Virtual job interviews infected with COVID-19 concerns, new study finds

TORONTO, CANADA – The pandemic-induced boredom, isolation, health fears and financial hardship have been severe enough, not to mention an early shortage of consumer goods.

But for job seekers living in areas hardest hit by COVID-19 deaths, the pandemic has also heightened their anxiety during virtual job interviews held in the first wave, with subsequent reductions in performance, a study of the University of Toronto found.

“Even before the pandemic, interview anxiety was a concern for many applicants,” says lead researcher Julie McCarthy, professor of organizational behavior and human resources management at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management. “With COVID, it’s a big blow because competition for jobs has increased and exacerbated anxiety issues during interviews.”

McCarthy had previously studied anxiety in interviews with a US-based recruiting technology company when the pandemic struck in early 2020. She and her seven co-researchers were given permission to include research questions specific to COVID-19 in post-interview surveys of more than 8,000 candidates applying to nearly 400 organizations in 73 countries using the company’s virtual interview platform.

This is the first study to comprehensively examine the impact of anxiety in real virtual job interviews. Surveys were collected from applicants between late April and early August 2020. Survey responses were compared to applicants’ performance, assessed by the interview platform’s scoring algorithms.

Job applicants who were more concerned about the pandemic during their interviews also reported higher levels of anxiety during interviews and did not perform better than other applicants. The effect was stronger in candidates who reported higher levels of emotional fatigue related to the pandemic. These people, in turn, tended to come from areas that had experienced a higher death toll from COVID-19 and who interviewed later in the study period, meaning they had crossed over. the pandemic longer than those who interviewed earlier in the study period. .

To exacerbate the problems, applicants with higher anxiety levels were also less likely to think the interview was fair and less likely to recommend the organization to others, highlighting an opportunity for companies to ” improve communication and engagement with applicants at the start of an application process. In an age when the best candidates can work remotely from anywhere in the world, says McCarthy, great caution is needed as more companies switch to virtual interviews – over 80% are already doing them – sometimes without the candidate even interacting with a living human being. .

“To be strategic and maximize benefits for the organization, organizations really want to think about how the platform looks from the candidate’s perspective,” she suggests. “If it unnecessarily increases their anxiety, it can artificially reduce their performance when this candidate could be an amazing person on the job.”

And just like with face-to-face interviews in the past, applicants should practice the virtual interview experience before taking action.

Get used to the video camera, ”says McCarthy. “Carry out a mock interview with someone in your network whom you trust. It’s also important to build your confidence level before the interview by thinking about the skills you have to offer and what motivates you to work for this company.

– This press release was originally posted on the University of Toronto’s website, Rotman School of Management

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