Digital interviewing saves time, money, and most importantly, improves quality of hires.
By Russ Banham
When the prospect of digitally interviewing job candidates using video emerged about seven years ago, the idea was touted as a cost-effective alternative to the traditional phone screening processes. Now, as more recruiters embrace the concept, they’re learning that video interviews also are a powerful weapon in the war for talent.
Both Aon Hewitt, the large employee benefits consulting firm, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which tallies more than 14,000 employees at two facilities, are discovering virtues in video beyond mere dollar savings, giving each organization a competitive leg up in their talent acquisition strategies.
“We’re leveraging video on behalf of our clients, but are also using it internally for our own hiring needs,” says Kathy Kalstrup, global RPO leader for Aon Hewitt. “We believe it significantly improves the quality of candidates, providing a consistent way to screen them using the same standards.”
While video recruiting has many advocates for these and other business reasons, it has yet to catch on widely. According to a study by Aberdeen Group, only 31 percent of organizations currently invest in this interviewing technique. What would explain this protracted lack of interest? Chalk it up chiefly to a fear of change—the “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” mentality. Another factor is the cost of the technology.
Yet, digital interviewing solutions providers and consultants say the resistance is easing for two reasons—it helps employers to recruit better talent, and it persuasively directs talented job candidates to choose these companies for employment.
“We are at a strong tipping point for video interviewing,” says Sarah White, founder and CEO of Accelir, a strategy advisory firm focused on talent acquisition technology. “We are seeing a pronounced shift from early adopters to more mainstream acceptance. In large part, this acceptance is societal and cultural—there’s much wider of acceptance of video in the consumer market as a whole, which has increased its desirability in the recruiting space.”
White’s point resonates. Most of us these days carry around in our pockets the power to shoot video and send it to friends, family, and the world at large, if we are so inclined. We are also not immune to the self-gratifying aspects of shooting “selfies,” short videos of ourselves doing whatever, and then posting them for others’ viewing pleasure.
“No longer are people concerned about how to use video or be the subject of video,” White explains. “Most video products today are accessible through mobile devices and not just desktop computers. In one hour on YouTube, more video is uploaded than a person can watch in a lifetime.”
Our xenophobia of video cured, its use in interviewing is an increasingly accepted practice, especially among the younger Millennial job applicants whose skills are in high demand. Now tell this to older recruiters. “Many recruiters and hiring managers who are used to doing things the same way for many years are resistant to change,” says Ty Abernathy, chief operating officer of Take The Interview (TTI), an interview management solutions provider.
“Getting them to change from phone screens, something they’re used to and like doing, is a hurdle,” he explains. “There are also pockets of resistance [for video interviewing] among the more conservative companies that are concerned about compliance with employment practices laws, such as EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act], and OFCCP [Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs].”
Such companies are concerned, he says, about the visual record that is preserved in a video interview, which may be used against them in a lawsuit arguing discriminatory hiring practices.
Cost is another impediment, particularly for employers doing in-house recruiting, as opposed to engaging an RPO provider that already incorporates the technology. Chip Luman, chief operating officer of HireVue Inc., which provides video interview solutions to both RPO providers and enterprises, says the issue for HR is not the technology, but the budget. “There is not a line item for this, so you have to take it out of the sourcing budget or the job bid spend,” he explains. “The resistance is at the recruiter level, the senior talent acquisition professionals. The folks running operations at the RPOs, on the other hand, understand the efficiency gains.”
Nevertheless, the observers agree that it is just a matter of time before digital interviewing becomes more commonplace, if not the norm across the business world. “The benefits are too large to ignore,” says White. Kalstrup concurs: ”It’s not a question of if, but when.”
Making the Case
There are two types of video interviewing techniques. One involves the use of pre-recorded questions that the candidate responds to “on camera”—via a mobile device or stationery computer. The questions may be in written form or provided by an actor on screen, in full audio/visual format or just the audio. In both examples, the questions are presented in a consistent manner, e.g., the actor’s vocal inflections and facial gestures are the same for all candidates viewing the video. The candidate is given time to respond to the questions at his or her own convenience.
The other type of digital interviewing involves all of the above, except the questions are asked live. In other words, the video interview is set for 3:30 p.m. this Wednesday. Be there on time in front of your tablet.
Both techniques present advantages over customary phone screens. “It’s a much more personal connection,” says White. “You’re now able to view the candidates’ gestures in addition to hearing their responses, which conveys more context. Since the candidates all get asked the same questions with the same tone and inflections, there is no disparate impact. It’s not like a hiring manager has a bad day and the applicant suffers the consequences.”
The advantages to video interviewing extend both to the employer and the job applicant. Since every candidate is answering the exact same questions in the same order, format, and timeframe, the playing field is leveled insofar as objectivity. Since the hiring manager can view all the candidates’ responses to, say, question number five, this permits faster, more nuanced comparisons and contrasts.
Much time and money also are saved. “Our research indicates that it takes a recruiter more than 20 minutes just to schedule a single individual phone screen, plus another 30 minutes to conduct each interview,” White says. “On average, a recruiter does 10 phone screens per open position. We’ve estimated that 300 minutes can be cut from the process if a mass email is sent out for a pre- recorded video interview. Instead of spending 30 minutes per interview, four or five minutes are spent, respectively. The return on investment comes from the reduction in recruiter time and in getting the position closed much quicker.”
Such was the case at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which comprises a large acute pediatric hospital in Cincinnati and a satellite hospital outside the city. “We’re always looking for new ways of recruiting and had started down the path of video interviewing three years ago,” says Julia Abell, senior director of employment.
Abell was chiefly attracted by the cost-savings of digital video recruiting. “We spend a significant amount of money, compared to the for-profit world, bringing people in from outside the city for various high-level positions like physicians and administrative staff,” she explains. “We’re also a teaching hospital and require specific skill sets in this regard, as well.”
Flying to Cincinnati to be interviewed at the medical center is “a terrible experience,” Abell says. “It takes a full day to get here from most parts of the country, and a full day to get back. We’re recruiting on a global basis and there is just one flight to and from Paris a week. To make matters worse, we have the highest airfares in the country.”
Obviously, these detriments do not bode well for aspiring candidates or the institution. “We’d spend all this money bringing in a job applicant for several days—two days just to get here and out of here, and two days to meet with everyone needed—and then we’d realize within ten minutes we weren’t going to hire them,” Abell says. “The phone screen didn’t tell us what we needed.”
Video, on the other hand, speaks volumes. “We’re using a product from Montage that helps us source people and whittle down the list to where we’re comfortable the candidate should be flown in,” she notes. “We simply send a link to the launch interview to the candidate, which contains the questions written on the screen. A time is scheduled for the interview beforehand. When I personally send out the interview time, I also let the candidate know what the questions will be ahead of time so they can prepare. And I tell them what they should wear during the interview. I want them to feel comfortable.”
Kurt Heikkinen, president and CEO of Montage, a purpose-built video interviewing solutions provider, says the travel savings alone for users are substantial. “We have clients that have told me they’ve reduced their travel expenses by 75 percent,” he explains.
The strategic benefits are even greater, he asserts. “Given the shortage of specialized skills like nurses and physicians, not to mention software programmers and engineers, you’re able to effectively control the perception of your employment brand by job candidates,” he says. “We help clients elevate their brands in ways that engage applicants.”
Heikkinen cites internal survey research indicating that 96 percent of job candidates using the company’s video recruiting tools had a favorable impression of the potential employer. Since 75 percent of candidates in a separate survey stated that the experience they had when interviewing or applying for a job influenced their decision to work for the company, the metrics are persuasive of the import of video for the employment brand.
Kalstrup from Aon Hewitt, which uses HireVue’s video interviewing technology, also touts brand value as a factor in the firm’s use of video. “The technology is the first real interaction the job applicant will have with the employer,” she says. “First impressions are everything in business and life. If you can get across during this vital period of time your powerful employment brand, you have a better chance of winning the war for talent.”
Since people are an organization’s most vital business asset, this is the battle most worth winning.
The key obstacle to video interviewing is not the candidate for the job, certainly not the individuals who comfortably use mobile technologies. The obstacle is inertia—the unwillingness to try a new methodology simply because the old one works fine.
Obviously, the problem with this hidebound thinking is it does not allow for the possibility of improvement. It’s why Henry Ford resisted urgings by his car designer son Edsel Ford for the family company to manufacture an automobile other than the Model T. Old Henry figured there was nothing wrong with what he already had in the showroom.
How can one break such bad habits?
As Stacy Tillman, talent acquisitions solutions implementations leader at Aon Hewitt, explains, “Your competition is already doing this. If you’re not, then you’re not meeting people where they’re at, potentially missing out on quality talent.”
Tapping Into Technology
Ready to take the leap into video interviewing? Here are some highlights of the latest technologies: