The Worst Interview Technique Ever – And Why It Could Happen To You

interview techniqueEditor’s Note: While helping a job seeker with some advice I was dumbfounded to discover an interview technique they had just endured that I personally find disheartening and if it starts a trend, discouraging.

I asked them to write us up a blow-by-blow account of the experience, which they agreed to, under one condition, that it be written anonymously. 

The author is still in consideration for the job opening and wanted their name kept out of this account. But I can assure you the story is true. If you have had a similar experience, please tell us about it in the comments.

The Worst Interview Technique Ever - And Why It Could Happen To You #sportsbiz Click To Tweet

Last week, I was given the opportunity to interview with a great company. Not only was it the perfect job to break into the sports industry, but it was a job for which I’d be a perfect fit.

I was extremely excited when I saw the email inviting me to interview, but the excitement slowly dissipated as I started setting up for what the company called a “digital interview.” Now, you read that title and you might think of webcams and speaking with someone through the internet.

You’re only half right.

Through your invitation email, you are directed to click a link, bringing you to the website of an outside company who hosts the interview. It allows you to check your sound and audio before anything important, simply to make sure your camera won’t cut you out of the interview process.

From there, you can participate in their practice interviews and tutorials on how to use the site. I didn’t need the tutorial as the site is pretty self-explanatory, but I thought it’d be foolish not to take advantage of the practice questions. This gives you a chance to see how it feels to be in the interview and offers you the opportunity to see yourself answering questions.

This is how it works:

  1. When you click into the question, it will post the question to the left of your screen.
  2. On the right, your face stares back at you from your computer screen. Remember how in college your professors told you to practice your speech in front of the mirror? Well, that’s pretty much what you’re doing here.
  3. You have about thirty seconds to read the question before the camera starts recording (although if you’re ready to answer, you can hit the ‘start’ button at any time).
  4. Once you hit the record button, you have about three minutes to answer the question.

You don’t have a real person to talk to, you’re just answering the question to yourself, out loud, in front of a camera. When you’re done, there’s another button to stop recording and that’s it.how to prepare for your sports job search ebook

You can’t review your reply in the real interview and you can’t see the next question until you complete the first. I don’t have a problem with this part (because that’s how interviews usually work), except that the computer has limited flexibility with the questions.

For example, one of the first questions asked by the computer was why you think you’d be a good fit for the job. If you tell them why by highlighting something you’ve done that you’re extremely proud of, you have a good chance of being stumped on the next question. While an interviewer, who had a question on their list that you had already answered, might move on to another question, the computer next asked about a major accomplishment in your current or past roles that relates to the job you’re applying for.

Do you talk about something else? Or do you just go into more detail about the accomplishment you’ve already discussed?

Once the interview is over, there’s one more recording opportunity for you to give any further information on why you’d be good for their company. This is the kind of thing that you should usually be able to convey throughout the interview, but with cut and dry question/answer sessions, there is no chance to get a feel for personality.

It almost felt as if that last recording was the last chance to beg for a job, but it’s not a chance to ask questions from those doing the interviewing. It just seemed like a very difficult way to make a first impression.

Our Thoughts On This Interview Technique

I can’t even begin to explain how angry this makes me.

bad interview techniques

This looks better than staring at a heartless computer screen

I had a General Manager once, a mentor of sorts, who explained the most important part of my job wasn’t making smart journalistic decisions, it wasn’t managing the production staff or keeping a close eye on the budget – it was hiring good people. People that fit our culture, that will challenge us to be better and that will make our network a great place to be.

There is no way a computer recorded interview – with no connection, no personality, no charisma and no ability to listen – can derive the best out of a candidate, or set them up for success even if they are to be selected for employment. This starts things off the wrong way, introducing a robotic culture instead of a collaborative one.

I can hear it now – someone explaining this is ‘just a step in the process’, a ‘gateway to a more personal interview step’. I don’t buy it.

(Here’s where I start sounding like an old man) Email and social media have ruined the art of face-to-face communication in our society – I am no better, considering I actually texted my wife in the other room last night. Shameful.

We as employers should want more personalization, not less. We should push our candidates to show they can communicate both verbally and in writing, not to a computer screen, to a person. Because that’s what every job will require – talking to people, motivating, leading, managing.

This interview technique won’t uncover any of those attributes.

Prepare yourself, I’m sad to say this interview technique could become a trend – a very bad one in my estimation.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

And if you want to know where our privacy policy is before you submit your comments below, it's right here.

Comments

  1. Frank Kantrowitz says:

    I had one on these a few months ago. Completely hated it. I was actually glad I didn’t get the job. Didn’t want to work for them after the interview.

    • Frank – thanks for writing in with your experience. I agree completely, I don’t think I’d be too in love working for a company that treats their hires like cattle. (you can tell this fires me up) – Brian

      • HI,

        I had a terrible digital interview. For those who have not had the experience, it is more than “simple” following instructions, etc.
        I studied, prepped, and I psyched myself. I froze and failed. Due to work, a noisy and nosy household, I had to do mine at 2 a.m. in the morning. Questions which you could answer in front of someone simply stunned me and the clock keeps ticking. Surely, if I was an actress, I would have aced it! But I am not and before I read this article, I have been beating myself up everyday harshly for it. Thank you for your post.

        • The worst part about it is that this is my dream job. Flight attendant. I applied for this job 18 years ago while I was in college and didn’t pass the panel interview, understandable. This time around digital and failing again cannot be more crushing. I keep replaying the interview in my head. I wish there was an edit button! I had mosquitoes, the cat, and a family member harassing me. In a real interview, such disturbances would not be there. I know now what I think I can do better. Like lock myself in a dungeon….haha It is just terrible. Like I said before, thank you for your article. I was crying (…feeling like a total failure,) but now I am hopeful, as I now know that I am not alone. Thanks.

          • Job Seeker says:

            My belief is that companies who use this technique are not worth working for, it’s an indication of their mentality ($ $ $).

          • Well, I wouldn’t close yourself off to opportunities — some major employers use this technique. I hate it, but I’m trying to teach people how to be prepared for it, not just ignoring it’s existence. – Brian

        • Sorry it did’t go well for you A Lane – you are not alone! -Brian

  2. Reed Sawyer says:

    Dear Brian,
    I agree that this is not the best interview technique, however, as a headhunter in the past, I can understand why they do this. It eliminates the wheat from the chaff very quickly. This is a very stressful event. (Most people freeze up in an extemporaneous interview like this on camera.) If their goal is to eliminate those people that don’t do well on a video camera, it probably works very well.) However, as you have stated, this is NOT as good as a face to face interview.

    Neither is a resume.

    The purpose of these type of interview techniques is to quickly get a feel for the candidate, and not waste valuable time going through hundreds of resumes and making calls, to set up appointments, and have no shows and people that call in sick, and ruin your entire interview schedule.

    It’s a terrible substitute, but it is a substitute. I would certainly hope that it’s not the only interview that a person faces, but, if it is, I would imagine that it is not going to last long. It doesn’t get into the skill sets that a real person has, it just finds out which people do well on camera. That is the worst way to determine a candidates competency, heck, even Barrack Obama sounds good on camera.

    • Reed – I completely respect your opinion and experience – but I find this interview technique lazy and abhorrent. And the fact that I know who the employer is, and it is one of my favorite companies in the world, just makes it that much worse to me.

      It is the job of recruiters, headhunters and hiring managers to separate the wheat form the chaff, no matter how long it takes or how arduous it is. There is no way a computer screen and recording device can replicate the human standard especially in interviewing. And frankly, someone is going to have to watch these videos so is it even all that time saving?

      There is a coach in the NFL who has won a few super bowls who is routinely emphasizing, “it’s not about having the best 53 names on your roster, it’s about having the right 53 players” and I find the same to be true in every business – you have to dig deep in the hiring process to find out cultural fit, skill set, attitude, ceiling etc. Hiring the right people is the most important role of any manager so yeah, it should take time and it should be hard and it should at times be frustrating. I say deal with it and don’t take shortcuts like this! (This is where I drop the mic and walk off stage)

      Reed – I can’t stress this enough, I love that you have an alternate opinion, and this isn’t an assault on your response, because I think you are right and you nailed why companies do it…I just HATE it and can’t help myself from ranting on my comment soapbox – Brian

  3. Good topic. I’m on the fence here. Bad: if the company uses this “video-interview” to select a person for hire and then continues the practice for training and communication. Good: if those that can follow directions, have basic technical skills, speak clearly and look the part, are “all” selected for the live interview that should follow.

    The key to it all is in fact:, as you stated: “the most important thing for any business is hiring good people.” As a former business owner for 18 years and now just breaking into the sports industry, I can say; if I could have eliminated interviewing people who can’t find there way around the most elementary computer functions, looked like hell, were incapable of looking into my eyes and sounded as if the glass is always half empty…. Well my interviewing time would have been cut in half.

    This is why “hiring good people” is always stressed most important. Not because it’s obvious, but because it’s so incredibly difficult to do. Sad to say, those “good people” are few and far between.

    I can see the video interview as a time saver to weed out the obvious “non qualifiers.” But keeping in mind the “actors” on video may be just that and the “introvert” on video may very well knock your socks off in a live setting.

    Used very carefully, it might have its place. Used to select your final 1 or 2 candidates would almost guarantee you whiffed on a superstar. Big mistake!

    • Dean – great perspective on this video interview technique. I’ll add this – I have done interviews while working at a big well-known company, and usually our HR dept did a good job of weeding candidates out based on a skills profile I provided them (i.e. I would tell them I need a candidate with Avid experience, television production background and camerawork and they would only provide me with those resumes). I have also done interviews while at a smaller company and the process was much harder since I was on my own to weed through it all. The problem I have with this interview technique is that the only ones doing it are the big companies with HR departments, not the little shops that could probably use the help. That to me is just ridiculous! Searching resumes for a skill profile is a big part of a job in HR, why is there a need to take shortcuts?! The author of this post has their MBA and an undergrad degree in sports management from great schools, and has done some incredibly impressive internships… putting them through this process is insulting and starts things off on the wrong foot. Agaain just my fired up perspective! LOve your contribution Dean —keep em coming – Brian

  4. I had a video interview a month ago. The job was for an internationally known candy company. However, the position was a contract position through a hiring agency. I didn’t like this type of interview because I didn’t like having to look directly into the camera. I angled myself to look as though I was speaking at a person across a table from me. I don’t know whether that was a good idea or not. Also, I was only given 36 hour notice as to when this video interview had to be completed. I am a widow with 2 teenagers, working 2 part-time jobs (because I haven’t been able to get hired for a full-time job) and going to college. I had to find time to color my hair so my grey roots weren’t showing and squeeze the interview in at 1AM in the morning. In addition to all the reasons stated above about how this is not a good interview technique, there are very basic reasons why this is not a good technique.

    • Hallelujah Sharon! I completely agree, there are so many reasons why this interview technique is just awful – and by the way huge pat on the back to you for going back to school and competing for work the way you are. I hope your email is legit because I’m about to mail you something that could help…. – Brian

  5. Larry Majchrzak says:

    Brian,

    I agree strongly with a lot of your points. I had a similar experience with this a few weeks ago with a digital interview. In fact my experience was so similar I believe it may have been the same company. By the nature of this company I’m sure they received a large number of applicants (it’s for an internship program). I do see the flaws in the computerized system, but I also see its benefits. As other readers have posted, it does a solid job of weeding out people that are far from qualified. So I think it’s a good introductory process, but my problem with it is this.

    The application involved filling out a profile through the company’s website as well as submitting a resume and cover letter. Then after weeding through those materials, they invited applicants to complete this digital interview. I almost feel this could have been better utilized as a first step. Prove who can do the basics of operating a simple application, prepping for an interview, etc. So I definitely see some of the merits from a recruiters perspective, but I’m not sold on it. I think the effectiveness of this process could only be determined if we knew more about what information the company was looking for and how they applied it to hiring/not hiring the individual. Thanks for a good read as always.

    • Larry thanks for the great response and for sharing your experience with this interview technique. The thing I don’t get is, someone still has to watch the interviews to see if someone is a match, so is it really even that effective of a screening/time saving/efficiency tool? I know someone will say, it’s better for recruiters and hiring managers than setting up appointments on Skype or phone calls…which I would respond…isn’t that your job? I mean that in all respect, I think HR reps and recruiters play incredible valuable roles for their personal ability to understand a potential hires ceiling and fit. This type of screening doesn’t use their skills either!
      Just to be clear, I’m all for screening at an extremely base level, but the person who submitted this article has their MBA and an undergrad degree in sports management, which gives me the impression this wasn’t being used as a baseline screening – it as a lazy shortcut that increases the possibility of a poor hire. – Brian

      p.S. did you get the internship Larry?

      • Larry Majchrzak says:

        Agree with all of your points Brian. By trying to make the process simpler for hiring managers I do think they have not used their skills properly. I definitely don’t think it makes sense in his/her situation, but possibly in mine on an internship level. Still appreciate the article and your response. I have not yet heard back about the internship, but hoping for the best!

  6. I am just beginning my job search in the sports industry. I would have been completely thrown off course with this style of interview. I also would be reserved about accepting the position. I am a people person and being in a collaborative environment is very important to me.

  7. I just had one of these interviews last night. It was horrible. I’m very comfortable speaking to people and never have an issue thinking on my feet in interviews. I even do well in telephone interviews. Something about talking to myself in front of a computer screen made it very difficult to answer the questions. I felt silly. I kept trying to remind myself to answer just as I would in a face-to-face interview, but I couldn’t shake the emptiness I felt when speaking to my laptop. When it was over I was disappointed in myself for possibly sounding like a babbling bonehead and irritated with the company for using this technique. I’m anxious now because I really want and NEED this job. I can’t help thinking I blew it all because my background, which is perfect for the job, doesn’t include improv acting. I have been trying to land a job for over a year. I can’t afford to lose an opportunity because of silly interview techniques. It’s hard enough trying to get a job without this added obstacle. Sigh…

  8. I also can’t understand why this is a benefit. The only thing I could think of is maybe if a company is hiring candidates in other states or countries. Even still, a phone screen or a virtual interview where there’s an actual live person on the other end would seem like better choices for the 1st steps in an interview process. In my case, The company is in the same city that I live in. I could actually walk there. Having to watch the recordings and being able to view them repeatedly does not save time at all.

  9. Well, I found out today that I was not selected to move forward in the hiring process.

  10. Joey Howard says:

    It’s ironic that you posted this. I have hired hundreds of people and I asked maybe 2 or 3 “business” questions. I sat there face to face with them and had a conversation. I’m very disppointed in hiring practices these days. Everything is online. How can anyone get an impression of you and your talents? On the other hand, how can you, as the interviewee, decide if you want that position or not? Sit me down face to face with anyone and I’m very comfortable. I’ve never met a stranger but that doesn’t matter if everything is online………very disappointed.

  11. Sorry if I’m behind, but I just came across this post. I’ve also done one of these interviews. I think it was called a ‘PreRecorded Interview’. It was definitely one of the weirdest experiences talking to my computer just like the others described. I know a really tough part for me was finding a good location. My home internet is unreliable sometimes so I went to my college campus, luckily school was out but people were still around and I didn’t want them to hear me talk to my screen; plus the background still had to look good. There was only 3 questions, but it was still difficult to form an answer that fit the two minute time limit and convey my strengths. Then there’s the whole ‘don’t fumble over your words!’ element because you can only re-record once. Perhaps if I had known what they were looking for specifically, or the purpose of this type of interview for hiring managers I could have made some better adjustments. The next step after this style interview was a skype panel interview, but I didn’t get selected to move on to that.. :/ oh well.

    • Sorry to hear the opportunity didn’t work out Shelby – but you have to wonder if you really want to work for any company that does business this way. I know that sounds harsh, i just have real contempt for this terrible style. – Brian

  12. Emanuel Shaw says:

    Without repeating what has already been said, I also have had the unfortunate opportunity of going through the pre-recorded interview. Very awkward and unrealistic in my opinion. It looks like multiple companies are beginning to do this because the company I did this for wasn’t in the sports industry. Obviously I didn’t get the offer but I believe it is an unfortunate trend.

    • I agree Emanuel – very unfortunate trend. I hope it fails and every employer goes back to go old face-to-face interviews…or at least use Skype! – Brian

  13. Please post this article on LinkedIn. There is nothing but praise for video interviews on linkedIn, and people need to hear the other side of the story. It’s awful. My experience was exactly as depicted in all the axamples. There is no opportunity to have a dialogue and ask probative questions. I agree with Brian – It’s pure laziness. I withdrew my application from the other positions I was applying for. No thank you!!!

  14. My relative was just offered a digital “interview,” something I had never heard of before.

    Once I understood what it was, I was appalled.

    First: this “interview” technique facilitates discriminati against interviewees who are too old, too fat, too brown (etc etc etc) while reducing / eliminating legal risks to the interviewer for engaging in such discrimination. Only a few seconds of each applicant’s video record needs to be viewed to screen out “undesireables.”

    Second: this “interview” technique facilitates misuse of personal information (the interviewee’s video image). For example: getting the guys together during TGIF to sit around ogling and rating the hotties among the applicant pool.

    Recognizing that many applicants are desperate to find employment and cannot afford to decline this type of “interview,” I wonder if applicants can make it a better experience for themselves, and produce a higher-quality video record that more accurately represents them, by asking a friend to sit across from them, next to the screen, as the “interviewer.” Then the applicant can look at the friend and speak to the friend while answering the interview questions. This might also help in taming the environment — other people around you in the library, cafe, or your home will see that you are talking to another person, and may be less likely to interrupt or will at least interrupt in a more appropriate manner.

    Fortunately, my relative was able to decline her “interview”, this time, because she’s already accepted a job elsewhere.

  15. My relative just read my comment, and texted me the following (which she gave me permission to post here, I have lightly edited it for readability):

    It makes me really uncomfortable too.

    It’s demotivating given that a big part of my choosing process seems to be talking to the people in the interview and asking questions.

    And it reinforces the dynamic that the company is deciding and the applicant has no choice.

    You don’t get to meet any of your potential employers or colleagues.

    So how are you supposed to make an informed decision as to whether or not the job suits you?

    If they can’t choose an employee based only on a paper resume, how am I supposed to choose a job from an online description?

    It’s really unfair.

  16. Lisa Hampton says:

    I have never completed the hiring process when I’ve received word that I must do a digital interview. I refuse to do them.

    • I appreciate you sticking to your guns – I just hope you haven’t missed out on a great opportunity. I fear this will be a trend moving forward, a bad one, but one we have to get used to and figure out how best to handle. I don’t think we can just avoid it. – Brian

  17. Kathy Bennett says:

    I totally agree with you, Brian! I ran across your article because I had a bizarre experience a few months ago while looking for a job, and wondered if others had a similar experience. I was working with a recruiter, who was great, and did a thorough job of researching my background and interviewing me via a webinar (we are in different states). His client was interested in interviewing me. It was explained that this first interview would be brief, and that I would be taking some kind of test and would meet with the person who was currently holding the job. I was excited to be able to ask her questions and find out more about the company and the position than what I could find on their website. When I arrived, she set me up on a “speed test” on a computer – I was to answer the questions as quickly as possible – it was logic and math and how quickly I could process information, I assume. Ok, that was fine. Then, she sat down in the room with me and brought out a small recording device, and said she would be recording our conversation for the two owners of the company. This way we would avoid any redundancy IF I were asked to come back to meet with them. Okay… now my radar started to go off. I agreed to the recording, because, why not – let’s see where this goes. I also said I would love to have an opportunity to find out more about the position and her input. She said no, I would not be allowed to ask questions during this session. I could ask questions IF I was invited to come back. She instructed me to then talk about why I thought I would be a good fit for the job, and recorded my monologue. She then said IF I was invited to come back, I would be meeting first with the owner’s wife. I said great! What is her role with the organization? She said, “oh no, she doesn’t work here. But she has a good sense of who might be a good fit to work with Jeff (owner)”. I was then ushered out the door – and on my way out, “Jeff” popped out of his office to introduce himself to me. When the recruiter called me later to say they were interested in bringing me back in for another interview, I politely declined. It was the most unprofessional interview I’ve ever experienced – but gave me enough information to know I had no desire to work there! Interviewing is a two-way street, and companies have to remember that they are also working to attract talent. When they become arrogant and expect job applicants to jump through multiple hoops without showing them what they have to offer, they will not get the best talent – they will only be able to hire someone desperate for employment, who will only stay until they find something better.

  18. Anthony Peter says:

    Hi Brian, just had to do this for a major wall street firm, and for only an internship! I have an onsite interview scheduled now, but this was perhaps the most uncomfortable I’ve felt in a while. For me the biggest issue was that, being alone, my brain had a natural propensity to think “why are you speaking?? shouldn’t thoughts be internal? no one is around?”, so you have to work at keeping verbal momentum in order to keep from sheer silence.

  19. Job Seeker says:

    Told a recruiter I would do a video interview over the weekend, but everything about it just feels wrong, so I’ve stuck with my gut and wrote back saying that I wouldn’t be participating. I don’t want to work for anyone who thinks this acceptable. Just because the technology is available doesn’t make it a good thing. I think more people should reject this technique so it doesn’t become the norm. I have a normal in-person interview with another organisation tomorrow that I’m looking forward to.

    • Well, lets be clear about something – a video interview with a real human being on the other side is totally normal and acceptable. I’m doing them right now for an internship opening we have. The difference here is there is no human on the other side, you are asked a question and record your answer on video — it’s totally automated. A video interview, like on Skype or Zoom, just changes the location of a face to face… a video interview with a automated computer interface, changes the personal interaction. Different things completely. You should take the video interview. – Brian

  20. Hi Brian.
    I am thrilled to have found this post which confirms that I am not alone in my absolute distaste for the one-sided interview (selfiview). Like some others before me, I found it very difficult and awkward talking to myself (with my face staring back at me). It is through human interaction, as in the typical interview process, we are able to watch for gestures, body language, facial expressions…. clues for us to know how to respond and continue or when we have said enough. I need to converse and interact!
    In life we have 3 seconds to make a first impression, it is unrealistic for employers or software companies promoting their product to remotely believe a “GOOD” first impression is remotely possible with this procesd unless of course your career is in acting.
    I exceed the qualifications of the company I applied to, in fact, I sent in my resume at 2:00 a.m. and received the video invitation 8:00 a.m. asking that it be completed soon as they are anxious to fill the position. Well, that was 3 weeks ago, need I say more….
    I am very passionate about the field in which I work and have absolutely no problem with a person to person interview. Unfortunately, I will never get the chance to share my enthusiasm because although I practiced over and over prior to beginning the selfi-view I am sure their first impression of me is that of a wounded deer in headlights. I froze, then I continued as someone rambling endlessly not knowing when to stop.
    If I receive a video interview again, I will respectfully decline and request a person to person interview.
    Thank you for allowing me to share… that felt good.
    Cheryl –

  21. I’m not a vlogger. I’m not an actor. I hate having my picture taken. I hate being on video. I’m so demoralized by this entire process. I thought it couldn’t get any worse than, “In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique. Try to be creative and say something that will catch our eye!”

    Boy, was I wrong.

    I just experienced this type of “interview” request for the first time last week (TWICE) with HireVue and I am disheartened that the process has come to this. I almost didn’t do the first audition tape, but I enjoy the work and need the job, so I did it in my freezing kitchen with harsh lighting and hoped my fridge didn’t make too much noise. I may have felt better if I’d been allowed to review and re-record at least once. Nope. Hit submit and when I checked the next morning the position had been reposted. Great.

    I’m going to pass on the second. I can see the convenience, I suppose, but it felt impersonal during a process that already feels like I’m tossing my well-crafted-for-each-position cover letter and resume into a black hole.

    I have a dear friend of over 30 years who stripped her resume of anything that makes her sound like an ethnic woman and worked on ridding herself of an accent, so that no one knows she’s ethnic until she’s at least had two previous chances to make a good impression with the hope that it’s enough to combat her skin color. This is just bad all the way around.

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