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Interview From Anywhere: Live Video Interviews Are Now a Best Practice (Part II of II)

by Jul 6, 2009, 6:03 am ET

Last week I introduced this series on the use of “live” video interviews by briefly discussing the business case and primary advantages for organizations adopting the emerging best practice. This second and final installment, built on the list of advantages introduced last week, introduces some problems you should anticipate and proposes some approaches to improve the scheduling of any in-person interviews that you hold.

Recording “Live” Video Interviews Provide Several Additional Benefits
Not all firms choose to record and keep their live video interviews, primarily due to technology limitations, cost, or privacy concerns (no candidate wants to find an embarrassing interview posted on YouTube). However, if you do record your interviews, there are several benefits that can accrue to your firm, including:

  1. Documentation — both the questions and the answers can be documented so that you can legally demonstrate what happened (and what didn’t) should a hiring decision be challenged.
  2. Later viewing — recording your interviews allows you to show it to others who could not be present during the original interview. This also gives you the capability to take a second look at the interview to see if you missed anything or to compare it back to back with other recordings of interviews that might have occurred out of sequence.
  3. Increased consistency — recording interviews encourages managers to follow the script and their prescribed list of questions because they know that the tape can later be reviewed by HR. HR can also review multiple interviews of the same candidate in order to see if they are giving consistent answers. The same process can be used to determine if different interviewers are inadvertently repeating the same questions and boring the candidates.
  4. Niche skill searching — video content search tools now exist that allow users to search vast video libraries for words being spoken in the video. Such tools would enable organizations to quickly identify candidates interviewed in the past who mentioned a unique skill that might not appear on a resume.
  5. Passing along candidates — individuals who were not selected because a “superstar” candidate was in the candidate slate can be forwarded on to other hiring managers without having to bring the candidate back in.
  6. More honesty — you may get a higher rate of honesty because the candidate knows that the interview was being taped (making it easier for the firm to confront their answers after talking to their references).
  7. Improving the hiring process — if the newly hired employee prematurely quits or must be terminated, HR or the hiring manager can go back and review the interview in order to see if they missed any indication of a problem. This information can be used to improve interview training or the hiring process.

Potential Problems That You May Encounter
With any process, there are weaknesses and potential problems that you might encounter. Most in-person interviews are fraught with problems as well, so don’t be surprised if the same problems occur in video interviews also occur in traditional in-person interviews.

  1. Candidate resistance — some candidates may not like the idea because they are afraid of technology, privacy issues, or because they’re just more comfortable with traditional in-person interviews. Cultural and religious influences might make some individuals averse to having their picture captured. Taken together, these factors could influence candidate performance.
  2. Manager resistance — managers have in the past resisted the use of video interviews because they couldn’t find the available time to actually view the video, they disliked having to go to a video conferencing center, or they disliked having to use special equipment like headsets. New remote interviewing technologies remove most of those concerns because they can be done in their office, using their standard computer and telephone. Some managers may still resist because they simply prefer an in-person exchange. Another possible resistance factor is the possibility of having to hold interviews before work, after work, or during lunch.
  3. Equipment issues — although it’s rare, modern web cam cameras can malfunction and the loss of an Internet connection or mobile phone service can prematurely interrupt an interview. The facial expressions of individuals with darker complexions might not come through as sharply as others if the lighting is weak.
  4. Interviewing from their company facility — for currently employed individuals, it’s probably not appropriate for them to interview while at their current job site. As a result the interviews should be scheduled at a time so that they can interview from another facility or from home.
  5. Background noise — office noises and interruptions from the manager’s location may degrade the interview experience. Distractions or what appears in the video background on the candidate’s end (especially if they are at home) might distract from the interview results.
  6. Supplying the candidate with video equipment — a process must be developed to quickly provide the interview candidate with a web cam and instructions in how to operate it. Some cameras might not be returned.
  7. Possible performance differential — it might be a mistake to automatically assume that remote interviews and in-person interviews produce the same results without at least some preliminary side-by-side testing to ensure that candidates perform the same no matter which approach they are interviewed under.
  8. Discrimination issues — when using telephone interviews, physical and diversity characteristics are not visible to the interviewer. However, during both in-person and video interviews, the race, sex, age etc. of the candidate is visible. There is a small possibility that individuals from different diverse groups will appear to perform less well on video than they do in person. As a result, track performance to see if there is a problem.

Improving Traditional Interviews by Changing the “Where and When”
If you can’t adopt remote live video interviewing, the next best thing might be to change the process so that scheduling in-person interviews is easier on the candidate. Remember, the people you’re interviewing might be current or future customers, so taking their needs into account can only help strengthen the relationship. Some new scheduling and location approaches to consider include:

  1. Interview at night — Obviously, employed people have more time after work than during the work day, and at night they don’t need to fib to managers about where they are. Often at night, candidates have more childcare options. In addition, hiring managers have fewer meetings and business conflicts, which means that interviews can be scheduled more easily and quickly. Night sessions tend to be more informal and they are less likely to be interrupted by phone calls and urgent business-issue interruptions. Yes, some managers will find night interviews inconvenient, but that inconvenience needs to be weighed with the fact that they will get more currently employed people (the most desirable and the ones that are most likely to be top performers) to interview. You can alleviate some of the resistance by scheduling one or two “interview nights” a month well in advance, while also letting them take the next morning off.
  2. Interview on weekends — In addition to night interviews, you should also consider holding them on weekends. This is especially beneficial when a large number of your candidates are coming in from out of town. Offering an “interview Saturday” once a month during heavy hiring periods will not only get you more and better quality candidates; it also sends a message that you really care about applicants and their needs. Incidentally, this demonstration of caring might be extrapolated by the candidate to mean that you will also really care about them after their hired.
  3. Rendezvous at conferences — If a large number of your candidates are from out of state or the country, you can reduce the number of “not interested” responses by interviewing at places where a large number of target candidates are likely to be anyway. Some likely common rendezvous events include national association meetings, industry trade fairs, certification classes, alumni events, and seminars. Because these events are generally held in another city, attendees have fewer family activities that conflict, and thus have more free time to talk after the formal event sessions end. Not only do top performers tend to be the ones who attend these events, but the setting itself is more informal, so it lends itself to less stressful interviews. If you’re clever, remember you can develop a pool of names and interview them at conferences before you actually need to fill a position. Once you assess them, it’s unlikely that their skill sets or experience will degrade before you actually have an opening for them.
  4. Hold the interview before or after local professional meetings — almost every large city has a number of monthly meetings held by local chapters of various professional associations. If you hold your interviews right before or right after these events, you are likely to improve the number of individuals who can easily make themselves available. Incidentally, you are also likely to improve the quality of the candidates because the very best practitioners periodically attend these monthly meetings. Incidentally, because these are professional events, you give the potential candidate an honest excuse for where they were. You also have to make sure that the people being interviewed before or after the event are not seen entering the interview area.
  5. Hold the interview close to where they live and work — Moving the interview location to a more convenient spot in a big city can also be helpful. In reverse, if your business is located in a smaller city or rural area, holding “satellite interviews” in major cities can increase the number of willing interviewees. In cities where most professionals live in the suburbs, consider holding at least preliminary interviews at a suburban hotel or even at the mall. Yes, it’s a little inconvenient for managers (although they might live in the suburbs also), but you’ll get much better attendance from employed people. Hold interviews at hotels or conference centers right before or right after local professional association or network events, which top candidates will likely be attending anyway.
  6. “Interview Friday” — Some firms have set aside a designated time each week or month for interviewing in order to help solve the rampant unavailability of managers. Everyone knows that hiring is frequently stretched out over long periods of time (which can mean a loss of top-quality candidates) because managers are “too busy” to interview. This problem can be partially alleviated by setting aside a designated time when no meetings can be scheduled and all managers and interviewers must be available for interviews. I recommend a Monday or a Friday once or twice a month. It might seem harsh at first, but once managers get used to it, it speeds up the hiring process tremendously.
  7. Make interview scheduling easy — Hiring takes a long time, primarily because of the difficulty in scheduling interviews. You can eliminate the number of callbacks and the inevitable phone tag required to find compatible times for interviews if you develop a Web-based scheduling system. These systems allow candidates to select and schedule their own interview times online, based on the open slots that managers make available.
  8. Limit them to one day — One of the aspects of interviewing that frustrates candidates the most is the multiple callbacks for second, third, and even fourth rounds of interviews. By stretching out the time involved, you not only increase the number of lies employee candidates must tell, but you also risk losing candidates to companies that make decisions faster. Several health-care facilities I work with have instituted a “one day rule” which allows managers to interview as many times as they want as long as all interviews are completed on the same day. Not only does it force managers to be more decisive, but it also demonstrates to the candidate that your organization has the ability to act quickly (something top performers expect after they accept the job).
  9. Reduce unnecessary interviews — There are a variety of tools and techniques that can help reduce the number of unnecessary interviews. Some of them include:
  • Educating your managers about the dollar costs in salary and lost productivity of having so many employees in multiple interviews.
  • Educating your managers about the negative consequences of additional interviews on the quality of hire. Slow hiring means losing top candidates to other firms, so that the more time that you take to make a decision actually decreases the quality of the person hired.
  • Setting a target number of interviews (say three) and suggesting additional interviews are appropriate only in rare cases. You might also show them data that increasing the number of interviews doesn’t automatically increase the quality of the hire.
  • Track the time to hire, reward managers for fast hiring, and let managers know when they consistently exceed the time limits.
  • Consider conducting team interviews, so that all of the managers and interviewers can ask their questions during a single session.

Final Thoughts
The time is right for radical change in recruiting. The easiest option is to rethink where and when you schedule your traditional in-person interviews. Next, you need to consider trying an interview-from-anywhere approach. If you do, the travel cost savings, the reduced environmental impact, the shorter time-to-fill, and the increased quality of hire impacts should be powerful enough to overcome any potential concerns related to webcam interviews. The time to act is now.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Rob McIntosh

    John – I was recorded on video in a meeting room by my current employer for my current position which was distributed as part of the hiring decision. Reflecting back on the experience and approach I agree that this strategy has legs as it saved on travel costs, and you have a more true representation of what actually took place (vs. a Recruiter/Hiring manager) loosing context through lost in translation. An interesting by-product is that I have reviewed my own video a few times to remember what I said as part of my commitment to solve some of the problems as part of the initial interview….just to keep myself honest.

    The challenge I struggle with on the broad viability of this approach for all roles are the logistics and cultural nuances of using video, not to mention the potential “stage fright” variances that need to be considered with this medium. I think it has a home with senior leadership roles where there is an expectation of if you present to the board you can handle a live or recorded interview session, but scalability down into other areas of the organization are still challenging.

    This one is definitely on my radar but still sitting in the “how” bucket to be broadly leveraged and applied.

  • http://www.admentis.com Miguel Corona, D.M.

    Dr. Sullivan – Thanks for the article. My master’s thesis (back in 1997-98) focused on the impact Desktop Video Conferencing (DVC) could potentially have on the interview process. Ten years ago, using this type of technology for job interviews was just starting to be explored. Obviously, the technology was not what it is today. Images on desktop video back then reminded me of Max Headroom! My thesis concentrated on non-verbal behavior and how the medium could impact a recruiter’s evaluation of the candidate. One factor, for example, was eye gaze. Employement interview studies consistently support the importance of eye contact during an interview. It would be interesting to re-examine the consequences using today’s updated technology.

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