Imposter Interviewers: When the New Employee is Not the Same Person Who Showed Up for the Video Interview

04 April 2022 Labor & Employment Law Perspectives Blog
Author(s): Rachel Powitzky Steely Maureen M. Stewart

In the movie classic “Good Will Hunting,” the interviewers are shocked and dismayed when Ben Affleck’s character appears at an interview intended for Matt Damon’s character. Based on Damon’s resume and other conversations, the interviewers were expecting a completely different person. What seemed like something that would only happen in Hollywood fiction is now a circumstance that companies find themselves grappling with in real life. 

With the increase in telephone and video interviews, imposter interviewers are becoming more and more prevalent, especially if the position is fully remote. Employers have become increasingly concerned that the individual hired may not be the person who they interviewed.

How can a company be sure the person on the video or telephone interview is actually the individual hired for the position? Protecting a company from retaining the wrong person is tricky given the myriad of immigration and employment laws prohibiting access to personal information prior to offering employment. Below are some considerations to help avoid the stand-in interviewer when conducting video or telephone interviews.

  1. Obtain permission to take a screen shot of the person who attends the interview. If the person does not consent to a picture being taken, the company may end the interview. Company policy should require destruction of the pictures after the company hires an employee for the position.  
  2. After an offer is provided, request a photo or any form of photo identification of the individual for onboarding.
  3. To reduce potential risk, employers could make clear that the purpose of providing identification early on in the interview process is to ensure that the potential new hire and person participating in the interview are one-and-the-same. 

Be wary of discrimination and retaliation issues

A major concern when requiring photographic or other personal identifying information prior to a person starting work is potential discrimination and retaliation complaints. A driver’s license photo provides personal information such as age, health conditions, and nationality. Once the hiring company is made aware of these characteristics, potential employees could claim they were not hired because of discrimination based on one of such traits.

Another discrimination risk arises from the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Department of Justice. This little-known section allows persons to submit claims for discrimination based on a request for citizenship documentation, among other things. IER has ramped up its presence and enforcement in recent years, taking aggressive positions against employers, especially in alleged unfair documentary practices investigations (which is prohibited under the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1324b and with which IER is tasked with enforcing). By asking for identification prior to making a job offer (especially a specific one) IER may claim the employer is discriminating against non-U.S. citizens or violating the prohibition on requesting specific identification when verifying employment authorization. 

As the trend of remote working is on the rise, more and more positions are being filled by applicants interviewing solely over the phone or video. Employers should act now to develop processes to authenticate that the interviewer is actually the individual that shows up for work on day one.

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