Still Human: What Biases Remain in Virtual Interviews?

Topic(s): Uncategorized

Topic: Staffing, Interviewing
Publication: Computers in Human Behavior
Article: The effects of avatar appearance on interviewer ratings in virtual employment interviews
Authors: Behrend, T., Toaddy, S., Thompson, L.F., Sharek, D.J.
Reviewer: Neil Morelli

On the morning of your big interview you get up extra early to make sure the hair is perfect and the clothes are pressed because let’s face it, first impressions are everything. But what do you do if your interview is online?

In the effort to save time and money on selecting the best candidate, companies have been increasingly turning to new voice and text technologies for conducting interviews. However, the amount of social information that can be exchanged via phone or text is low, so some companies have experimented with the use of online avatars during computer-mediated interviews to help humanize these systems. But, do interviewers regard avatars similarly as real people, and do avatars elicit the same interviewer biases?

Behrend and colleagues conducted a laboratory study where students were asked to view an avatar image while reading a “typical” interview transcript for a retail position. The authors wanted to see if manipulating the attractiveness of the avatar, and whether the gender of the avatar was applying for a stereotypically similar job, had any impact on the perceived performance of the interviewee or the screening decision made by the participant.

The authors found that higher levels of avatar attractiveness were related to both perceived performance and screening decision, but the match between the avatar’s gender to a stereotypical job of the same gender did not moderate this relationship.

As in a real face-to-face interview, human interviewers are still biased by the physical attractiveness of the interviewee, even though the interviewee in this case is digital. As companies turn to using digital avatars to assist online interactions with job candidates, customers, and team members, it’s useful to note that the same biases are still at play. What’s more concerning is that unlike a face-to-face interaction the user can manipulate his or her avatar to an even greater extent to play to these biases—an important point to note when using these avatars in a selection context.

Behrend, T., Toaddy, S., Thompson, L. F., & Sharek, D. J. (2012). The effects of avatar appearance on interviewer ratings in virtual employment interviews. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 2128-2133.

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management




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