Cameras and online interviews

by | Oct 8, 2020

It would appear that cameras and online interviews are a bit of a thing!

If an interview panel had their camera turned off for an online interview, but wanted you (the candidate) to keep yours on, how should you handle it?

When I am asked the same question more than once in a short space of time I tend to like to look deeper into an issue. This particular question came from two candidates who had been asked to leave their video cameras on in an online interview.  That's totally fine. What was odd was the interviewer (s) kept their own camera (s) turned off. I then wondered if it is becoming a current practice, more than ad hoc tech glitches. It would seem that cameras and online interviews are a bit of a thing.

I decided to get some feedback via a LinkedIn poll where I got 3500 responses. But it was the comments that were more interesting with a high percentage of commentators claiming to have confronted the same dilemma around video cameras on in an online interview. It seems that there are quite a few interviewers wanting the camera turned on for candidates, but not themselves.

online interviews

Downsides

Perhaps I've seen too many crime shows, but having a group of live people invisibly observing someone, seems to me to be on the wrong side of creepy. A candidate also needs to know about them. Interviews are a two way street after all. I would say it gives the panel an advantage. It also begs the question why they don't use an automated /one way interview platform?

Is it about a hiring power play? Or simply because the interviewers are having a bad hair day or the dishes are still in the sink? Then that's not OK either. I am not a fan of power playing in interviews I think it reveals very little about a candidate's competence.

I also wondered if it gave some insight into the company culture and could be seen as a red flag.

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This was the question I posed:  "If an interview panel had their camera turned off for an online interview, but wanted you (the candidate) to keep yours on, how should you handle it?"

Would you...or advise to:
🎦 carry on regardless
🎦 ask to reschedule
🎦 ask to turn your camera off too
🎦 withdraw - shambolic outfit, dodgy culture

Here are some of the responses from a very rich discussion. For the full thread follow this link.

From those who had experienced it

Overall consensus was that it was an uncomfortable experience.

Janice Manikowski, Marketing Manager commented "I had this with an individual HR person first. It was a little odd at first but I wasn’t even sure if she needed my camera on. Why do Zoom and not phone if you’re not doing a camera. If it was a group second meeting that would be weird. I might say “I don’t think your camera is on” to see if it was on purpose. It might be a stress interview? For recruiters, I don’t think right now that the interviewer really needs to dress up but the interviewee still should. As candidates, I think we all understand that people are more casual working from home.

Christine Meeker Lange, Marketing Consultant had also been through it. "This happened to me. The interviewer said they were not turning on their camera because they wanted to take notes. At the very end, they turned on the camera to say hello, which I felt was very odd. I couldn’t really look at the interviewer and build rapport and it seems like a phone interview would’ve been appropriate."

Bhavana Ackary, Science Writer, commented " I have faced this scenario and it does not make for a good interview. At all. It is very disconcerting to speak to a blank screen and it definitely put me out of my element. However, I wouldn't dismiss the entire organization based on only that interaction. I have gone on to have some good conversations with others in the same place. And yes, it does feel like employers hold all the cards and job-seekers have to go along"

Therese Jaeger, Senior Customer Service manager, recounted "This happened to me as the hiring manager hadn't checked her equipment. It was a dreadful experience, very uncomfortable and un nerving. You cant judge reaction or read faces. I would most definitely ask for a reschedule if it happened again."

Job search experts

I asked some job search experts for their opinions. Generally there was some surprise.

Hannah Morgan,  aka Career Sherpa, said "I can't think of one good reason a company would do this. Either everyone has video or no one has video. However, as a job seeker, I would carry on and at the conclusion of the interview would ask why they had a one way video interview. Their answer may help me understand the culture or logic better. This info would help in my decision to move forward in the process."

Shelley Piedmont, Career Coach chipped in: "Have people totally forgotten manners? An interview is an opportunity for each side to get to know each other. It is not supposed to be a one-way street. Maybe there is a legitimate reason behind this, but it appears as a power play on its face. Since this is a bad sign about the company, I think I would ask upfront about the request and see what they say."

Susan P Joyce, Publisher of Jobhunt.org added  "Wow! terrible situation! I guess it would depend on how badly you wanted to work for this employer. I would ask why their cameras were all turned off. If bad bandwidth is the reason, then I would shut off my camera too. But, if that is how they conduct job interviews now, I think I would end the interview -- this is clearly a form of bullying. That is not a corporate culture I would be comfortable with so likely not a job I would enjoy or succeed at."

A direct approach was favoured by Sonal Bahl, Career Strategist, who advised "I’d ask them for a clear answer as to WHY their camera is off. If it’s bandwidth issues, I’d inform them that turning mine off would help them in that regard. And smile sweetly."

Tougher approach

Katrina Collier, Author and Podcaster, took a firmer line: "Actually, I'd simply turn mine off... wait for the fallout, tell them to shove it by explaining that they have no common manners if they complained, and then write a Glassdoor Interview review."

Mike Dalton, Managing Director Slice, was also strict "No way I would carry on. If the interviewer was badly prepared or looked a mess then that's unprofessional. If they just wanted to make the interviewee uncomfortable, that's unprofessional. Just as bad as deliberately keeping candidates waiting. If they just didn't know how to make it work, that just shows they aren't smart enough to be my boss. If it's a technical glitch they should volunteer to reschedule."

Michael(Scott) Henderson Information Technology Executive shared: "one of the most important things in the online interview is the visual feedback. This is an UNACCEPTABLE PRACTICE. It should Not be elevated to anything approaching Normal. "

Softer approach

Scott Boss, Linux Administrator, adds "Some people don’t want cameras on as they are working from home. Or work in a shared office. Or or or... so there might be reasons that we don’t know about that causes them to have it off. So don’t immediately cut off an organization based on lack of camera."

Donna Schilder Career Coach, advocated "I would carry on because you can always say “no” later."

David Winden, TUAS/SUAS Instructor, says "I would continue on regardless as I would treat the company unique interview approach as a mental test. Maybe they want to try and make me uncomfortable or see how my confidence is when not speaking to someone face-to-face."

Thomas Powner, LinkedIn Trainer and Recruiter advised ".... carry on with the interview. Part of an interview is to show your flexibility and adaptability to curveballs that happen, especially during crisis situations. For the interview panel, rule #1 for working remotely, your attire needs to mimic as you're in the office. Every day you need to be camera-ready, including a smile. Everyone, we got this, with everything, we have all been through in 2020, some more than others 𝗥𝗘𝗦𝗜𝗟𝗜𝗘𝗡𝗖𝗘 𝗶𝘀 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗲'𝘀 𝗻𝗲𝘄 𝘀𝘂𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗽𝗼𝘄𝗲𝗿."

Overview

So with all the comments the poll result 53% would carry on regardless. Maybe this is a sign of being in a demand driven job market currently and job seekers are afraid to rock the boat. 24% of the respondents said they would withdraw.

However, to any hiring managers or recruiters, get your acts together.

During COVID we had a lot of talk about putting the human in HR  - so just get on with it and do it. Be human! Or invest in automated interview platforms, if you can't. There is nothing worse than a robotic person.

Many thanks to all who engaged to make it an amazingly rich discussion. With 285 comments I was unable to reference everyone.

 

 

Contact 3Plus today for our specialist services in Executive Search and Diversity Recruitment.

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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