Bias in Video Interviews: Why Your Zoom Background Matters

Topic(s): fairness, selection
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior
Article: Bias in the background? The role of background information in asynchronous video interviews
Authors: N. Roulin, E.-R. Lukacik, J. S. Bourdage, L. Clow, H. Bakour, P. Diaz
Reviewed by: Grace Cox

In the age of modern technology and distance workers, there has been an increase in the use of asynchronous video interviews (AVI) for hiring. Employers send a list of questions to a potential employee, and the candidate records a video of their responses. These interviews have many advantages, such as their structured nature, and their ability to be faster, cheaper, and more flexible than traditional interviews.

One of the biggest concerns with employment interviews is the possible introduction of bias into the decision-making process. Generally, less bias is found when using structured interviews – or utilizing an established set and order of questions for each candidate. However, the authors of this study (Roulin et al., 2023) wondered if AVIs may introduce a new source of bias not typically experienced with structured interviews. More specifically, information in the background of the applicant’s video may lead to bias, whether consciously or not.


To test this, the authors conducted a three-part experimental study looking at the effects of background details containing information about the applicant’s parental status, sexual orientation, and political party. This information is particularly sensitive as it is not currently protected information in all 50 states. For each study, the researchers recruited between 220-280 participants who had previous hiring experience and had them rate simulated applicant videos in which the background information was manipulated between conditions. Participants rated the applicants on their overall interview performance, their potential work performance in the role, and perceived warmth and competence.

Researchers found that, out of all the conditions, parental status and political affiliation had the biggest impact on participant ratings. Parents were perceived to be higher in warmth, and overall were evaluated more positively than non-parents. If the rater agreed with the political affiliation displayed in the background information of the candidate, they rated them more positively on all measures. On the other hand, if the rater disagreed with the political affiliation of the candidate, they provided lower scores on all measures.


Overall, for those participating in an AVI, results from this study show that they should be aware that the information presented in the background may affect how they are scored on the interview. They may consider opting for a clean or neutral background.

For organizations that utilize AVIs in the interview process, it may be worth investing in bias awareness and reduction training. This will ensure that video background information is not unintentionally causing them to miss out on great candidates.



Roulin, N., Lukacik, E., Bourdage, J. S., Clow, L., Bakour, H., & Diaz, P. (2022). Bias in the background? the role of background information in asynchronous video interviews. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 44(3), 458–475.

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