• How to make video interviewing work for you

  • 22 Mar 2014
  • Comments 1 comments

Recruiting through Skype, video suites and other methods

"No matter how much you enjoy meeting new people, interviewing is invariably a chore. Time-consuming, expensive (the average UK business spends £3,286 a year reimbursing candidates’ expenses) and widely acknowledged as an imperfect solution, it’s no wonder recruiters have leaped on advanced video technology in recent years.

Ever-improving broadband has made video interviewing a reality: it lets applicants answer questions in a more relaxed environment (and away from the office, if they prefer), while hard-to-herd decision-makers no longer need to congregate but can log in wherever they are. Skype-savvy Gen Y reacts well to it, and it may offer an uplift for employer brand.

It’s also cheaper. Nuclear operator Sellafield Ltd says it saves £14,000 a year using video interviews (VIs), and CERN has cut its overall hiring bill by 20 per cent. As Sue Mosley, group resourcing manager at medical software supplier EMIS, says: “We used to reimburse everyone on shortlists up to £200 to interview in our Leeds office, and each interview took 2.5 hours of recruiter time. We’ve been using VIs for eight months and the process is smoother. It also reduces the number of people we call for final interviews.”

A study by consultancy Right Management says 18 per cent of jobseekers experienced a VI in the past year; it suggests 49 per cent of HR departments will offer some form of VI by 2015, up from 15 per cent in 2010. For some, the process is as simple as switching on a webcam. The head of information and support at The Brain Tumour Charity, Kate Kershaw, admits cost is everything to her organisation, and using Skype for first interviews has been a godsend: “We’re based in Feltham [in Middlesex] and for people from far afield, we’d simply not be able to afford to cover the cost of coming to see us direct. Plus, people have work or family commitments that mean it’s impossible to see us during the timescales we set for a first interview. Without being able to talk remotely, we’d miss out on good talent.”

The process is still supplemented by a face-to-face final interview, she adds. “Skype hasn’t crashed so far. Even if it did, I’d view it as a positive – to see how people responded to it, or whether they would get unduly flustered.”

Consultancy giant KPMG has similar concerns over travel, though it’s more about the number of international interviewees guzzling air miles. It doesn’t use Skype: “It’s not a secure platform… it can still be temperamental if people have bad connections, and we don’t feel it conveys the right image,” says Kate Holt, director of KPMG’s People and Change practice. But it has installed video suites in its network of offices and asks candidates to drop in for an interview close to home. This approach works, says Holt, because it still feels like a “proper” appointment: “It retains the element of formality that interviews demand.”

The latest buzz is around “asynchronous” (or “non-live”) interviews, in which candidates receive an email instructing them to take a VI, typically lasting 10 minutes, answering a set of questions. They record themselves on a smartphone or tablet and upload the results for recruiters to watch. It’s a particularly useful way to sift and sort large numbers of candidates (or, perhaps, to bring outsourced bulk interviewing back in house).

There are pitfalls, though. If VIs are recorded, applicants need to be told up front: not only is video storage memory-intensive, it’s subject to data protection safeguards. Interviewers should be acutely aware of what it can’t show you: the non-verbal cues and interactions that give a sense of a candidate’s interpersonal style. And while you can make admirable savings using video, it may be worth investing in training: many first-time video interviewers find it harder than they expected to stay in charge while juggling technology and interview technique.

Helen Mizon, HR and operations manager of IT firm Critical Software Technologies, is among those who has yet to be swayed by video. “The ‘lights, camera, action’ effect can make it a bit artificial,” she says. “Some candidates find it hard to relax, while the nature of video interviews can cause them to be less social and more transactional in nature.” She may have a point: research by McMaster University in Canada found applicants interviewed by video were rated less highly by recruiters and were at an immediate disadvantage. The same was true in reverse: interviewees rated their potential bosses as less likeable and personable when viewed through a screen.

For now, however, the revolution continues unabated. And it could get even more extreme: in January, ad agency DDB asked aspiring creative hires to conduct a first “interview” via Snapchat, pitching themselves in a 10-second video in which they could “draw, scream or sing” their way to a new job…

Many companies using asynchronous interviews prefer to offer candidates only one take for each answer – it prevents them being too ‘polished’ or rehearsing their answers on camera.

Recruiters should set out a policy for the way they will conduct and judge video interviews, advises Darren Jaffrey of software firm HireVue.

Don’t be dazzled by great screen presence, advises Rebecca Mossman of HireRight – the content of the answers remains more important.

It’s worth rehearsing your interview, to make sure you don’t suffer camera shyness, or become flustered by technology.

Proximity to the camera matters for both candidate and interviewer – you should be close enough to make eye contact, but far enough away that you can see most of their body, to spot non-verbal cues you might otherwise miss.

Add Comment
Comment List
Comments (1)
  • Thank you for the informative article, Peter!

    Video interviews are becoming increasingly popular due to the positive feedback from applicants and employers. It is true that free video conferencing software such as Skype are not secure, like mentioned above by KPMG.

    That's why many companies are switching to video recruiting software. It saves time and money, and is secure. At VidCruiter, we understand the needs of recruiters which is why we have tons of different options available.

    Check us out for more information: www.vidcruiter.com