10 Reasons a Video Interview Could Replace a Phone Screen

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.20.01 AMAfter watching over a hundred video interviews, I’ve come to believe they can replace the traditional phone screen, especially for positions with a high volume of applicants.

Recently, I reluctantly tried video interviewing for campus recruiting and found it to be a fabulous success that exceeded expectations. However, when the concept was initially presented there was a healthy dose of skepticism. It was one of those rare occasions when you communicate to your team that the trial is not really optional. Since then we’ve also been using it outside campus recruiting, primarily when the demographic is millennials or Gen Y and the applicant volume is high. Like most people, I initially stuck my nose up at the idea of losing the personal touch of a two-way conversation, but these brief interviews reveal so much about candidates.

Our skeptics have quickly become converts. This fall alone, we’ve screened three times as many people in about 80 percent of the previous time commitment. I would never have believed it if I had not tried it. The technology still has its faults, but I certainly think it’s headed in the right direction (I’m pushing our vendor to develop more functionality).

Typically the format for one-way (asynchronous) video interviews goes something like this: after screening a resume, you send out an email invitation to a candidate to participate in a video interview. The email contains a hyperlink which takes them to a website where they view pre-recorded short video clips of people asking interview questions. After each clip, candidates have a pre-determined (and brief) amount of time to think about the question, after which their webcam automatically begins recording their answers which are then saved for your viewing. Typically there are no re-takes.

Here are 10 positives:

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  1. Increase your screening pool. If one of your challenges is getting through the volume of candidates who have applied for your opening (think campus recruiting), one advantage of asynchronous video over the traditional phone screen is that it allows you to screen more people and in less time. You can easily review 75 or more videos interviews in one day. But have you ever tried scheduling, yet alone completing, that many phone screens in a day?
  2. Compare apples to apples. By pre-recording your interview questions, you can ensure that all candidates are being asked exactly the same thing and that they have the same amount of time to both prepare and deliver their answers. Sure, you can give your recruiters an identical list of questions, but on the phone it’s more difficult to control the amount of time someone takes to answer a question. Video levels the interview playing field.
  3. Weed out interview bias. Since video interviews can give you more data points, employers can look for trends (good and bad) from recruiters and/or hiring managers on which candidates they either advance or reject.
  4. Candidate convenience. Candidates can do the interview at any time or place that is convenient for them. Does it really matter to you if it’s completed early in the morning or in the middle of the night, or whether it’s done on a weekday or weekend? But it definitely matters to candidates. They can sit in front of their computer at home, or use their smartphone or tablet from almost anywhere. Something as simple as handing over the interview scheduling can empower a candidate. The benefit for the employer is viewing applicants that are more relaxed and authentic in their presentation.
  5. Efficiency. Remember those phone screens when, after only a few minutes, you know the candidate is not a fit? Yet you’re committed to the next 20 or 30 minutes of what feels like hours. Try cutting a candidate off mid-stream in a phone screen and see how well that goes. The opposite can also hold true. Sometimes you can tell very quickly that a candidate should be advanced to the next step. With recorded answers you’re not committed to watch every single minute of each interview. Video interviews give you the ability to control which candidates you spend your time on.
  6. Recruiter convenience. Employers have the convenience of reviewing all the interviews in one siting, or spacing them out over time. A web-based platform also allows you to view them from almost anywhere and, if necessary, to share the interviews with others.
  7. Clarity. Have you ever been on a phone screen when someone (or something) interrupts the call and you become distracted? How about the bad cell phone connection that makes it difficult to understand the candidate? With video, Internet connections can be tested before candidates record their answers, ensuring a greater degree of clarity. And, if there’s still an issue when you’re viewing the interview, you can simply replay the answer as many times as needed, to be certain that no important information is missed.
  8. Empower your people. An easy way to empower your own people is by including more of them in the interview process. In this area video absolutely trumps the phone. Having several people do a phone screen would likely result in a poor candidate experience. But with video you can involve your people in several ways, from asking an interview question to rating candidate responses. You’ll be surprised at how many people are eager to be filmed asking an interview question.
  9. Showcase your culture. Depending on who you video asking your questions (could be the newest co-op student or the CEO), as well as where you do it, you have a unique opportunity to make a statement about your company’s culture. You also have the chance to include a brief clip showing your office, where the candidate will work, the team they might work with or more. Your employer brand messaging will be more effective when candidates can hear and see the theme you’re trying to convey.
  10. Stand out from your competitors. Today, video interviews are not the traditional first point of contact with your people. But when they’re done properly they can be a differentiator that signals your organization is tech savvy, innovative, and cutting edge with your recruitment, at least until everyone else is doing it!

Don’t make a final hiring decision based solely on a one-way video interview. However, given the limitations of the traditional phone screen, asynchronous video interviews that are well done can help recruiters make better decisions on which candidates should be advanced to the next stage in your selection process.

Paul Peterson
Paul Peterson is responsible for the development and execution of both talent attraction and employer branding strategy for Grant Thornton LLP in Canada. Prior to his work at Grant Thornton, he co-founded and ran an award-winning search firm with offices throughout Canada and the U.S. Paul has a BA and an MA from York University as well as an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are his only and not necessarily those of his employer.