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Does it matter if a candidate looks “good” in virtual interviews and on LinkedIn when HR managers make the initial hiring decisions?

LinkedIn vs. Virtual Interviews

Technology-mediated interviews (TMIs), such as videoconferencing and asynchronous interviews, can help both companies and job applicants save time and money in the selection process. The social distance mandates and people’s concerns about the widespread coronavirus during the pandemic have accelerated TMIs’ adoption. While the global economy is getting out of the pandemic, TMIs will likely stay, especially during the initial screening stage, as more companies want to embrace the four-day work week and the remote work trends.

Besides TMIs, more HR managers use job candidates’ LinkedIn profiles to access their qualifications and overall organization fit. It becomes prudent for hiring managers and job seekers to understand how job candidates’ TMI performance and LinkedIn profiles might jointly affect HR managers’ hiring decisions in the real world.

The research

Accordingly, I worked on a project with R.L. Fernando Garcia at SM Hotels and Conventions Corporation in the Philippines and Dr. Yung-Kuei Huang at National Ilan University in Taiwan. We published our work in Tourism Managementanswering two research questions:

RQ1: How do HR managers’ assessments of a job candidate in the first TMI affect their hiring decisions?

RQ2: To what extent do job candidates’ attributes on LinkedIn affect HR managers’ hiring decisions?

The method

We collected the field data from 44 HR managers in a hospitality/real estate firm, who evaluated 400 job candidates’ TMI performance and their LinkedIn profiles in two different timeframes. In Time 1, the HR managers rated their likelihood of advancing a candidate to the next round of interviews immediately after they assessed his/her TMI performance. In Time 2, the HR managers went on to evaluate the job candidate’s LinkedIn profile (unless it did not exist) and rated once again their likelihood of advancing the candidate to the next round of interviews.

The results

Out of the 400 job candidates, only 340 had a LinkedIn profile. Through a series of statistical analyses (exploratory factor analysis and regression analyses), we found that before the HR managers evaluated job candidates’ LinkedIn profiles (Time 1):

  1. Applicants’ virtual presence in TMI was negatively related to hiring decisions.
  2. Applicants’ leadership potential and interpersonal competence were positively associated with hiring decisions.
  3. The positive relationship (influence) between leadership potential and hiring decisions was stronger for those with a better virtual presence than those with a poorer virtual presence.
  4. The positive relationship (influence) between interpersonal competence and hiring decisions was weaker for those with a better virtual presence than those with a poorer virtual presence.

After the HR managers evaluated job candidates’ LinkedIn profiles (Time 2):

  1. HR managers’ hiring decisions became more favorable for candidates with a LinkedIn profile (vs. those who do not).
  2. Having more spelling/grammatical mistakes buffered the positive effect of hiring decisions in Time 1 on hiring decisions in Time 2.
  3. We calculated the overall assessment score for a job candidate’s LinkedIn profile, including job relevance (the extent to which information presented in an applicant’s LinkedIn profile is relevant to the applied job), completeness (the extent to whether an applicant has a completed LinkedIn profile), and information consistency (to indicate the extent to which information shown in an applicant’s LinkedIn profiles support his/her words during TMIs). A favorable overall LinkedIn assessment enhanced the positive effect of hiring decisions in Time 1 on hiring decisions in Time 2.

The Graphic Abstract of the Research Study

The practical implications

Recommendations for HR managers

  • Add “information consistent” to their LinkedIn assessment rubrics, besides “spelling and grammar errors,” “completeness,” and “relevance.”
  • Be more cautious about the negative impacts of a candidate’s virtual presence on TMIs.
  • Combine TMIs and face-to-face interviews to assess a job candidate’s interpersonal competence.
  • Use LinkedIn as an alternative and quick method for background checks.

Suggestions for jobseekers

  • Invest in their physical appearance in front of a camera but not to the extent that HR managers doubt their authenticity.
  • Demonstrate their interpersonal competencies and leadership potential with real examples from their past experience.
  • Ensure their LinkedIn profiles are completed and free of spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Use LinkedIn profiles to showcase the evidence that supports their words during interviews.
  • Highlight the competencies and job experience relevant to the applied positions on LinkedIn.

The conclusion

This study answered the research questions using the data collected from real HR managers and job candidates. Referring to your company’s HR practices or your personal experience either as an HR manager or a job applicant, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the above research findings? For what reasons?


  1. Although we wish to not be judged solely based on appearance, unfortunately our appearance does play a part in our industry. Now, that does not mean employers only look at our appearance, but because of the field we are in, it does play some part. There is a certain appearance certain companies look for when it comes to certain areas of work. In past years, certain piercings, tattoos, or "looks" were not seen as "professional." Due to the times we live in now, a lot of those physical items have become extremely normalized and are encourage to be seen in work places. Many workplaces encourage to express themselves and want employees to embrace who they truly are. While certain fields still have some limitations on those attributes, most companies are fine with them. But I believe one important take away, no matter what someone looks like, is that it does not hinder their ability to do the job or obtain the job. It is extremely important for employers to put looks aside at some point in order to appropriately read and determine if the interviewee is fit for the job. So while yes it does play a part in our industry, it is still really important for employers to put that aside and judge someone based on the content of their work ethic and working style, rather than just what they look like.

  2. I definitely think it matters if a candidate looks “good” in virtual interviews and on LinkedIn when HR managers make the initial hiring decisions. The reason I believe so is because if you put the effort and detail into having a good online presence, profile, and attention to you cleanliness and appearance to me it shows how you will be in a job. Personally I've always shown up to interviews whether it be in person or a virtual one with dress pants/slacks, a belt and button up with dress shoes and a tie. I just think this shows the interviewers that I am serious about my desire for the job and gives insight to my professionalism and work ethic, I can't imagine going to an interview in just a shirt and pants, like casual wear.
    Ayden De Avila HRT 3500 Section #02 Class #74842

  3. With out a doubt, I think that it is crucial that any candidate looked presentable in comparable standards for a virtual interview and on LinkedIn. Although candidates are able to be in the comfort of their own homes, it is still very important to set a good first impression. I believe that you should take a virtual interview as seriously as an in person interview. Even though you are not required to have nice bottoms on, it is still important to present yourself professionally towards those who the individual is asking for a job from. Being able to present yourself nicely to an employer, it would give off a good impression of work ethic, commitment, and effort.

  4. The preparation of a job interview gives insight as to how one presents themselves for a first impression to the hiring managers. I believe it can be the start of learning about a person and viewing them in a positive light if they are seen as presentable. Meeting hundreds of applicants can make it difficult to find those that catch the hiring manager’s attention. However, I don’t think whether an applicant gets hired or not should be based on appearance or whether their profile is really detailed. A lot has to do with dedication to the job and work ethic once they actually are hired for employment.


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