Never Look a Candidate in the Eye

How much recruiting can be done virtually rather than face-to-face? Video interviewing, online simulations, talent communities, and the use of tools such as Twitter or Snapchat are heatedly debated for their value versus a face-to-face encounter. Is one way better than another?

What’s the real story? Can a recruiter effectively recruit top-quality people from entry level to mid and senior levels without any in-person interaction?

Branding

Brand is already primarily a virtual activity. Web sites, videos, and social media all are elements commonly used by firms of all sizes to create brand. Social media campaigns, YouTube videos, targeted emails, Tweets, job board postings and other media-related events all help to build the brand.

Search

Candidates are more likely to be found by direct online searches or from job board posts than they are from any in-person connection. Some may apply directly through the recruitment website. A handful might come from employee referrals.

For the few positions where good candidates are scarce, recruiters can dig into talent communities, specialized forums, or technical discussion groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. They can also develop more sophisticate search techniques or search a broader spectrum of potential people. It is rare that a candidate is found initially by a personal connection.

Screening & Assessment

Once candidates are found, the recruiter will need to screen and assess them in some fashion.

Again, a host of tools are available that make this a fairly straightforward task. Ask candidates to go through an online simulation or take an online personality or culture fit test. Many of these assessments have been turned into games or simulations that are engaging and reliable. Many also now have interfaces that are fun to use and have high completion rates, along with equally high correlations with job success and culture fit. In fact, most of these methods outperform any normal interview in terms of predicting job success.

Candidate Marketing

Now comes the task of getting your screened candidate to understand the job or position, meet the hiring manager, and find out if he or she is really going to be a good fit for the particular manager/job/location. Well-made videos that describe a day-in-the-life of a typical person doing a similar job or just a video about the company can be very convincing. Combine these with a video chat with the hiring manager using one of the many video platforms available helps the candidate and manager learn about each other and what’s expected.

If the manager and candidate are a match, then the final step is to simply send an offer, be available to answer questions, and help close the deal by phone or even email. Even most of onboarding can be done virtually with video, the web, and email. To close some senior candidates may require a phone call or two, but this is a small amount of the total time spent in recruiting.

So, it is definitely possible to recruit someone without ever seeing them in person. In fact, for most candidates a virtual experience is of greater value, provides more information, and is less stressful than our current processes.

So why do we insist on face-to-face interviews, often many of them, as well as location visits, and all the other inefficient practices that are seen as normal?

Perhaps our old habits, the fear of change, and the assumptions we have about candidates and hiring managers are to blame.

Habits

We are all creatures of habit. We go through our days on autopilot — driving to work with half our minds thinking about the day ahead and not on the road, going through our routines such as buying a coffee, greeting the security person, going to our office, checking our email, etc.

It’s all done because we always do it and it’s comfortable and easy. We call people up to screen them, schedule interviews, and do all the physical stuff because it’s what we have always done. It’s comfortable and easy. Whether it is efficient, or even the best way never enters our head.

Fear of Change

We are also afraid of change. We ask ourselves, “What if virtual recruiting doesn’t work that well? What will our boss say? What will fellow recruiters think? People may think I am lazy or stupid or a nerd. Candidates won’t like it.”

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Hiring managers insist on face-to-face interviews, and so on. It is always easy to justify whatever it is that you have always done. New shoes always feel weird for a few days, as do haircuts and travel to a new city. It is frightening to change. We may use Twitter or even an occasional video interview and say to ourselves that we are using virtual tools and changing. But we are really just doing the same thing with a slight variation.

I love this quote from T.S. Eliot that sums up what I am saying eloquently:

Nothing pleases people more than to go on thinking what they have always thought, and at the same time imagine that they are thinking something new and daring: it combines the advantage of security and the delight of adventure.

Assumptions

And, we are full of assumptions. Many of them we don’t even know we have. For example, most recruiters I speak with believe that the interview is the most reliable way to choose quality candidates. It is a deeply held assumption that face-to-face interviews, when done by them, are accurate and predict success well.

Science consistently shows that most interviews are only slightly better at predicting success than a random choice of similar candidates would be, unless done by highly trained interviewers, with clearly developed criteria and questions, which are consistently delivered. This is rarely the case and takes a great deal of time to do well. Time pressures, the relationship with the candidate, personal prejudices about physical appearance, and other factors generally turn interviews into little more than chats.

We make other assumptions as well. We assume candidates prefer physical interaction, yet numerous interviews and studies show that many candidates prefer the objectivity of a virtual process. We believe that seeing, smelling, and touching the workplace helps candidates make decisions when it may actually obscure or enhance things that lead to an unhappy employee later on. Videos and the ability to interact with incumbent employees are often more objective and effective. We assume that people do not like to take assessment tests, which may have been partially true when the tests were long and tedious, but the newer ones are shorter and fun. Many are games or involve engaging videos.  And most are far less stressful than an interview.

We assume hiring managers will oppose a virtual process, but most of them are unaware of how a candidate was sourced or screened. They are also more than likely open to video chats and other virtual ways of communicating with candidates as many hiring managers are traveling, busy or have difficulty finding quality time for a face-to-face engagement. We assume senior level candidates, especially, want an in-person discussion or interview, yet there is no objective evidence to support this. In my conversations with senior executives, most say they would welcome a faster and more useful recruiting experience.

There are very few good reasons to not use a virtual recruitment process. Virtual recruitment can save time, is more objective and accurate, acceptable to candidates, and should increase the quality of hire.

By simplifying your recruiting process you free up time for recruiters to do more valuable things. They can interact with candidates on forums and in chats. They can develop better workforce planning scenarios and spend more time with the business learning what they need and what needs are emerging. Reactive recruiting is wasteful and unnecessary; proactive planning and candidate engagement add value and improve the quality of your hires.

The real question is are you ready for this and willing to change?

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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