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Watch and Learn: How Video Interviews Can Help Screen Candidates

Video interviews let recruiters actually see how a candidate behaves — and how well they know their content.

April 22, 2014
Related Topics: Global Recruiting, Candidate Sourcing, The Latest, Recruitment, Technology
Sonru video interview April 2014

Photo courtesy of Sonru.

Why bother interviewing candidates in person when you can have them answer questions on video and review their responses at your leisure?

This is the argument made by vendors like Video Recruit, Sonru and Spark Hire Inc., which all offer automated interviewing technology. Recruiters send a list of interview questions to a candidate and have them record their responses remotely on camera.

Collecting short video interviews with recruits can eliminate the time-consuming process of first-round, face-to-face interviews without giving up the opportunity to see those candidates in action. Rather than just reviewing résumés or reading the results of an online questionnaire, video interviews let recruiters actually see how a candidate behaves and how well they know their content, said Lisa Rowan, an analyst at advisory firm IDC. “It allows them to ask open-ended, ‘Tell us about yourself’-style questions, that aren’t easy to write answers to.”

It also adds flexibility for everyone involved. The candidate can record the video during their off-hours, and the recruiter can share it with any number of managers or team members who want to weigh in on the hiring decision. “It’s a great way to add efficiencies while still giving recruiters valuable information about the candidate,” said Mike Durney, CEO of Dice Holdings Inc., which develops online recruiting websites.

Video Recruiting: What to Ask
Automated video interview technology can give you valuable insight into a candidate’s communication style, background and enthusiasm — but only if you ask the right questions. Keep the following in mind when crafting your interview request:

1.     Tailor questions to the specific job. Automated interviewing is not a generic prescreening tool. It is an opportunity to determine whether a candidate is a good fit for a specific role, so work with the hiring manager to craft questions that will elicit the most useful information.

2.     Ask open-ended questions that elicit stories or predictions. Asking a candidate to ‘explain a time when …’ or how they would deal with a common workplace challenge will show you how articulate they are, and give you a sense of whether they have the level of experience suggested in their résumé. If their answers are too generic, or they stumble over their response, that could be a red flag.

3.     Build on their answers. One shortcoming of automated interviews is that you can’t ask follow-up questions, but you can use candidates’ video answers as a jumping-off point for live interviews. Referencing their responses and asking follow-up questions will make those face-to-face conversations more productive.

4.     Keep it short. Limit the interview to a few questions and no more than 10 minutes. Otherwise candidates will get annoyed, and you’ll get stuck watching hours of interviews as part of your screening process.

—Sarah Fister Gale

But there are downsides.

“If a candidate’s first experience with your company is a request to do an automated video interview, it may not come off well,” said Jim Wong, CEO and founder of Brilliant, a financial staffing company in Chicago.

Wong is implementing video interviewing technology for temporary tech assignments where candidates are actively looking for work and shortening the time-to-fill those roles is critical. But he’s found that clients looking for permanent hires, and especially those interested in passive candidates, see more risk than value from an automated video interview step.

“If I find a candidate who is happily employed, and I recruit them by saying, ‘I want you to go on video and answer four preset questions,’ that candidate won’t play along,” he said.

What to Avoid

Rowan said to avoid asking questions that could inherently generate bias.

“Asking questions that elicit information about a candidate’s age, gender, family or sexual orientation could violate EEOC rules. Even if the information isn’t relevant to your ultimate hiring decision, having it could make you vulnerable to legal action,” she said, referring to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “That kind of information doesn't come through on a résumé or application.”

However, Rowan, noted that a video interview could send a positive message about the corporate culture because it is more personal than a written application or online assessment, and may appeal to younger recruits who use video in their daily lives. “They are acclimated to these tools so it will make sense to them,” she said.

For those companies, Rowan suggested tying video interviewing into a broader video-based recruiting approach, which could also include video segments on the career site with employees and executives talking about the company and corporate culture. “That way, when you ask them to do the video interview, it will feel more organic,” she said.

And use the tools thoughtfully.

“You don’t want to be known as the company that uses automated interviewing to screen everyone,” Durney said. Video interviewing can be a great way to quickly assess a candidate pool and eliminate friction from the interview process, but it is still an automated tool that should be used in moderation.

Sarah Fister Gale is a writer based in the Chicago area. Comment below or email Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

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