in the technical language – that are used far less often in digital job interviews than in face-to-face interviews. And that has serious effects: people interviewed digitally are rated more negatively in the study, for example with regard to their performance, than those who went through an analogue interview.

Another observation from the study: The interviewees also perceived social presence and eye contact to be less intense in the digital job interviews than in the face-to-face interviews. “This result also makes sense, of course, because people always adapt their behavior to the reactions of their counterparts. Without eye contact, it is hardly possible to develop a strong social presence. And both are crucial for developing a feeling for the tactics with which I can best win over my counterpart, ”says psychologist Johannes Basch, first author of the study, in a press release.

Less fairness and privacy concerns

Another surprising observation: Identical applicant responses were rated more critically by the interviewers when they were mentioned in a digital job interview. As a result, test applicants performed significantly worse overall via video conference.

The applicants themselves also found the digital interviews to be less fair in contrast to personal interviews. The study participants also had greater concerns about the protection of their personal data during the digital job interviews. On the other hand, they positively assessed the greater flexibility that they believed was associated with the use of online tools such as video conferencing.

If you have the choice: take the personal interview

“Our results are of course also of practical relevance,” emphasize the researchers. It is not advisable for companies to use different discussion formats in a selection round for the same position. As the study shows, this has a significantly more negative impact on the digital interviewees. “I can only advise applicants – if they have the choice – to prefer a personal interview. It’s usually easier to get away with it, ”says psychologist Klaus Melchers.

If a video conference cannot be avoided as a format for your next interview, the researchers have a simple technical tip for you: “Mount the camera on the screen so that you can observe the reactions of your interlocutor and at the same time make eye contact via the camera . “

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