Two diagrams of individuals making eye-contact in video conferencing, with differences in focus on the camera and screen.

Maintaining “eye contact” with someone on a video conference call is a bit weird, because it necessitates looking directly into the camera. It’s important, though, otherwise it feels like the other person isn’t looking at you. And that impacts relationships - and, it seems, interpersonal evaluations.

The results indicate interviewers evaluate candidates more positively when their gaze is directed at the camera (i.e., CAM stimulus) compared to when the candidates look at the screen (SKW stimulus). The skewed-gaze stimulus received worse evaluation scores than voice-only presentation (VO stimulus).

Throughout an online interview, it is challenging to maintain “genuine” eye contact—making direct and meaningful visual connection with another person, but gazing into the camera can accomplish a similar feeling online as direct eye contact does in person.

While the evaluators overall preferred interviewees who maintained eye contact with the camera, an unconscious gender bias appeared. Female evaluators judged those with skewed downward gazes more harshly than male evaluators, and the difference in the evaluation of the CAM and SKW stimuli for female interviewees was larger than the male interviewees.

This gender bias within the study could be prevalent under non-experimental conditions. Making both interviewers and interviewees aware of this potentially systematic gender bias could help curtail this issue.