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Tape-Recording Job Interviews

Tape-Recording Job Interviews

CC photo courtesy of nrkbeta

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

September 28, 2010

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-maintenence 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?

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