Written by Nathan Hewitt

We need to talk about bias and the trouble with video interviews

To find out how to interpret bias in recruitment, we also have a great eBook on inclusive hiring.

And then suddenly the video interview went mainstream! 

Whether it’s Google Meet, Facetime or Zoom, 2020 will always be remembered as the year that video meet-ups went mainstream. It’s how kids kept up their lessons. How their parents hooked up with their personal trainers. It’s where people met up for Friday drinks. And of course, it’s the technology that enabled millions to stay connected to colleagues and clients while working from home. 

And just as video has impacted so many parts of our lives and businesses, it also accelerated the adoption of video tools in contemporary recruiting.

It might be considered the next-best-thing to ‘being there’, but could video interviewing actually be filled with traps that are working against the best interests of recruiters, candidates and employers? 

What is a video interview?

There are two types of video interviews:

  • one-way or asynchronous video interviews – where candidates record their responses to a set of job-relevant questions.
  • two-way video interviews  – using one of the platforms described above or bespoke tools that connect the interviewer (or interviewing panel) in conversation with candidates.


Can video interviews really reduce unconscious bias?

Within both types of video interviews, an ability to reduce unconscious bias is promoted as a key benefit.

Unconscious bias is the sum of the inherent beliefs, opinions, cultural background and life experiences that shape how we assess, engage and interact with others.

There are several ways that video interviewing might help reduce unconscious bias:

  • A consistent experience – With a structured approach to interview questions and process that provides every candidate with the same parameters. A standardised experience for every candidate can be seen to reduce bias.  When questions are set, there’s little or no room for distracting small talk (in two way interviews) that may reveal bias triggers.
  • No geographic or travel barriers – By interviewing all candidates in a location of their choosing, the bias of distance and the effort and expense of travel to attend an interview in person is reduced. 
  • Open the opportunity to more candidates – With the ability to automate video interviews and applications, recruiters can connect with many more candidates, helping to reduce the bias that may see a CV or application ignored or put aside.


The bias problem that’s staring you in the face.

As much as proponents of video screening or interviewing claim it removes bias from the process, by its very nature, the opposite is in fact true. 

As soon as an interviewer or hirer sees a candidate, the blindfolds of bias are removed. No matter how aware or trained in bias the reviewers may be, images and sound can trigger bias. Additionally, it can distract attention from the things that really matter. Here are just a few things that someone talking to the camera will reveal. All possible points of unconscious bias:

  • gender
  • age
  • skin colour
  • cultural background
  • visible disabilities
  • attractiveness or otherwise
  • what people wear – headscarves, religious jewellery, or maybe you just don’t like stripes or the candidate’s personal style
  • the background of the video – are you making judgements about candidates because of their home environment or choice of art on the walls 
  • accents might sound ‘funny’ or strange to your ear
  • candidates may have unusual voices or speech impediments that would not impact their ability to perform in the role 
  • you may negatively associate candidates with other people you’ve worked with or met 
  • the candidate may be highly nervous  about ‘performing’ for the camera, affecting their ability to speak normally and communicate clearly

No rule says you need to see someone to hire them

That’s just a bias (much like the bias pre-Covid) that you need to see someone at work to know that they are doing the work. 

Blind hiring means you are interviewing a candidate without seeing them or knowing them. It’s fair for the candidate and also smart for your organisation. 

If you are hanging your hat on the fact you just finished bias training- research has shown consistently unconscious bias training does not work.  

While we have all been dutifully attending it for years, the truth is the change factor is zero. 

Video interviews vs text interviews. Which delivers blind interviewing at its best?

Sapia’s Ai-enabled, text chat interview platform has been designed to deliver the ultimate in blind testing at the most important stage of the recruitment process: candidate screening. 

Unlike video interviewing, Sapia removes all the elements that can bring unconscious bias into play – video, visual content such as candidate photos or data gathered from social channels such as LinkedIn. Sapia even takes CVs out of the process.

Read: The Ultimate Guide To Interview Automation With Text-Based Assessments

An enjoyable and empowering candidate experience

While being ‘camera shy’ works against many candidates in video interviews, Sapia evaluates candidates with a few simple open, transparent questions via a text conversation.  

Candidates know text and are comfortable using it.  A text interview is non-threatening and candidates tell us they feel respected and recognised as the individual they are. They are grateful for the space and time to tell their story in their words. It’s the only conversational interview platform with 99% candidate satisfaction feedback.

Better hiring outcomes with Sapia

Beyond a more empowering candidate experience, the platform helps recruiters and employers connect with the best candidates faster and cost-effectively. The platform uses Ai, machine learning and NLP to test, assess and rank candidates according to values, traits, personality, communications skills and more. 

Recruiters can gain valuable personality insights and the confidence of a shortlist with the best matched candidates to proceed to live interviews. By removing bias from the screening process Sapia is helping employers increase workplace diversity. 

Find out more about Sapia’s Ai-powered text interview platform. Also, see how we can support your best-practice recruitment needs today. 

To keep up to date on all things “Hiring with Ai” subscribe to our blog!

Finally, you can try out Sapia’s Chat Interview right now HERE > 


Nothing like a crisis to force change 

In AA there is a saying that you only wake up to the need for change when you hit rock bottom. Sometimes it feels like that is our lot in life, to not accept the facts of what’s happening until things get really dire (climate change anyone?).

COVID-19 has been a fabulous disruptor and dispeller of that old myth that people slack off when they work from home and the myth that unless you can see the worker how can you truly know if they are working? Both that old fashioned myth has been killed off but as many of us can feel and see form the experience, we are all working way longer. 

Remote working is a game-changer

We have shared already the reality of ongoing remote work and the real reason why it’s a game-changer for organisations. In one hit your talent pool becomes global or at least more global, and productivity goes up. But only if you recognise that remote work is not b2b zoom meetings. In fact, it’s precisely not that.  

Instead, its about enabling work which requires asynchronous communication

Productivity and flexibility for employees come when we don’t all have to get in a room, virtual or otherwise to do our work. That means communicating in writing, not by video.

There is as strong a ‘bias’ towards having to see someone to hire someone, as there has been to date with having to see someone working in the office to trust they are working. What will it take for that bias to be disrupted?

Suggested Reading:


Read Online

Time for HR to level up

Now is the time for HR to Level Up on Ai literacy 

2020 sucked. For everyone. We were all totally unprepared and many of us just got through it. Yes, it dispelled that long-held myth that ‘I need to see you to trust you are doing the work’ but flexibility is only fabulous when you aren’t surrounded by kids at home 24/7 or under lockdown in a global pandemic. What will 2021 bring and can we be better prepared?

With two massive workforce movements in one year – the forced move to distributed work (we prefer this term to remote work), and Black Lives Matter, HR has to get better prepared in its understanding of the human impact of technology in use, especially Ai.

The innate power of Ai is to uncover patterns in large volumes of data and the data-driven thinking that comes with the adoption of Ai in your processes can challenge human decision making. This is not a bad thing because it allows us to interrupt unconscious biases we inherit thanks to our evolutionary hard-wiring.

Whilst HR technology has evolved, there are many pseudoscientific claims around Ai – almost more than there are genuinely scientifically backed claims. Using the wrong Ai-technology creates a huge legal risk and brand risk for companies, for which HR is ultimately responsible.  Now is the time for HR to step up and educate themselves about which technology is genuinely innovative and moves humanity forward.

The bar must be held high when you are making life-changing decisions on the basis of data.

The work that HR needs to do is:

  • Self-education
  • Self-regulation
  • Use thorough impact assessments looking at the holistic candidate experience, not just the algorithmic components overseen by a joint team comprising HR, legal and cybersecurity
  • Create a guiding framework for making the right decision

The team that needs to do the work ought to be cross-functional including  HR, legal and cybersecurity.

To help HR leaders make smart decisions about these new Ai technologies, we are making available our FAIR™ Framework, a set of measures and guidelines to make sure that both candidates and hiring managers can trust the Ai tools that they use.

Understanding FAIR™ – Fair Ai for Recruitment

Go here to download >

A global standard for the responsible use of Ai in recruitment.

Ai can deliver powerful and better outcomes for recruiters and candidates, but we must ensure that all recruiting Ai is fair.

For hiring managers and organisations, this guide provides an assurance as well as a template to query fairness related metrics of Ai recruitment tools.

For candidates, FAIR™ ensures that they are using a system built with fairness as a key performance metric. This set of guidelines helps HR leaders make smart decisions so they can trust the Ai tools that they use. Here’s the FAIR Framework >

Read Online

AI doesn’t destroy the human-recruiter connection – here’s why

Transcript (Barb Hyman):

We really do not want to lose the human touch.

I think that is what I hear the most when I talk about AI to people: that recruiters, hiring managers, and organizations are terrified that bringing AI in will somehow make them less human as an organization, and that they will lose people as a result.

I actually think that we’ve all been thinking about it in the wrong way. So think about it like this.

Do you really want to be spending all of that really expensive and valuable time and capacity with people that you may not hire? Do you want your leaders or recruiters investing that time?

Of the 30 people that you bring into an assessment center, or the 10 people that you bring through to the phone screen stage – are those really the ones where you want to be investing the human touch?

I don’t think so.

I think where you want to invest and show a crazy amount of love and attention is to those who you want to hire, which is at the point of hire.

That feeling when you get extended an offer and the hiring manager calls you and says, “Wow, we are just so excited that you’re going to join our organization.”

When they say, “What do I need to do to get you across the line?”

That’s when it really matters.

And I think that actually is where companies are doing at the least.

So instead of being worried about the human touch, think about where it matters the most – that it really isn’t something to invest in up until the point of you’ve made your decision.

I’m not saying that you would rely entirely on AI up until that point, but frankly, candidates aren’t looking for it.

They want to get a job and they want efficiency as well.

And the best place, the right place for you to invest in all that human love and attention is on those to whom you’ve actually made the decision to extend them an offer.

Read Online