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Reception Remains Lukewarm to Video Resumes

December 8, 2008
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Related Topics: Candidate Sourcing, Featured Article, Staffing Management
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When Paul Helman sat down to create a video résumé, the 42-year-old Gainesville, Florida-based sales representative deliberately avoided the sort of goofy stunts—eating a sandwich, wearing a mop on his head or breaking bricks with a karate chop—that other, more theatrically minded job seekers have used in an attempt to get prospective employers' attention.
Instead, Helman's video simply shows him talking, earnestly and unaffectedly, about subjects such as his self-perceived greatest strength—"What I think is different about me is that I'm very detail-oriented"—and his experiences running a restaurant that he once owned.
"The idea was to help employers to get a feel for what kind of a person I was," he explains. "I thought it turned out pretty well."
Indeed, after Helman posted the video résumé on YouTube last year, he got a few e-mails from people telling him how much they enjoyed his presentation. But employers were markedly less enthusiastic.
"It hasn't helped me to get a better job," he explains. "I didn't get any employers contacting me and saying, 'I really liked your résumé.' "
He wonders whether he should have tried to be funnier.
But even that probably wouldn't have worked. The media hype surrounding video résumés notwithstanding, as an actual phenomenon, they've been strictly a nonstarter.
Less than a quarter of employers are even willing to accept video résumés, according to a July survey by staffing services firm Robert Half International, while 58 percent say they don't want them and the remaining 18 percent are unsure what they would do with a video submission.
Recruiting experts say companies believe it takes too much time to watch the clips, as opposed to the seconds it takes to scan a résumé. Moreover, they complain, seeing an applicant before considering their qualifications creates a huge potential headache in compliance with laws meant to guard against employment discrimination.
"When I work for Deloitte or KPMG or some government contractor, I have to log every search I do and every résumé I look at," says San Diego-based recruiting consultant Karen Mattonen. "I have to be able to provide all that information to the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] if they ask for it. If I looked at video résumés, I would have to download and store them, and that would take up a huge amount of [hard drive] space."
But that doesn't mean employers are averse to using video as a tool in talent acquisition.
To the contrary, recruiting experts say companies increasingly are turning to video-on-demand interviewing, in which candidates record their responses to questions and e-mail them to company executives for viewing at their convenience. Substituting video for face-to-face meetings not only enables companies to cut back on travel expenses, but also allows them to consider talent from just about any place on the planet.
Additionally, video on demand allows corporate recruiters to standardize behavioral questioning—and to compare various candidates' responses, side by side—to an extent not previously possible. Experts say that while video shouldn't completely replace face-to-face interviewing, it can be a valuable tool for winnowing down a list of candidates and identifying the few who are worth meeting in person.
"Video résumés were really just a flash in the pan," says Raghav Singh, who is a partner at the A-List, a Minneapolis-based staffing services provider, and has also worked in recruiting and human resources information technology at several Fortune 500 companies. "The video interview, in comparison, really has some legs. One big problem with video résumés was that they are too ill-defined—there really is no format, so for recruiters who want to standardize everything, it's very hard for them to do anything with it. Video interviews, in contrast, give them much more control, not just in the format and content, but in how they can look at it."
"The video interview is getting a lot of traction because it's green, it reduces your carbon footprint and it saves time," says Colleen Aylward, CEO of InterviewStudio, a provider of video interview services to companies. "If it's done correctly, it can eliminate three to six weeks from the recruiting process."
Video interviewing doesn't usually raise the same employment-law red flags as video résumés, experts say, because companies use the technology to look at candidates whom they've already identified as qualified, based upon their text résumés. In some ways, video interviewing might actually make it more difficult for a candidate who made the first cut to later establish a discrimination claim, Mattonen explains.
"I don't get the chance to come into the office and see that everybody who works for you is under 30," she notes.
Singh says employers have been using videoconferencing to conduct job interviews with geographically distant applicants for at least a decade, but in recent years, the advent of webcams and sophisticated Web-based software platforms has made video interviewing easier and more practical as an alternative to face-to-face meetings.
Employers don't have to create their own setups; instead, a variety of third-party video interview providers have set up shop on the Web. Some, such as LiveHire and CareerCam, specialize in providing live, real-time interviews with applicants—particularly soon-to-be college graduates applying for entry-level jobs.
Others are turning to the video-on-demand platforms provided by companies such as InterviewStudio and HireVue, in which candidates record their answers to sets of interview questions for later viewing and analysis by employers.
HireVue COO Mark Newman says his company has orchestrated video interviews for employers ranging from Oracle to ITT. If a job candidate doesn't have a webcam, HireVue will ship one by express mail and provide coaching on how to use it.
"We've set up interviews with candidates all over the world, from Papua, New Guinea, to the northern tip of Canada," he says. "That one was particularly interesting because the person had to go down to the local airstrip to pick up the webcam, because the town is so remote that they don't have local mail delivery. But they did have broadband Internet—it was so good, in fact, that the video was HD quality."
About 70 percent of the interviews that HireVue facilitates are for engineers and IT positions, many in locations distant from corporate headquarters—"the kind of jobs for which they're hiring people from 5,000 miles away," Newman notes. Oracle managers in the U.S. and Ireland, for example, have used HireVue to screen candidates for jobs in Romania. Another HireVue client, ENI, an Italian multinational oil and gas company, remotely interviewed candidates for IT management positions in Nigeria, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.
Newman says that clients have achieved considerable cost savings from using video interviewing. When Inter-American Development Bank used video interviews to help it select 30 new hires last year, he says, the institution not only saved $300,000 in costs, but managed to complete the hiring process six months ahead of schedule. While some of the ROI comes from reduced travel expenses, Newman says using video on demand also helps to standardize the interview process and increase its efficacy.
"Every candidate for a given position gets exactly the same interview conditions," says Newman. "You're filtering out the chitchat about the football game and what sort of mood the interviewer is in today and all the other things that might subtly bias the interview. Everybody answers the same identical questions, and they record the interviews with the same identical webcam, and they all get the same support from us.
"And on the employer's side, everybody on the team—the HR people, the legal people, the manager who'll actually be supervising the hire—gets to see the exact same presentation."
Employers also can analyze candidates' responses in ways that face-to-face or phone conversations don't allow.
"They can do a cross section of all the candidates' responses to a particular question," Newman explains. "Instead of a manager making a decision on the basis of an overall impression—I like this guy, I don't like this guy quite as much—you can actually compare them in detail, side by side. That's when you can see that while you liked one of them personally, the other guy really knows his stuff better."
Video interviews also enable employers to quickly rule out candidates without having to sit through several hours of in-person interviews.
"I think a lot of times, you know in the first couple of minutes if a person is right for the job," says Allen Bornstein, CEO of HireMeNow.com, which bills itself as the first online temporary-to-permanent staffing agency. "Video can help you to narrow down your search more quickly. It also can save candidates from having to go on interviews for jobs that they're not going to get."
While some corporate early adopters are going for video interviewing in a big way, there's also pushback against the nascent trend.
"Recruiters actually are the most resistant," explains InterviewStudio's Aylward. "They've gotten comfortable with doing one thing at a time—searching for keywords in a résumé, then doing a phone screen, then scheduling a person to come in, then setting up assessment tests and so on. It's job security for them, and they know how to capture metrics along every step.
"Video interviewing threatens to disrupt that routine. CFOs and COOs love it, because it saves them time and money. A lot depends on whether or not HR is at the table for P&L decisions."
Dan King, a Boston-based career coach who helps clients prepare for interviews, also wonders whether video provides an accurate impression of candidates.
"Anybody who's been in a videoconference knows there's something surreal about it," he says. "It's hard to make a personal connection, and so much of interviewing is about the chemistry. Maybe it's my own bias here, but I think it's just a cost-saving measure. If I were an employer, I'd want to have the face-to-face interview."
Video interviewing providers say their services aren't meant to eliminate in-person interviewing completely, but rather to reduce the number that a company needs to do.
"If your company has its initial slate of six to 10 candidates, that's where we come in," explains HireVue's Newman. "We can help you figure out who you want to meet face to face, and make sure that you're meeting with the right people."
Newman says the company is also working to implement voice-recognition technology,
which eventually could allow employers to search through video clips for keywords or phrases, as they now do with résumés submitted online.

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