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Friday, September 24, 2010

should you tape-record job interviews?

A reader writes:

I have two related questions that I'd be interesting in getting your take on:

First, is it common for interviewers to record the interview so others can listen to it who would be affected by the hire but were unable or uninterested in interviewing? Would that be helpful, do you think, to the hiring process, or just nerve-wracking?

Also, do you think it would be considered weird for a person coming in to be interviewed to request to record the conversation? After all, these are two parties discussing a possible partnership, so it seems reasonable that someone being interviewed should record the conversation. But again, would that be helpful for candidates trying to determine which offer to accept?

First, on interviewers recording the interview: It's definitely not common; I've never heard of it being done, in fact, although I'm sure that somewhere out there, some company is doing it. And probably making many of their candidates significantly more nervous in the process.

On the question of the candidate asking to record the interview: First, let me note that I'm answering this in terms of how employers are likely to react, not necessarily how they should react, so I don't want anyone haranguing me in the comments about how I should be more accommodating of a perfectly reasonable request from a candidate.

The reality is, I think it would make most employers very, very uncomfortable, since they'd worry the intent was adversarial in some way -- i.e., the candidate thought they might do something illegal and wanted to capture that on tape (or simply use the the presence of the tape recorder to deter it), or use the recording later to say "you said the job would include X, Y, and Z, and never mentioned I'd also be doing W."  

Unfortunately, while there could be a perfectly innocent motivation to ask to record -- the one you suggest -- it's so outside the normal range of interview behavior that asking it would be close to announcing, "I'm litigious and/or high maintenance."

And even though the majority of employers have no intention of screwing you over, legally or otherwise, they'd still worry about this, because no one wants to hire an adversarial, litigious, or high-maintanence employee.

(I suppose someone might have a disability for which recording for later playback was a useful accommodation, but that's about the only time I can see most employers being comfortable with it.)

In both of the cases you ask about -- the employer recording or the candidate recording -- I think it's one of those things that might be reasonable and useful in theory but is so far outside the convention of what's normally done that it would be very hard to do it without making people uncomfortable. Sort of like how it might be useful if you could ask your boyfriend if you can record your break-up conversation so you can reflect on it later, but it would likely make him think you were slightly crazy.

Anyone ever try asking to record an interview?


Anonymous said...

I've never tried to ask, but I just wanted to mention that it may be quite legal to simply record the interview for your personal benefit without consent, depending on your state of residence. In the past I've explored this issue with regards to recording other interactions, such as personal or professional conversations, and in my state the consent of the other individual is not always required.

If you choose to go that route, place the recorder in an out-of-sight location such as coat pocket or briefcase and you shouldn't cause too much trouble.

Anonymous said...

What would be the purpose?

I can see if you wanted to work on your interviewing skills. But you can go to a career counseling place to work on that part of your job search.

But what if you're offered the job, and, like what AAM wrote, if you realize you'll be also in charge of "W" when you thought it would only be "X, Y, and Z?" Now if you record without permission, how are you going to prove then that they lied or misrepresented something?

While you are asking a question, you have a few questions to answer on ths matter.

Wilton Businessman said...

Sorry, but my "weirdo" alarms would be going off if a candidate asked to record an interview.

Charles said...

More than "weirdo" alarms going off - Depending on the state, trying to record a conversation without permission could be illegal.

Let's say that the hidden recorder gets discovered by the other party . . . Explain that!

Further, there is NO valid reason to record my interview as a job seeker. None!

The claim that there might be someone who wasn't able/interested in attending the interview tells me that this employer doesn't realize that interviewing is a two-way street. This is a major red flag that this will be a bad employer.

Any employer who asked to record my interview as a job seeker is one where I would get up and walk out of the interview.

Jamie said...

I have to say I would also be concerned that the reason for the taping would be to file a claim if the job wasn't offered.

Not to say there might not be more innocent reasons, but it would be a red flag for me.

I have no problem, however, with people jotting down notes in an interview - I've done it myself during final interviews where the specifics of the job (duties, benefits, etc.). It's helpful if you're interviewing for several positions and to make sure the key points discussed are included properly in the offer letter - should one be forthcoming.

But recording on either side would be weird to me and make an already stressful situation even more tense.

Joey said...

I had someone ask to do this once and my immediate reaction was to make a mental note of all of the protected categories they fell into. This person didn't want to be distracted by note taking. When I told them i expected them to ask questions about the job at the end of the interview they realized it would be easier to do that with written notes instead of relying on memory or prolonging the interview by reviewing their recording.

Anonymous said...

"And even though the majority of employers have no intention of screwing you over, legally or otherwise..."

AAM, you've been in this business HOW long and you still believe that?????

Ask a Manager said...

I do! I certainly know there are plenty of awful, unethical employers, but they're not the majority.

GeekChic said...

I've accommodated a request to tape record a job interview once when I was in a hiring position. The candidate had severe motor disabilities and could not use their hands and asked to either use a tape recorder or have a note-taker accompany them. I told them that either was fine and that they should use whichever made them most comfortable (they chose the tape recorder).

The interview went fine and the candidate sent me a copy of the tape afterward. They were not successful at the time but were successful at another business in the area using the same technique.

I have never had an interview recorded as a job seeker (to my knowledge) and never had it asked of me.

Kimberlee Stiens said...

OK, I can see why it might be weird, but all this talk about how it would be a total red flag if a company wanted to record the interview if you were the job seeker? That just seems excessive.

I mean, the comment about how if an interviewer wants to record the convo means they don't understand that interviewing is a two-way street? Does every company have the opportunity to have all interested parties participate in interviews? Keep in mind most places will screen at least 5 people for any given position, and lets say its a half hour interview. With only three interviews, that's still 7 1/2 of total labor when you could have had two people review the resumes, write down questions the interviewer should ask, and then send in one interviewer.

I'm not saying its how interviews are or should be done. But the idea that an employer who does that is somehow showing itself to be a horrible employer is kinda silly. Walking out on such an interview seems to be extreme overkill.

Anonymous said...

My government employer tapes interviews as well as the discussion interviewers have between candidates. I'm told it has to do with school districts, unions, and legal stuff.

I personally don't care if they tape me. They can hear me, after all. If they want to hear me again, um, okay.

Anonymous said...

As an employer, even if I could overcome the legal concerns, I would assume the candidate was incapable of making a decision without taking such extreme measures. In other words, that the candidate is not qualified for the job. Someone who needs to listen and re-listen to a conversation before they can take action or make a decision is not someone I'm interested in hiring.

Anonymous said...

A state employer I interviewed with tape recorded every interview. I interviewed in three different regions for three different jobs and they made three different recordings.

As this was a seasonal firefighting position, I believe that they may have been under a Federal consent decree (like so many city fire depts were in the 90's) to boost female and minority hiring, but I don't really remember.

When the interview was officially over, they turned off the tape recorder and gave me some honest in-depth answers to some of my questions, not just the boiler plate responses you got when the stupid thing was on.

Anonymous said...

No-one is concerned this recording could fall into public domain? I can picture Youtube interviews being linked on under company names...

GeekChic said...

"As an employer, even if I could overcome the legal concerns, I would assume the candidate was incapable of making a decision without taking such extreme measures." Wow. Spoken by someone who has never had (or apparently known) anyone with a disability. I hardly think a tape recorder qualifies as an "extreme measure".

"No-one is concerned this recording could fall into public domain?" As an employer who agreed to a tape recorded interview, why should I have been worried? I would have been perfectly comfortable displaying my interview style and questions to the public. Then again, I'm comfortable with my salary being public so maybe I'm different....

Guess I just don't see what's so scandalous about a tape recorder.

Kimberlee Stiens said...

I think that, however you feel about the recording thing, making a hiring decision based on it is a mistake. To me, someone recording the interview implies that they are thorough and detail-oriented. But to that other guy, I guess, it makes him feel like they're stupid. Would you really want to risk being wrong, when you could base your hiring on... I don't know... their qualifications?

fposte said...

I don't *ever* want to hire someone based solely on their qualifications. I need them to demonstrate that they can fit into the human mix here more than I need most resume credentials.

And such a request would cast some light on the human mix question, so it would indeed be relevant. For one thing, there's a big difference between asking such a thing when the interview is being offered and just pulling out a tape recorder when we're meeting you for the first time, regardless of the reason. If you spring a surprise on me at the interview, it's not going to impress me. (And we're a two-party consent state, so you would indeed need to have our consent.)

Dawn said...

As a manager, I would see it as a red flag if someone wanted to record the interview. It would give me the impression that the person would use the recording in some way to say that we either discriminated in some way, didn't deliver what was promised, etc. I would think the person, when hired, would be someone who keeps details on every actual or perceived wrong-doing by the employer.

I suppose I feel this way, because I have come across a lot of people in my lifetime that feel they need to keep detailed logs of interactions with their manager, just in case they need to bring a lawsuit. For example, if he/she was late for work multiple times and was reprimanded, that conversation would be logged "just in case." Or, if the manager asked that person to do something he didn't consider to be part of his job, it was logged.

Kimberlee Stiens said...

@Dawn: To be fair, that's what managers do. They document things because they don't want to be accused of discrimination, and they want to create documentation to back up a firing. I get really sick of people on the one hand saying that employment is a two-way street, that it is a business agreement between two parties, but then they start with all the things its OK for a manager to do during an interview but that if a prospective employee does, its a "red flag."

Ask a Manager said...

Kimberlee, I think that goes back to the original point I was making in the post: Something can sound fair and reasonable in theory, but if it happens to be totally contrary to our conventions in that area, it'll come across as odd/difficult/alarming a lot of times. I'm not saying that's right, but it's human nature.

Now, I'm a big believer that people should challenge "traditions" that are unfair, but job seekers -- who want something the employer has -- need to decide what battles are worth fighting, and what they're willing to lose to do it. I'd argue that being able to record an interview without the employer thinking bad things about you isn't one of those important battles.

Kimberlee Stiens said...

Yeah, I understand. I just wish that interviewing were less about tradition, you know? I mean, I understand that most of the time it can't be, because those traditions allow employers to learn things about prospective employees quickly, to allow them to focus their time on other things. I'm sure you agree that it just gets frustrating at times.

Ask a Manager said...

Absolutely! And I'm among the first to say that there's a double standard for employers and employees.

One thing I struggle with on this blog sometimes is that I want to advise people what WILL work, rather than what SHOULD work. And then someone (not you) will inevitably interpret it as me advocating for that system, when in fact I just want to put people on the fastest path to achieving whatever their goal is. What will work and what should work are so often different things.

cherylb said...

I HAVE had my entire job interview recorded. I was told it was their standard practice. I got that job. I never liked or trusted that employer (for many reasons, not just that he taped the interview.)

iris n. said...

In my opinion, the only reason that an interviewer may ask to tape-record an interview is so that they will have the opportunity to re-listen to it if they choose to, at a later time. Or, they could be asking for outside opinion regarding interview decisions.

Someone mentioned below that if an individual was to tape-record an interview, they should just place it in an out-of-sight location and to do it discreetly. However, I don't think that's too wise. The individual is probably taping, so that if there are any conflicts in the future, as to what was mentioned or promised or agreed upon at that meeting, they will have some sort of way to protect themselves. However, if they had recorded the meeting without the other party being aware of this, I'm sure this might cause a lot of problems when the time comes to reveal the tape in the future. If anything, its better to be upfront, or to simply not do this at all. Gosh, its not some sort of "interview feedback" session!

Unless its for legal reasons, as mentioned by some of the comments below, then there really is no reason to tape-record anything.