We are often asked why we don’t use Zoom for our initial interviews with candidates. Everyone who cannot interview in person is suddenly obsessed with Zoom. Frankly, we prefer Teams over Zoom, but regardless of your software, we have provided guidance for both hiring managers and candidates to help make the virtual interviews more productive.

Despite the deluge of articles about Zoom, there are strong arguments for choosing a phone call instead of video for your first conversation with a candidate (and these arguments will remain valid long after people can finally return to offices). Let’s outline a few reasons why you might want to start with a phone call in the current remote work environment, and then a few reasons why you might want to continue using the phone even when you can return to your office.

Reasons you might want to interview over the phone right now:

  • Neither party needs to shower or get dressed up to take a call. (OK, maybe I am only speaking for myself here. But give it a few more weeks, and I suspect we’ll be seeing longer hair styles coming back…)
  • Phones work more reliably and consistently than video technology – so it’s less irritating. When you don’t need to futz with the computer, you can jump right into the conversation and focus on what is being said instead of being distracted by how you look, or what’s in the background behind the other person, or the lighting, camera angle, or video lag.
  • It’s easier to find a quiet place to take a phone call than a video call. Not everyone has a good work setup at home, or fast internet speed, or strong Wi-Fi coverage. (Many people are trying to shush their kids or dogs or neighbors just to be able to hear the conversation, and let’s face it, who among us wants to wear headphones when making a first impression?)
  • It’s easier to schedule a time for a call than a video depending on who else is using the internet in your homes, or what the childcare situations might be. A call can be more compassionate.

Reasons why it might make sense to keep using the phone instead of video even after we are all back in our offices:

  • Appearance bias is the most significant consideration. If you want to hire the most capable people who are most likely to succeed, you simply must strive to reduce the impact of issues that are irrelevant to performance on the job. And try as we might, we are all prone to appearance bias. (That said, phone conversations are not entirely free from those concerns, as speech patterns can also lead to hiring bias.)
  • Video can be awkward for many people. Because the phone is far more familiar, people tend to be more relaxed and candid in a phone conversation. They just don’t feel as “judged” in a call, nor as self-conscious. (“I really need a haircut.”)
  • When we are all back at the office, it will be easier for a job seeker to find a private place to take a phone call than a video. You can take it from your car, or slip into an empty conference room without your laptop, etc. The candidate need not dress up for a phone call, and risk raising suspicion from their colleagues if they work in a less formal environment.
  • Candidates who are not actively looking for a job are more much likely to have a conversation when you make it easier for them. So you can expand your potential candidate pool when you remove barriers.
  • With time and practice, video may become more familiar, but Zoom exhaustion is real for many people.

If you plan to continue with video, Dr. John Sullivan offers some sound advice for how to make remote video interviews more effective.