• Melissa Cunningham-Sereque

Spark This: A warning to companies using AVI (Asynchronous Video Interviewing)

When the pandemic started, I said that it would help us find our humanity again. It may be odd to say this, but a good thing about the pandemic is how it forced companies who swore to never let their employees “go remote” to, well, go remote. Now, a societal shift that fast was painful, especially for teachers. The popularity of remote work comes as no surprise, but there is an often-overlooked caveat. Society tends to assume that technology is always the better option.


I began hearing about AVI, asynchronous video interviewing, particularly a brand called “Spark Hire” in Q1 of 2021. One of my clients was told they would be sent a link to "do a Spark Hire video Q&A”. This was the second step in the hiring process after the potential employer reviewed resumes and applications. An acidic ball of anxiety immediately formed in the pit of my client’s stomach as they pleaded, “Oh my god. You HAVE to help me do this video thing where I answer questions on the spot.” No problem. As a matter of fact, I wanted to see how it worked. We arranged a time for me to drive to their home and so I could learn what it was all about.


Being that this client is a high-level IT professional, specifically networking, I rightfully assumed they would have a strong internet connection. A planned hour to hour and a half appointment stretched into over three. After thorough interview prep, staging, testing sound and microphones, and fenagling lamps into awkward positions for a good lighting concept, we were ready to “just do this thang!”.


I watched as Spark’s technology crashed and took my client’s confidence with it. As soon as they got into a good rhythm answering a question, the recording would stop and give an error message advising, “your internet connection is not strong enough to proceed.” What. The. Hell?!


We resituated to the next room over, setting everything up directly on top of the router, in a home with the highest capacity wifi available in an upper-class neighborhood in the heart of my city… and continued to get the error message. We troubleshot everything from switching laptops to cutting off every other wifi-capable piece of equipment in the house. I had to leave for my next appointment, but my client finally got it done about an hour later. We both knew it was not their best work, and it was not their fault. It was also infuriating.


Since then, I have kept track of my clients’ experiences with Spark Hire. I can feel the tension in my chest as I write about this, remembering each client’s story of frustration peppered with fear, sadness, helplessness, and self-loathing. By the end of Q1 2021, companies were struggling to hire. I am writing this as we wrap up Q3 2022, and, though it’s slowing, it is still predominantly a candidate’s market. Now, we can debate the supply of skilled labor or the whole “no one wants to work” bullshit all day long, but those are not accurate causes for “labor shortages”. For those, please refer to my article, “Not Quiet Quitting; Corporate Comeuppance”.

I know AVI’s like Spark Hire seem shiny and pretty, but they are not the timesaving, cost-saving vehicle you think they are. Here are just a few of the issues that I would like to scream into the void:

  1. STOP using recruitment tools and interview questions that have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the positions you are hiring for!! Clients that have been asked to use AVI include bank tellers, internal operations managers, accountants, and nursing/medical school applicants. None of these applicants would EVER be required to “act on camera” for their job. It would be like asking the fabulous plumber we hired during our historic home renovation to show off her tap-dancing skills as part of the vetting process. THE TWO HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER!!

  2. AVI is NOT the same as video teleconferencing. Asynchronous is one way. Media Training exists for a reason. As someone who has been thrown in front of a news camera for a sound bite or two over the years, I have had Media Training and STILL struggle in those interviews. The term “camera shy” exists for a reason.

[[Will & Grace opening scene, Season 4 Episode 4]]

  1. Stop messing with people’s incomes and your employer’s money. In addition to my clients who have reluctantly gone forward with the AVI session, there are just as many who have completely walked away from that potential job after being asked to do an AVI. Candidates are human beings seeking employment so they can feed, house, and care for themselves and their families. Recruiters, hiring managers, and HR people tend to forget about the human behind the resume the minute they, themselves get a job. There is a competitive market for candidates, especially good candidates, who are removing themselves from your hiring process, and I am happily helping them do it. The longer it takes you to hire, the more costly for the employer. There are multiple studies showing the exorbitant cost of turnover, but my favorite is from SHRM that determined the cost to replace one nurse (salary + employment fringe costs for 1 year = $75,00) was $40,000.

  2. It is somewhat, if not blatantly, discriminatory, and I hope someone sues the crap out of them. As long as AVI technology like Spark Hire requires high-speed, high-capacity internet access, the employer (hiring entity) is limiting their recruitment scope. Good candidates can also be economically disenfranchised and/or live in rural areas with poor service. Even if a job requires a bachelor’s degree, college students are broke! Access to AVI tech, or lack thereof, disproportionately effects people of color, bilingual candidates, and first-generation college students. America loves an underdog, especially those in a family who are the “first” to achieve something. It’s hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps when someone has made the boots unnecessarily inaccessible. And remember, if good home internet service is NOT a requirement to do the job, why is it a requirement in the hiring process? #TapDancingPlumber

  3. Bad PR. Recruiters, hiring managers, and HR people do not seem to realize that they are one of the most important marketing tools for the brands they represent. They have humans clamoring for direct interaction at a requested volume that salespeople would kill for. Almost daily, a client mentions applying to a company and “hearing nothing back”. I tell them to remember that when a salesperson from that company calls them at their new job trying to get contracted as a preferred vendor. Cue the scene from Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts walks back into the boutique and says those famous lines, “Big Mistake. Huge”.

  4. Unconscious bias. There is a term from social psychology called “the Halo Effect”. It’s a cognitive bias that influences our opinion of someone based on favorable traits. Simply put, we like pretty people, youthful-looking people, well spoken people, and so on. It is a waste of the recruiter’s, company’s, and candidate’s time to use an AVI where the candidate is not able to present themselves at their best. Interviews are already uncomfortable situations in civil society. With AVI, you may be unnecessarily adding frustrating elements such as making a candidate learn a new technology at a moment’s notice. Not to mention bias against candidates based on age, race, gender, etc.

  5. Eliminating the social contract. A “gate-keeper” could decide they don’t like a candidate after the first answer and stop watching the AVI. In reality, most candidates don’t reach any level of comfort until at least the third question. Could you imagine sitting across the table in an in-person interview where the interviewer asks one question and says, “Ok. Goodbye. Can you see yourself out?” Like a bad first date, I totally understand cutting interviews short when you know it is not a good fit. But AVI allows for recruiters’ impatience to easily overtake their better judgement and cut a good candidate before learning they are a good candidate.

  6. Why so contemptuous? I understand the value in trying to improve and streamline hiring processes. But I am saddened by a stereotypical contempt that tends to ooze from professionals responsible for hiring. I know #NotAllHRManagers. Unfortunately, those same people are often the target of everyone else’s rage – blamed by overworked staff having to cover extra shifts, a manager who is “down a man” when that manager probably ran them off in the first place, or budget managers blocking them from offering the competitive offers needed to acquire talent. In a culture where capitalism is king, we can shift attitudes toward hiring from nuisance to an adventure seeking a company’s most valuable assets.

  7. Eliminating the social contract. A “gate-keeper” could decide they don’t like a candidate after the first answer and stop watching the AVI. In reality, most candidates don’t reach any level of comfort until at least the third question. Could you imagine sitting across the table in an in-person interview where the interviewer asks one question and says, “Ok. Goodbye. Can you see yourself out?” Like a bad first date, I totally understand cutting interviews short when you know it is not a good fit. But AVI allows for recruiters’ impatience to easily overtake their better judgement and cut a good candidate before learning they are a good candidate.

  8. Why so contemptuous? I understand the value in trying to improve and streamline hiring processes. But I am saddened by a stereotypical contempt that tends to ooze from professionals responsible for hiring. I know #NotAllHRManagers. Unfortunately, those same people are often the target of everyone else’s rage – blamed by overworked staff having to cover extra shifts, a manager who is “down a man” when that manager probably ran them off in the first place, or budget managers blocking them from offering the competitive offers needed to acquire talent. In a culture where capitalism is king, we can shift attitudes toward hiring from nuisance to an adventure seeking a company’s most valuable assets.


I am simply asking companies, decision makers, and hiring personnel to think more strategically about technology in their hiring processes. If you don’t have people, you don’t have a business. It may be hard to hear, but it’s okay for poorly run companies to fail. A society that champions corporate competition should also champion more robust social policies and funding to support workers who become collateral damage in its the wake. Some of you older folks may remember a quote from Margaret Thatcher, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”. As we have seen from the pandemic, the Great Resignation, and the Great Reallocation, I would offer, “The problem with capitalism is that eventually you run out of other people.”


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