Video Job Interviews: The Good and the Bad

Mon, Feb 04, 2013 @ 08:55 AM / by ATR International

video interview“Are video interviews becoming the norm?” This is the question posed by David Gee in Staffing Talk. He references a New York Post article about the rise in the use of video in the application process. According to a 2012 survey by OfficeTeam, in 2011 only 1% responded they used video “very often” but a year later that figure jumped to 53% and 13% expect to increase their usage in the next three years.

Many companies are embracing video interviews, which are often conducted online via webcam, as a way to quickly and cost-effectively evaluate applicants,” said Robert Hosking , executive director of OfficeTeam.

The Post covers some of the more popular and prevalent uses of video in the hiring process including: creating digital profiles and short elevator pitch speeches to supplement the traditional resume; testing candidates skills by having them perform a job related task from composing Twitter content to coding programs; and recording their answers to interview questions posed on screen, not by a live person.

I’m not surprised by this. The benefits are obvious in terms of cost and efficiency, for both the candidate and hiring manager. We use Skype to conduct video interviews as part of our recruiting process to good result and we are one of those likely to use it more in the coming years. That said, I want to be cautious and judicious in our usage – I never want technology to dazzle me into replacing vital human interaction. Therefore, it is the last example that troubles me, the idea of “recording” answers in a one-sided “interview.”

First, it may be a small matter of semantics, but to me, unless there are two (or more) people participating, it isn’t an interview. Second, I question the value of this type of interview. A recorded elevator pitch viewed alongside a resume can be useful in giving an initial idea of personality and professionalism but this type of video interview seems unnatural and likely to produce unnatural and unreliable results. Both David Gee’s article and the New York Post’s relate stories of people who were startled to find themselves in this type of interview and found it to be a strange and unsettling experience. 

Obviously the first problem is that neither of the interviewing companies set the proper expectations with these candidates, and shame on them for that. But if you read more of the Post article, you’ll see that there seem to be two types of these online interviews: one where you can rerecord an answer until you are happy; and the other where you have a few minutes per question and no do overs. In both instances I think you’ll end up with results that may not be indicative of the candidate’s true talent and personality. The first because it will be just another canned, practiced response and the second because the nature and pressure of the format will discourage thoughtful answers and make innocent flubs more likely, although eventually people will have their “2 minute” canned response ready too.

To me an interview is an opportunity to interact with the candidate and to see how they respond and interact with me. Where is the ability to pose follow up questions in this process? The give and take of conversation is a natural way to get to know someone’s personality and demeanor. Assessing how well someone is able to speak into a camera and appear composed isn’t going to really tell you much about their ability to fit in with your culture or what kind of team member they will make. 

Finally, it isn’t just about the company assessing the candidate – it’s a two way street. In the IT, technical and engineering fields, talented people are in high demand, unemployment is actually quite low, and competition borders on fierce. My clients often ask for advice on how to hire and retain more of the most talented individuals. I can certainly tell you that putting someone through one of these computerized online interviews is a great way to instantly turn them off. What kind of message are you sending to this potential employee about how you feel about and treat your employees? Does it seem like the kind of experience that will make them feel welcome, appreciated, and recognized as an individual and valued team member? They are evaluating you throughout the process too.  It’s a two way street and smart companies will take this into consideration.

To be clear, I am not knocking video interviews wholesale. My answer to David is that I think they will become more normal and more frequently used but I hope they don’t become the norm. Bridging long distances or allowing for an interview at unusual times are great uses of video technology; using them to interview someone who is in the same city is not. Calling a series of questions on a screen an interview isn’t either. There are benefits to be had but pitfalls to be aware of too when it comes to vide interviews. I’m sure that’s one reason why the OfficeTeam survey also showed that 25% of those asked don’t use it all.

The best technology enhances and supports my recruiters and account managers as they match the right candidate with the best opportunity but it can’t replace them. I have said it before: people are not a commodity and treating them as such will not get you the results you need. Human interaction should always be the norm!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO
ATR International

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Topics: IT staffing and recruiting, interview, JerryBrenholz, temporary employees

ATR International

Written by ATR International

Founded in 1988 in response to the burgeoning demand for temporary personnel, ATR International has been providing our clients with IT consultants and enterprise-wide staffing services for over 25 years.

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