You might be tempted to choose the easier option that doesn’t involve travel or additional expenses. But it may be wise to make the trip: A new study suggests that in-person interviews tend to leave better impressions on both the hiring company and the candidate.
“We live in a world where we increasingly rely on technology, but this study reminds us that personal interactions should never be underestimated,” study co-author Nikki Blacksmith, a doctoral candidate at the George Washington University’s Department of Organizational Sciences and Communication, said in a press release. Blacksmith and her colleagues wanted to see how tools like telephone and video interviewing might affect overall decision making, so they analyzed the findings of 12 studies published between 2000 and 2007.
Their results, published Monday in the journal Personnel Assessment and Decisions, found that overall, technology-mediated interviews resulted in lower ratings—for both parties involved—than face-to-face interviews. Video interviews received the most negative rankings, followed by telephone and computer interviews.
Initially, the researchers assumed that these differences would have lessened over the years, as people became more accustomed to technology in the workplace. But they were surprised to find the opposite: The ratings were actually more negative in the later research. (They do point out, however, that even the most recent study took place seven years ago.)
“Considering the rate at which technology has changed, it is clear that we lack understanding of the modern interview,” the authors wrote.
Senior author Tara Behrend, PhD, director of the Workplaces and Virtual Environments Lab at George Washington University, says the study was not able to determine what, exactly, was wrong with technology-mediated interviews—but does offer a guess.
“On the phone I can’t shrug my shoulders, roll my eyes, wink, or nod my head to show that I understand,” she told RealSimple.com. “That means that the interviewer can easily misinterpret something I say.”
On top of that, she says, taking turns is harder in a video or phone setting. “The chance of accidentally interrupting the interviewer would be much higher,” says Behrend. “If you’re afraid of interrupting, then you might have a long awkward pause instead. Neither option is going to give the perception that you are a strong communicator.”
It’s also difficult to engage in what Behrend calls “impression management”—doing things to make the interviewer like you—when you’re not face-to-face with them. You might not be able to make friendly small talk or show that you’re attentive by smiling and sitting up straight if you’re on the phone or staring into a webcam, she says…