Workforce.com

Videoconferencing Eases Recruiters Efforts Across India

October 16, 2008
L Venketesan, the business head for staffing company Fortek Software Solutions, didn’t have the time or the budget to "air dash" across Tamil Nadu to hire employees to transcribe doctors’ notes for the U.S. market.

So on a recent weekday he avoided costly traffic jams and sat comfortably in his Coimbatore office, concluding an interview with a promising candidate from a rural college in Pollachi, 42 kilometers south, using a video recruiting Web site.

The interview with Geetha lasted about 20 minutes. She was articulate and well-informed. Venketesan, confident that she could make a good addition to the medical transcription company, invited her to his company’s Coimbatore headquarters for a final round of interviews.

"A simple DSL connection, mike, speakers and a Web camera are all that is required," he says.

The videoconferencing service is the brainchild of online recruiting portal Whereismyboss.com, launched in July by Tirupur, Tamil Nadu-based PGC Industries. While traditional Web-based job portals such as Naukri.com, Monster India and Timesjobs.com follow the print-based model of aggregating pools of jobs with potential candidates, online recruiters like Whereismyboss could make the process simpler, faster and far more cost-effective through electronic search and screening tools as well as services that allow recruiters to conduct in-depth interviews without having to bring candidates to the office.

Along with videoconferencing, which costs employers Rs 100 ($2) for a five-minute Web chat, Whereismyboss also provides services like "intelligent profile matching," a search engine function that Aadith D Vikram, vice chairman and managing director of Whereismyboss, says better matches companies with candidates.

Though Whereismyboss—whose clients include Infosys, Vodafone and HSBC—is the only portal that provides video-enabled search and screening services, Vikram believes employers who begin to use these new technologies will more effectively recruit qualified candidates. He points to the popularity of social networking sites and people’s increasing comfort level with online video as reasons why e-recruiting is positioned to be "the next big thing."

"Services like ours are especially useful at a time when recession in the West has begun to put a squeeze on the Indian job market and managers have to work with smaller budgets," Vikram says.

Venketesan, who has already used Whereismyboss’ services with some 2,000 candidates in the past month, plans to take a three-month subscription account with them. He says his most recent recruiting contract, a search for a CEO for a retail company in India, showed the service can be used for executive hires as well as entry-level workers.

"The client was interested in hiring an expatriate," Venketesan says. "We interviewed 20-odd people and finally closed the position at Rs 65 lakhs ($140,000) per annum."

While that salary is on par with the industry average, Venketesan says the hiring company saved 40 to 50 percent of its normal recruitment costs. The efficiency of video recruiting also allowed access to a wider talent pool throughout India. Venketesan says the service has helped him tap into lower-cost entry-level employees in rural areas, something he believes could help him better weather the current economic slowdown.

"Interviewing a pool of 2,000 to 3,000 candidates would require me to send out a team of at least eight to 10 consultants to those remote towns and villages," he says. "Through video, we wind up everything in a couple of days."

On average, Venketesan and his team devote five to eight minutes to each candidate, while some are dismissed in less than two minutes. For senior hires, the interaction lasts considerably longer and is used only for a pre-screening followed by a face-to-face meeting.

"But even that saves a lot of time," Venketesan says.

The experience can be easier on hires too, says Saurab Kwatra, a networking engineer from East Delhi. "I was disappointed when I didn’t get selected but at least I didn’t burn a hole in my pocket taking a two-hour flight from Delhi to Mumbai," he says.

Tapesh Kotwani, an assistant manager with the Indian subsidiary of HSBC Bank in Mumbai, says he has used the portal’s intelligent-search and video-résumé services but only for filling up positions at back-end operations.

Surabhi Mathur, general manager, permanent staffing, with Bangalore-based TeamLease Services believes one of the biggest advantages with video technology is a cost saving of 20 to 40 percent.

"We don’t have to fly in candidates, schedule interviews, book venues," he says.

E-recruiting, however, may face technological hurdles in places where high bandwidth is not readily available, says V Suresh, national head of sales with Naukri.com. As of June 2008, India, a country of more than 1.13 billion people, had 4.38 million individual broadband subscribers, according to the Internet & Mobile Association of India, an industry body.

Suresh also doubts whether such services can be useful for anything other than entry-level positions where the goal is to assess a candidate’s communication skills and where the largely younger talent pool may more widely accept being interviewed via video.

As with any new technology, demand will be driven by recruiters. As of now, however, face-to-face meetings still pull a lot of weight with Indian employers.

"In the Indian scenario, nothing beats a physical meeting, at least not yet," Mathur says. "We do at times schedule five to six rounds of interviews, a few of which may also involve video or telephonic interactions, but the end request is always for a physical meeting."