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I have realized that there could be some real advantages from using a tape recorder in interviews as I look for a new job. Some of the reasons I feel it would be worth recording the interviews are:

  • I can go back after the fact and see where I messed up, both to improve my interviews with other companies as well as to address issues if there is a follow up.
  • I have seen other questions here on The Workplace about companies asking inappropriate questions and this would provide proof of the act if this happens to me.
  • I know you are suppose to get any job offer in writing before accepting it but recording a verbal offer would allow me to react to it on the spot if necessary with proof of the original offer should I later find that they reduced the salary/benefits/etc.

Could there be any repercussions should the company I am interviewing with somehow find out that I have a concealed recorder on my person? I live in Ohio, United States.

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We can't comment on the legality of something like this. You need to ask a lawyer in your country. However, it is immoral to record someone without telling them - I believe it would fall under wiretapping laws. –  Oded Jan 17 '13 at 12:05
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@Oded I have edited the question to remove questions of legality. –  Paul Brown Jan 17 '13 at 12:15
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There is no way to seperate the legal issue from this question. There are federal statutes that involve recording voices with out either consent of the recorded or permission from the court. There are exceptions if the interview happens in a public place (like a coffee shop or food court). But even here if your intent is to use it for evidence if asked something inappropriate then this goes back to a legal question. If you wanted to ask in what way would it be acceptable to use a recorder in an interview(leaving out concealed) I think it would be ok. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 17 '13 at 14:25
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Interviewer: Good morning, tell me about yourself. You: (sweat trickles down your forehead) Well, I uh.. Interviewer: You seem...nervous... You: Oh, yea, uh, not really... Interviewer: Are you wearing a wire!? Boys get him! Boys: He's wired, boss! Interviewer: Time for a little drive out to the desert... (Granted, this is maybe only if you are applying at a mob-run casino or something...) –  DA. Jan 17 '13 at 20:14
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Besides the potential illegality in some jurisdictions, it's simply bad form to record someone without their knowledge. Why not simply say "I'd like to record this so I can analyze and improve my interview performance. Is that okay?" –  Glen_b Jan 17 '13 at 22:39

9 Answers 9

up vote 17 down vote accepted

The Golden Rule is as good a litmus test as any here - would you want to be secretly recorded? I certainly wouldn't. Recording someone without their consent violates their trust, if nothing else. Particularly when even one of the motives is to use the recording as evidence when they've said something you perceive as wrong.

2 out of 3 of your points are about your concerns that the company will in some way behave in a way that either compromises your rights or is directly opposed to your best interests. I'd offer the idea that starting an interview process with a company with the expectation that you are likely to be screwed over is probably about the worst way of preparing for an interview that I can think of - as Rachel points out, the non verbal cues can be as much a part of the interview as anything you can record on audio. There are some very distinct non-verbal cues when you distrust a situation and they often make a person appear untrustworthy. Unless you happen to be a phenomenal poker player, you'll have a tell.

On this one, I'd recommend two things:

Practice Interview:

If you want to improve your interviewing technique, get a friend or collegue to interview you and record it (on video) openly. For most people, the recording process will add to your nerves, mitigating any comfort you might have experienced from interviewing with someone you like and trust. Get their feedback and watch the video.

Then you're not breaching anyone's trust and you finding your own good pointers.

Performing artists do similarly quite frequently and with very good outcomes.

Address your Trust Concerns Other Ways

I generally approach an interview with a thought of "what's the worst that can happen?" The worst is really that I don't get the job. So what? There's a lot of jobs out there, and I can guarantee that fighting your way into making an organization hire you is not going to be nearly as good an outcome as finding a job that wanted to hire you in the first place.

You could say that the "worst" is that you will quit a good job and have the new, verbal offer retracted. But most people buffer this with actual paperwork. If you give me a verbal offer and I verbally accept - most sides will understand that the acceptance is still conditional on having a paper offer. Don't quit your job until you have the paper and we're back to the final outcome being that you still have the job you always had, you just don't have a new (on paper) job offer.

Of note, at least in US - a paper job offer will cover you for unemployment benefits if the paper offer is later retracted. I couldn't even hazard a guess whether a voice recording of a verbal offer would stand up to the same legal scrutiny.

In cases where the risk is low, I can always see my way to being a lot more trusting.

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"Unless you happen to be a phenomenal poker player, you'll have a tell." - Not true, there are plenty of great liars who learn to modify their non-verbal communication. There is no way to reliably tell if a skilled liar is lying or not, other than by checking against verifiable information. –  Mark Rogers Jan 17 '13 at 22:23
    
Are you saying that skilled liars would not also probably be phenomenal poker players? –  bethlakshmi Jan 18 '13 at 16:05
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Lying and poker playing are different skills, poker playing also requires an innate understanding of poker probability spreads as well as reading other people's tells (which is separate from deceiving), though I think being a good player is more of the former than the latter. But I get your point, my points are a little pedantic. I had just read some random items on the problems of uncovering deception, so I was eager to comment. –  Mark Rogers Jan 18 '13 at 16:07
    
I decided to keep the answer light rather than saying "a great liar" largely to hope that people keep an open mind about the main point - MOST of the world, particularly the (I hope) larger population that isn't trained or naturally skilled at lying, tends to emit some non-verbal cues when they are practicing deception. The goal of the post was to raise this as a point of awareness and a factor towards considering that the deception itself can cause interview problems. –  bethlakshmi Jan 18 '13 at 16:11
    
Fair point, I guess it's all moot now anyway. –  Mark Rogers Jan 18 '13 at 16:12

The real problem is that not only is this method is both likely to result in "friction" with an employer, it doesn't work.

Any one of a number of things can send up an employer's red flags, ranging from:

  • first impressions (he looks like the asshole we just fired!)
  • handshakes (what a limp fish!)
  • posture during the interview (who the hell puts their hands together like THAT?!)
  • after-interview conversations with other staff members, who make your otherwise passable performance and make it look terrible

None of these issues I just mentioned are likely to turn up on a recording of your in-person interview.

Now, note that I said "in-person" -- you probably CAN get away with recording a phone interview somehow (I conduct mine on the computer, for example), and since the entire conversation is conducted through voice alone, you'll be reasonably certain you've captured the full breadth of the interview.

Honestly? I wouldn't do it unless you've either noticed:

  • there is a "turn-off" point in your interviews where the hiring manager suddenly loses interest
  • you've been asked inappropriate questions in the past already
  • there is some other rational reason to believe this company has been less than honest in dealing with you in the past.

Note that this is a separate question from legality -- this is a question of the effectiveness of your efforts, and my general sense is that unless you already know you have a problem that recording will solve (as opposed to the idea that such a thing MIGHT be useful if something happens), you're likely just working yourself up over nothing that's going to be useful.

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Could there be any repercussions should the employer somehow find out that I have a concealed recorder on my person?

In general, people don't like to feel manipulated or taken advantage of - should they find out you were recording them (without their permission) they will almost assuredly feel both.

Additionally, if you are bringing such recording device on tours of the facility you inadvertently will record conversations from employee normal work. This will make any interviewer very annoyed (even if this doesn't happen, the mere thought will really upset a lot of manager types, and rightly so). This probably causes additional legal concerns not addressed so far.

But, even ignoring all the legal considerations, if you are caught recording without permission, I would fully expect you to be:

  • Not offered the job. You are showing disrespect at the very least by not asking permission. Interviewers (and people) don't like to be disrespected or taken advantage of.
  • Probably upset/annoy those interviewing you.

Oh, and another note: many places, especially government, have very specific policies about these sorts of things.


That being said, I don't see any reason why asking about this ahead of time would be problematic if you articulate your reasoning (note: your 2nd and 3rd reason are NOT likely to be good reasons) more of the following:

  • "I want to be able to consider the things we talk about and not miss any details"
  • "I have specific questions I want to make sure I can focus on during the interview without being distracted with writing them down"
  • "I also like being able to review my interviewing performance to continue to improve"

I think it will both show initiative to the interviewers as well as be a much less intrusive way to record an interview.

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Ohio, like most states, has a one-party consent law. That means only one party has to know about the recording. I've worked places that don't allow any recording devices in the building due to classified information, but that's a special case. Whether you should do it is an entirely separate question.

I, personally, would have no issue with someone secretly recording an interview to improve his interviewing skills. When I interview someone, I find it useful to assume I'm being recorded anyway. At companies who have been hit with unsubstantiated lawsuits before, it wouldn't surprise me if they are recording you.

I would think long and hard about using a recording for anything other than self-evaluation, though. The reason you have a written contract is because verbal ones are problematic. Maybe someone spoke out of turn about salary, making a promise they weren't authorized to keep. Maybe an interviewer had no ill intentions when accidentally asking an inappropriate question during small talk. You want your relationship with your employer to be cooperative, not adversarial. I would say any other use than self-evaluation should be serious enough that you run it by an attorney first. In other words, be very sure before you burn any bridges.

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Just be warned, states like MA you need both parties to consent otherwise you could get arrested/sued. –  skynorth Jan 17 '13 at 18:25
    
Good point. Also California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. –  Karl Bielefeldt Jan 17 '13 at 18:29

It is not OK to use a concealed recorder at an interview. There are legal and moral issues, which others have somewhat addressed, but there is also the issue of what it does to your interview and job prospects if discovered.

And what it does is end them - not because you want a record of what happened, but because it is a lie by omission. You are deliberately withholding information from a prospective employer.

There is also no reason to do so -- simply state that you will be recording the interview for later review. If they object, you probably don't want to work there anyway.

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There are certainly some moral and legal issues to consider (though you would have to consult a lawyer in order to get correct advice regarding the legality of what you are suggesting).

On the assumption that this is illegal in your area (and I believe it is illegal in some states in the US), you may end up on the receiving end of a lawsuit (or two - civil and criminal). There are also moral implications to recording people without their knowledge.

Consider how a prospective employer would react if they found out that the interview was recorded without their knowledge - at the least they would believe that you are paranoid and that this shows lack of judgement - so, chances are good that if discovered you wouldn't get the job.

Recording people without their knowledge is immoral, in my opinion. People do not usually expect to be recorded, in particular not in a normal situation like an interview. Recording them without their consent or knowledge for the purpose of later using the recording to your advantage "against" them is simply the wrong headed.

If you want to record the interview, you should ask the people involved if this is OK with them. Chances are good that they will not have a problem and you would still gain the protections you seek without any of the legal and moral liabilities.

Several of your points can be addressed by using a pen and pad and recording the main points of the interview during the meeting. All of them, if the other parties are willing to sign your minutes.

Of course, both acts of recording and getting minutes signed are highly unusual and will get you noticed - not in a good way.

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On the question of legality, according to www.rcfp.org it is legal in 38 of the 50 states, and Ohio is one of the states where it is legal. –  Paul Brown Jan 17 '13 at 12:30
    
@PaulBrown - Fine, though you really should consult a lawyer. It is still a legal issue in 12 other states, for the benefit of others with this question. –  Oded Jan 17 '13 at 12:31
    
@Downvoter - care to comment? –  Oded Jan 17 '13 at 15:00
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I downvoted as well, I can explain why since you asked: - You 'assumed' it was illegal without doing any research - You say that if an employer finds out that they were being recorded without their knowledge they may find you paranoid, but then you suggest to ask the employer for permission which would be considered very paranoid or at the very least very strange and unusual. Suggesting to write notes is ok, but suggesting to then have them signed is also very strange and unusual. The moral issues are not explained, your answer is mostly based on the legality aspect that you just 'assumed' –  Andreas Bonini Jan 17 '13 at 15:16
    
The funniest suggestion I ever saw on this board. Signing on the minutes is like saying "Please sue me.". –  scaaahu Jan 19 '13 at 12:55

There are still legal issues that will supersede state law: Government locations, and contractor locations (even at the state or local level) may post a sign forbidding the use of recording equipment. In fact they can even forbid you from bring your phone into the building. If caught your phone/recorder could be confiscated until it can be inspected.

Asking for permission does give them an opportunity to protect themselves by also recording the interview. The fear would be that you were trying to trap them. There have been questions on this site regarding inappropriate questions and topic during interviews. Without a recording it will boil down to a disagreement over what was said. The companies lawyers would prefer that both sides had a recording, instead of the person suing them having the only recording.

An additional risk from the companies perspective is that you viewed the interview as a training event. They might believe you didn't take it seriously, and they just wasted their time with you.

I would be hesitant to use this method. You might be better off trying to get a friendly hiring manger or recruiter to give you advice.

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As an (frequent) interviewer I can state the following

  1. If you were to record our interview without telling me and I find out later, you will not only not get hired and you will also end up on the company's "do not hire" list.
  2. If you asked to record the interview with the reasons stated, I would refuse (mainly for confidentiality concerns, I really don't like tip toeing confidential information). It would be your choice to walk or continue without the recording. Even if you chose to continue, the chances of being hired would be slim at best. I have no use for people that don't believe in mutual trust.

The whole point of the interview is to find out whether this position is a fit for you. If you (or the interviewers) can't picture yourself being happy, productive, and growing in this job, it's a no-go. The recording device clearly shows strong distrust of the potential employer.

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Your answer is the same as mine in principle. Thus, I am upvoting. –  scaaahu Jan 23 '13 at 6:07

I am going to answer this question from the OP's perspective, putting the legal and the moral issues aside.

Recording interview is not a good idea.

The OP states three reasons he wants to do that.

If the second and the third case happen, the mutual trust between you and your potential employer is gone. The best thing you want to do is to walk away and find yourself a good job.

In the first case, you want to improve your interview skill, recording is not a good way.

Suppose you record several of the interviews and improve your skill quite a bit. And you eventually get yourself a good job. Are you going to continue to record your daily work activity to improve your interpersonal skills?

Are you going to record everything while at work? When meeting with your supervisor? When meeting with your client? When working with other people? What will happen if anyone of them find out you're recording during a meeting?

Think about it. You'll know the answer.

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