The social dynamics of a job interview are, frankly, bizarre.

On one side of the table, you have a (presumably) qualified candidate wrestling with the anxiety that comes with facing an enormous power imbalance.

On the other, you have a hiring manager who is (hopefully) trying to be objective and find the best person for the job without allowing their biases to influence their decision.

Despite its flaws, the traditional face-to-face interviews remain the most popular way of screening talent. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only option.

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In an ideal world, a job interview would simply be an opportunity for both parties to get to know each other.

There would be no stress. No biases. No pointless questions about “Why are manhole covers round?”

Just a natural conversation where interviewer and interviewee can see if they’re going to be a good fit.

Emerging hiring trends

We might not have reached interview utopia just yet, but Emsisoft is trying.

An all-remote antivirus company headquartered in New Zealand, Emsisoft is one of a growing number of businesses that are eschewing formal face-to-face interviews in favor of text-based interviews.

The interview process involves an informal one-on-one chat with the company’s CEO Christian Mairoll, typically via Skype. Assuming it goes well, there’s a follow-up chat with one of the company’s team leaders.

“Over the years I’ve developed a sixth sense for reading between the lines during hiring interviews. It doesn’t take me long to work out whether a candidate is going to fit our team culture,” says Mairoll.

The interviewers already have a good understanding of a candidate’s technical abilities from their CVs, so the interview questions tend to be focused on soft skills: motivation, communication, organization, and the ability to work independently.

This allows interviewers to get a feel for whether a candidate has the qualities that make an effective remote worker, and if they’ll be a good fit for the team.

Why does Emsisoft choose to stick with text-based interviews? Let’s check it out, and see how other remote companies can benefit from adopting this approach.

1. Reduced stress makes for better hires

No matter how you cut it, job interviews are stressful. In fact, more than 9 in 10 Americans say they fear at least one thing about the job interview experience.

Fear isn’t exactly conducive to a good interview. When you’re feeling anxious, there’s a higher chance that you’re going to fumble questions, communicate poorly, and display sloppy body language — you know, all those critical interview mistakes people tell you to avoid.

That’s bad news for everyone. For candidates, a bad interview means missing out on an exciting new role. For companies, it means missing out on a potentially great employee who didn’t pass the interview due to nervousness.

In comparison, text-based interviews are much less stressful. It’s easy to see why:

  • You don’t have to take a significant amount of time off work for the interview.
  • You don’t have to travel.
  • You can wear whatever clothes you feel most comfortable in.
  • You don’t have to worry about your hair and makeup.
  • You have more time to consider and articulate your responses.

Removing these superfluous concerns makes for a more natural interview environment. Emsisoft has found that interviewees are more relaxed and able to perform better in text-based interviews, which ultimately enables the company to make better quality hires.

2. Minimize unconscious bias

Unconscious bias is what it sounds like: a bias that you’re not even aware of. It happens automatically and without your knowledge, and influences your judgments of people and situations.

How do you hire objectively and resist biases that you don’t even know you have?

You can’t. At least, not completely.

But history shows us that anonymizing candidates can go a long way toward reducing unconscious bias. For example, female musician representation increased 25 percent after symphony orchestras began using physical screens in the ‘70s and ‘80s to conceal a candidate’s identity during auditions.

More recently, Aaron Weyenberg, Director of Research and Development at TED, launched a creative solution to hiring bias with Profile of Dogs, a browser extension that automatically transforms a candidate’s LinkedIn profile picture into a random dog image.

Of course, that introduced all sorts of questions about our inherent biases toward certain dogs (do we consider Labradors harder workers than Poodles? Is a Dalmatian more trustworthy than a Dachshund?) but that’s a conversation for another time…

Text-based interviews work along similar lines, obscuring many of the personality traits that might subconsciously skew your judgment. With no face-to-face meetings or video calls, there’s no way for hiring managers to know a candidate’s age, race, or personal characteristics.

“I can honestly say that traits such as race, age, gender, culture, visual appearance, and disability do not factor into my decision-making process whatsoever,” says Mairoll. “I deliberately don’t ask for that information or any other personal data. It ensures that our hires are as objective as possible and maximizes our chances of picking the candidate who is best suited for the role.”

Stripping back surplus information and reducing candidates to their experience and accomplishments minimizes both conscious and unconscious bias and helps hiring managers make a more objective choice.

It creates a more even playing field for candidates and ensures companies don’t miss out on a great employee by allowing their biases to inform their hiring choices.

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3. Reviewing interviews is easy and efficient

Text-based interviews are also great from an administrative point of view. Depending on the software you use to conduct the interview, the conversation can be automatically recorded and stored in the cloud, which makes it a cinch for management, HR, and anyone else involved in the hiring process to review the interview later.

You can instantly share text-based interviews with anyone wasn’t present at the interview and — unlike audio and video recordings — skim the interview to quickly get to the most salient points. Keeping a record of the interview may also be beneficial form a legal point of view, particularly if your company deals with sensitive information.

Chat your way to stronger hires

The success of any remote company relies heavily on the quality of its hires. Remote companies need to consider how their screening processes affect both interviewers and interviewees.

Text-based interviews aren’t a perfect solution, but they do resolve many of the issues associated with conventional video and in-person interviews. Implementing text-based interviews reduces stress and minimizes bias during the recruitment phase, which ultimately leads to stronger hires.

About the author

Jareth is a freelance copywriter and content writer at Emsisoft. He enjoys long walks on the beach and passionate arguments about the Oxford comma.